No matter what your feelings are about the recent BREXIT decision, one thing is for sure – we are all going to be dealing with change as a result of it. Our initial response to change, though, tends to be negative, even when it is wanted.
We feel vulnerable and even threatened by the changes at hand, including those that we may have already anticipated. As a result, we tend to find ourselves in the midst of three familiar stages as we come to terms with the unknown:
1. Surprise — The first stage is surprise. No matter what’s happened or how much we may have expected the impending changes, once they take place we often find ourselves in an initial state of shock, wondering why it’s happening to us.
2. Panic — The second stage we experience is panic, which is largely focused on how the changes will impact us directly. It isn’t long before we begin to question ourselves and wonder if we are competent and able to handle what’s in store for us.
3. Blame — The third and final stage we encounter is blame. When people feel threatened, they often retreat to the safest belief system they can find. If we can point to external factors to help justify the cause of the change, we will. This relieves us of all accountability and enables us to feel more like a victim of what has happened.
Preparing ourselves for what’s next is a much more productive use of energy that will actually help rather than hinder us in moments of uncertainty. So how can we achieve this? One way is to remain open-minded in times of change. Rather than viewing it as a detriment, see it as an opportunity. One way to do this is to choose to see the situation and context as a higher reason for why the change could be happening and trust that like anything in life, good can come from it. Instead of living in fear and being worried by what is ahead it is smarter to focus on “what’s next”.
When faced with change and uncertainty this threatens our sense of autonomy and need to be in control. Often we then give energy and focus to the exact things that are beyond our control. It’s easy to blame others, either in defensiveness of what was decided (leaving the EU) or in rage at the decision that was reached. I think at the moment we are all moving in and out of the three stages of surprise, panic and blame partly because the outcome of the referendum was a genuine shock, no matter what you voted.
I believe that now more than ever we need to strengthen our self-awareness and inner competences to handle change effectively, be open to different ways of viewing a controversial situation with unknown and far-reaching impact and find ways to discuss our views collaboratively. These times call on us to be adaptable so that we can respond positively to change. We need critical thinking skills to deal with the huge amount of and overload of information coming our way so that we can make clear decisions that help us move forward as well as to make sense of what is happening. Otherwise the danger is that we fall into believing that opinions and new stories are facts. We need empathy to be able to truly be open and compassionate to each other, to be able to discuss opposing views positively and to really listen. We need integrity to make wise decisions aligned to our values. Maybe now is also a good time to redefine our values to see if they still make sense. We need optimism so that we can make progress positively and identify opportunities and ways to succeed. That also means being proactive and deciding on clear actions to take to move forward to (maybe) new goals. Finally we need to build our resilience skills to not be fazed by the changes ahead. That means being able to handle rejection, unexpected outcomes and downturns with ease, agility and grace.
In short we need The Advantage now more than ever before. Want to find out more? Come to our taster session Sunday 3rd July at London’s Southbank.