We are living in tumultuous times. In the past, it used to be that when one difficult change was introduced (or as was usually the case, forced on us- e.g. through death, divorce or redundancies), we were given a respectable and decent amount of time to wrap our heads and emotions around it, before moving to a new normal. Indeed, during these times, colleagues and loved ones became significantly more patient with us. Some of us would transition through a range of emotions from shock, denial, anger and even depression before we finally started to accept the new situation and see the possibilities for the future. This reaction to change would potentially take weeks to play out, and in that time we were literally granted permission to display as much ‘bad behaviour’ as we wanted, as it was seen as a healthy reaction to the changes that were happening.
Nowadays, it seems that we barely have enough time to be shocked at the onset of a new event before something else is heaped on us. Colleagues and loved ones too have become a tad impatient- “Yes, of course it is quite acceptable for you to be shocked and angry at this, but can you please be a bit quicker and get over it!”
Our convenient, disposable culture expects nothing less. After all, if we can connect with the news and people around the world at the touch of a screen or button, why on earth can’t we accept and implement something new with minimum fuss- e.g. BREXIT, the USA airport travel bans or general organisation restructures?
The answer is obvious- we human beings do not process things that affect us in that manner. We do not adapt to change very quickly, and neither do we come equipped with a switch which we can turn on to a chosen point in time (past or future), where we would feel most confident and fearless to operate in.
Suppose there was such a switch- wouldn’t that solve all our change transition problems?
I was recently presented with a collection of long lost photos of a 16-year-old me. Without doubt, time has been kind. Apart from stubborn fat deposits on various areas of my body I would prefer not to have, I have generally weathered well. I was asked, given the various changes that I have gone through personally and professionally, if I had to choose- what age would I freeze frame my life?
I thought it was an easy question. I would pick a time when I thought I looked my best and had the least cares and responsibilities. This would definitely be somewhere in my mid 20’s. Ten minutes later, I had to confess that I couldn’t decide. With the benefit of hindsight, each age came with its own highlights, opportunities (realised and missed), challenges, insecurities, tears, laughter and fears. The key differentiator was how I dealt with them, and the common denominator was how that enabled me to meet the next unknowns around the corner. If I had freeze framed my life at any of those points, I would not have morphed and adapted into the person that I am today. I would quite literally be forever frozen to whatever ‘huge and insurmountable’ fear/anxiety that I had at that time, which, today seems comparatively lame. For me, that is a huge price to pay.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I plan to bottle this memory and remind myself of it the next time a new challenge, new anxiety, or new fear comes my way… which, in today’s ever changing world, will no doubt be tomorrow.
Audrey Ezekwesili is a Business Change Director at Facilitate4Me Ltd.