Care & Capability in the Face of Change

Over this past year, there have been quite a few changes that I’ve needed to adapt to. No doubt that all of us have experienced this, whether through our own decisions or through things that have happened to us. The pace of change can sometimes make it challenging to find time to recover & reflect. When this happens to me, I find that I have sometimes defaulted to behaviours and beliefs that hindered me instead of helping me grow.

One of these former beliefs is that I’m not able to keep up with the change, for whatever reason I may give myself: that I’m too old, that my brain doesn’t work that way, that I’m not actually interested in that subject anyway. The problem with this belief is that it gives me an excuse to not even try. It becomes easier to avoid the opportunity to grow. As I’ve written about before, the root cause of this is fear, which comes in many forms.

After noticing this in myself, I committed to noticing this in the moment that it happens and to change this belief. Now instead, I celebrate my capabilities and my capacity to learn & change. Changing this mindset has made a big difference for me when I’m in unfamiliar situations at work.

Admittedly, this is not as easy as flipping a switch. There were a few things that supported me in this transition. First, I needed to cultivate a genuine belief that whatever I was facing was not beyond my capabilities. This was a stepping stone for me, the understanding that I do have a capacity to learn & understand anything new. Getting out of the way and removing any self-imposed impediments is the first step for me. Next, these additional practices support my process:

Curiosity: I have found that curiosity is an ideal antidote to fear & uncertainty. It acts as a kind of “flashlight” that gives comfort and brightens any dark areas that you may be wary to look into.

Humility: I understand that I will need help occasionally and that it’s okay to ask for help. Admitting this to myself is important to stay connected to those around me who can support me on my journey. It also helps me reduce any unrealistic expectations I may put on myself.

Non-judgement: Being easy on myself and not judging any perceived set-backs or past history allows me to wipe the slate clean and approach any change with a beginner’s mind. Non-judgement & curiosity go hand in hand.

No comparing: My journey will be different from anyone else’s so there’s no point in comparing myself to anyone else. Comparison breeds judgement and that is counter-productive to my growth. It’s also important for me to remember that everyone is going through their own “stuff” – accepting that helps me remember that we have our own unique situations.

These techniques help me get into a better mindset to adapt to change. However, there’s another behaviour I noticed in myself that in hindsight wasn’t doing me any favours, so I decided to dig into that further.

Sometimes with change, I would cope by distancing myself emotionally from the change itself. I would adopt an attitude of “just get it done” and plow through it. I would feel that this “armour” would help shield me from the discomfort of the task and allow me to focus.

I use the word “armour” because I’m re-reading Brené Brown’s “Dare To Lead” book and her use of that term is really appropriate when talking about vulnerability. Armour is something that we think will shield us from any hurt. The problem is that it blocks out everything – connection, empathy, joy – all the good things, too.

Realizing that my “nose to the grindstone” approach may be counter-productive, I decided to actively change my approach. In situations where I am facing change, I now lean in by caring more about the change. By investing myself emotionally in the change, I feel as though the task can become easier. It’s akin to becoming really stiff & inflexible when you are about to do something you may not enjoy, like speaking before a large group. By caring more about the situation, I can relax into it more and feel all the emotions that may come with it. By not carrying my own armour, I can divert that energy to enjoying the situation, and towards my own growth.

Brené Brown refers to a quote by Theodore Roosevelt about being in the “arena”:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit goes to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

Theodore Roosevelt

By choosing to be in the arena, I choose to not be my own critic and to not stay on the sidelines. It means that I choose to be actively engaged in the change that I face, that I can lean into the discomfort but also lean into the joy of the experience. It means that I can be honest and ask for help when I need it. It takes effort and I still need to remind myself every now & then, but adopting this mindset has really freed me from falling into previous patterns of behaviour.

Thank you for the time you’ve taken to read this and I hope it has resonated with you in some way.

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