A few months ago I was working on a deadline with a client and they asked if I could create a pdf from some files I had been working on. Even though I’d never done it before I said sure thinking “how hard could that be?” When I downloaded Adobe pdf creator for a free trial it detected Office 2007. I had not yet upgraded, but somehow “it” decided I should and my machine upgraded itself before my eyes. I could not seem to undo the change. However, my client was using Office 2007 so I thought “what the heck”? I’ll make the change now even though I would rather do it later. Besides, how hard could it be?
Suddenly nothing worked the way I expected it to. Everything seemed familiar, but it was definitely not the same. It was one of those serious “who moved my cheese moments”! 10 hours later on a Saturday evening I emerged from my office triumphant. Yet it was an exhausting process.
While the upgraded tools were actually much better, they were different enough that everything that had been automatic was no longer quite so simple. And even though learning to create pdf’s was on my list of things to learn, consolidating 30 documents into one indexed pdf was harder than I expected.
In the scheme of things none of the changes or new things I had to learn were particularly hard. Nonetheless they interrupted my flow. Add the pressure of a deadline, and the complaints from my family that I had to cancel our plans and it was that much harder. I vacillated between intense frustration and an occasional thrill of a new discovery. I looked at the clock in dismay more than once wondering how long this was going to take.
I believe that a powerful relationship with change is essential to thriving in today’s world. I support people in changing consciously to create a better life and a better workplace for a living. But no matter how much any of us may want and embrace change there are bound to be times when we would just rather do it later.
Why? Because any change worth making is usually not easy, even when we really want the change. Adapting to something new can be hard work whether it is a new software tool, a new way of doing things, a new way of thinking, etc. Wanting to change can make it more palatable, but it does not necessarily make it go easier. And being a “change” consultant unfortunately does not make changing my own practices any easier sometimes.
When something becomes automatic we don’t have to think about it. We just do it mindlessly. Have you ever driven to work and not been able to remember to the trip? Do you have to concentrate hard when you brush your teeth? The less we have to think about something the less energy it takes to do it. There is a motivation to “automate” as many things as we can just so we can deal with the intense demands on our time and attention. Change anything that is automatic and we experience an interruption in our flow. It can be hard to stay present to the potential benefit of completing a change when it feels like we are somehow losing ground in the moment.
Throughout this process I was reminded of the need to be compassionate, both with ourselves and with others, when it comes to changing anything. We all have some change we would rather do later, or perhaps not at all.
Yet if we really want to cause meaningful, sustainable change in ourselves and in our organizations we need support. Sometimes we need help dealing with the discomfort and/or frustration. Sometimes we need a person who has gone before us to guide and teach us how to get to the other side. Other times we need to help stay focused on the reason we are changing to begin with so we do not succumb to the resistance and resignation that inevitably creeps in when the going gets really tough. Every once in a while we just need a deadline that gets us to focus and just do it.
Change is a given. Sometimes we get to choose what and how. Sometimes we get to choose when. And sometimes we don’t get to choose at all.
Just remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Ask for the help you need when you need it. And I encourage you to be the first to offer your support to another. It probably won’t be long before they return the favor.