4 Tips to Reducing Resistance to Change

You go to your favorite restaurant and they have taken your favorite menu item off the menu. Boo hoo. You’re told by the Accounting Manager that you have to use a new expense system instead of the tried and true excel sheet you have always used.  Aargh. Your husband calls to say he won’t be home for dinner after you’ve already started cooking a feast for four (and the dog doesn’t like pot roast).  Sigh.  Change is constant and it’s making you at the very least frustrated, if not leaving you completely overwhelmed.photo-1430760814266-9c81759e5e55

In the day and age of VUCA world, an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, it can feel like it’s completely out of control.  Or as Nathan Bennett and G. James Lemoine wrote in their HBR article, “What VUCA Really Means for You“: Hey, it’s crazy out there!  What’s important is to not take this constant change personally.  When the client cancels or your daughter is two hours late, you internalize it as the universe striking out against you once again and you slowly start feeling helpless.  Or as Eeyore would say, “The sky has finally fallen, I always knew it would.” Resisting change requires a lot of effort and energy and, if you think about it, it’s quite futile.

Here are 4 tips to reducing resistance to change:

  1. Reduce your distractions.  I wrote in my last post that watching the news everyday increases your feelings of helplessness.  95% of what you see or read in the news is completely and utterly out of your control (and we all want control).  When your mind is constantly being distracted by news and notifications (i.e. email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), you start to feel helpless and overwhelmed.  You are primed to rebel against the next change. So when the new company initiative gets rolled out you start to think “not one more thing!”   I have turned off all my notifications on my phone except for phone calls and texts.  I’ll find out what email I have twice a day instead of constantly checking my phone.  The reduction in distractions has made me calmer and open to what might be coming next.  So if the meeting is cancelled or your boss scraps your project, you won’t fall into overwhelm.
  2. Rituals and routines.  I think I have close to 25 morning habits and I keep adding.  Weigh myself, take my medication, brush my teeth while saying affirmations, water pik, grab my sneakers, let out the dog, turn on the outside light, feed the dog, grab my phone and earbuds, sit in my swinging chair, listen to my Calm app for 10 minutes of meditation, grab a cup of coffee, move to my recliner and listen to my Whil app for mindfulness guidance for 10 minutes, wish everyone happy birthday and post a positive meme on Facebook, mental exercise with Lumosity app,  study two Spanish sections on my Duolingo app, put my sneakers on, take out the recycle, turn on my book on Audible and take a 30 minute walk, take a shower, dress, drink breakfast smoothie and head to work.  The point of all of this is that I can control these things.  I do all these things, all the time(for the most part, I don’t travel with my water pik) and I feel the rhythm.  I feel in control.  It helps be feel empowered over my day. When other people get defensive in a meeting, I am able to take it in and not react.  I respond.  So when there is an unexpected change, I just roll with it.
  3. The glass is half full.  Having a positive outlook is imperative in the VUCA world.  Kelly McGonigal wrote about this in her book called the Upside of Stress.  She recommended reframing the latest stress as a “challenge” rather than a detriment.  My husband has caught me saying, “I’m anxious about this speaking engagement” and he’ll correct me. “You mean, you are excited.”  It’s much more empowering to feel excited versus anxious.  So if the project needs to get done by 8 AM instead of next week, try thinking, “Wow, this is a real challenge, I’m excited.”  Your cortisol level will remain low and you will be able to work more efficiently.  Stress typically takes you to your primitive brain that shuts done your prefrontal cortex where you do your best thinking.  When you can reframe the change as a positive, you can recover your prefrontal cortex and get back to your best thinking.
  4. Connect with others.  As McGonigal wrote, “Connection with others activates prosocial instincts, encourages social connection, enhances social cognition, dampens fear and increases courage. You want to be near friends or family. You notice yourself paying more attention to others, or are more sensitive to others’ emotions.”  The best way to do this, if possible, is in person.  If your boss cancels the project, walk over to her office and find out the rationale behind the cancellation.  If you sit in your cube and ruminate about the change, in all likelihood your self-critic will be on steroids. “She doesn’t trust me. I’m in competent. She’s going to fire me.”  If walking into their office isn’t possible, go ahead and pick up the phone.  DO NOT EMAIL or MESSAGE.  It’s so easy to read into things too much based on the written word.  Personally connecting in person or by phone builds the relationship.

Controlling what you can control and letting go of what you can’t is the key to staying on top of the VUCA wave and not being crushed into the sandy surf.  You are only responsible for you.

7 Itzy Bitzy Keystone Habits That Will Transform Your Life.

Keystone or Cornerstone habits are small changes that have a big impact as posited by Charles Duhigg. It’s a small change that has a ripple effect. Like when you start exercising for 15 minutes in the morning. It ripples out to the rest of your day. You feel more energized, you are more productive, you aren’t in a crabby mood and make better food choices. Research has shown that about 50% of habits are unconscious. So the key is to make these keystone habits unconscious. You don’t want to stop and think about it.

We all start the day with about 100 units of energy. Each time you have to stop and think and make a decision, you’ve lost one more unit. You don’t get them back. So if you depleted all your units of energy by miscellaneous decisions like “what should I wear today” or “what should I have for breakfast” you are using up those valuable irreplaceable units of energy on minor decisions. So when you sit down to work on that big proposal at 3 PM you are spent. The sooner you can incorporate the itzy bitzy keystone habit into your life, the better.

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Here they are:

1. Make your bed. Your bed is probably the largest piece of furniture in your life. It takes up a lot of your visual field. When the bed isn’t made, it’s visual clutter. It’s a downer. A made bed on the other hand is a productivity starter. Karen Miller in an article called Your Bed is Your Head, says “Transform your reality. Face what appears in front of you. Do what needs to be done. Make peace with the world you inhabit. Take one minute—this minute right now—to enfold your day in dignity. Tuck in the sheets, straighten the covers and fluff the pillows.”

2. Get 7 hours of sleep. When you are well rested, you think better, you have more energy, you procrastinate less and you have a more positive attitude. The problem is that it’s easy to get sucked into watching “The Walking Dead” or binge watching “House of Cards” on Netflix. When you are at the end of your day your energy and will power are gone. Set up a bed time and stick to it. If you can add 15 minutes of reading a fiction book and keep your technology out of your bedroom, all the better. Set a bedtime and stick to it.

3. Get some kind of movement first thing in the morning. Spend just 10 minutes walking or running or doing push ups. Get your blood flowing. Maybe it’s yoga or walking in place. Put your sneakers next to your bed. Queue the exercise dvd the night before. Set out your gear the night before so that it’s effortless to get up and go. As a client of mine decided, she set up her coffee to automatically brew the night before to save time in the morning to get in some exercise. Move.

4. Separate from the Judge in your head. Give your Judge their voice. As instructed by Shirzad Chamine’s Positive Intelligence, I have been reframing my judgments by giving The Judge a voice. So instead of thinking “I think I look fat in this dress,” think “the Judge thinks I look fat in this dress.” Or “I didn’t get that job because I’m not good enough,” think “the Judge thinks I didn’t get that job because I’m not good enough.” Now the Judge is out in the open and, most importantly, you realize it’s not you. Having a positive outlook versus a negative defensive outlook will transform your life. Out your Judge.

5. Give up on perfectionism. Perfectionism is paralyzing. Regardless of what your mother told you, you are good enough. Mistakes are for learning. You will never regret that your spice rack isn’t alphabetized but you will regret not spending quality time with your partner. Giving up on perfectionism gives you more space to connect to others and isn’t that what life is all about? So don’t worry if your proposal isn’t perfect. Send it off.

6. Try some kind of meditation. At the beginning of your day or at the end or maybe on your lunch hour, find 5 minutes to slip into your body and out of your head. I have to tell you that I have been practicing Shirzad Chamine’s 15 minute meditation for the last few weeks. After meditating, I do three brain challenges from Lumosity. Since starting this new meditation, I’ve been achieving high scores on Lumosity. That’s tough to do since I have been using the app for over 2 years. Clearing out my head helps me think better.

7. Try habit stacking. As James Clear writes in his article, Habit Stacking: How to Build New Habits by Taking Advantage of Old Ones, “This is a concept called ‘habit stacking’ because you stack your new habit on top of a current habit. Because the current habit is strongly wired into your brain already, you can add a new habit into this fast and efficient network of neurons more quickly than if you tried to build a new path from scratch.” It’s kind of like a two for one. As Clear recommends, fill in this sentence:
After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].
So after I meditate, I will play Lumosity. Before I go to bed, I will lay out my exercise gear. After my shower, I will make my bed. Try stacking your habits.

These itzy bitzy keystone habits are much easier if you just try a small slice. One tiny step. So try meditating or exercising for 5 minutes and not 15 to start. I remember getting back to running after surgery a few years ago. I started with just getting out the front steps. The next day, I walked to the mailbox. Within a week I was back to walking two miles. As Darren Hardy says in The Compound Effect, “slow and steady wins the race.” These habits over time will compound and the half a bagel you cut out of your diet today will equal an 8 pound weight loss two years from now.