Resiliency in the Face of Change

January 1, 2020 | by anna rogers

The idea of change evokes a range of emotions – excitement, anxiety, a feeling of preparedness, or a feeling of panic. For many, change feels like a tidal wave that descends and destroys everything in its path, without discrimination. Yet if change is a tidal wave, there is potential to predict and prepare and to have a strategy for heading to higher ground.

Change Is Inevitable

Change is in our DNA. Growth brings change. Each season fades into the next. A day ends, and a new day begins. The world is always changing, and encountering change is certain. No one is immune to radical, imminent change. In our families, in our friendships, in the workplace, and for our personal development, a shift is necessary. Can we change the mental narrative from "I must cope with change" to "I get to capitalize on change?"

Increasing Resilience

"Being able to cope with change is sometimes called resilience," writes Dr. Kathleen Smith, Ph.D., LPC, in her article The Psychology of Dealing with Change: How to Become Resilient. "Though your environment and genes might influence your level of resilience, the amount isn't set in stone. Practicing different ways of thinking and being in the world can boost your ability to deal with change, and help you create a life that is adaptive to new places and unexpected events."

Smith suggests using the past as a confidence booster, maintaining a mindset that exists in the present, and holding to personal priorities to guide decisions that lead to a future aligned with your goals. “Make a list of ways you’ve been resilient in your life and consider what traits and actions might be able to see you through the current challenge,” she advises.

“The most resilient people see change as an opportunity rather than a monster to fear. Transitions in life allow you to consider where your priorities lie… With a clear sense of your goals and values, you will find your mind and body can be much more resilient when it comes to the stressors of change.”

These practical mental exercises can generate a personal stability that is prepared to navigate change free of fear. This increased resilience and adaptability is paramount to finding joy, nurturing relationships, and enjoying success in a competitive world.

Family Adaptability

On a family level, increasing resilience and adaptability becomes doubly important for parents. Kids, even teens, are looking to mom and dad’s responses and factoring that information into their response to change. “Small children, ages 9 and under, are going to align and regulate their effect with parents, modeling the behavior they see mom exhibit," says Gwen Felten MA, LCPC, PC of Northwest Counseling Center.

With this huge responsibility resting on parents’ shoulders, Felton advises that families first establish a healthy, positive attitude toward the change. “How we view our problem is more important than the problem itself. If we go into change with dread and apprehension, we’re going to feel more anxious and stressed. It’s important to shift the perspective and view the change as an opportunity for growth.” 

The caveat here is that parents shouldn't feel that they can't show any stress or anxiety to their kids. It's not necessary - or healthy - to create a façade that everything in life is perfect and stress-free all the time. In fact, parents should equip their kids to face the changes and uncertainties of life by modeling behavior that handles change in a healthy way.

Felton advises being honest with your children by sharing age-appropriate information and maintaining an open dialogue about how mom and dad are feeling, along with modeling healthy behaviors to deal with stress. For example, “Mom is feeling anxious. Let’s go take a walk together outdoors!” Strike a healthy balance of sharing honestly and openly with children without overloading them with details and specifics that aren’t their burden to carry.

In addition to a healthy response to the changes themselves, it’s important to maintain a healthy routine that allows everyone in the family to thrive and flourish and be given the best tools to cope with the change. “Maintain some kind of routine as best as possible – eating healthy foods and getting plenty of sleep.” Leave time in the day for exercise and enjoying time outdoors.

Guiding Others Through Change

Outside of the home, adaptability is being touted globally as one of, if not the, most valuable traits a leader or employee can possess. In today’s digital, ever-changing world, employers are valuing “soft skills” above "hard skills." Hard skills are teachable and measurable, such as the ability to perform a specific task. Soft skills are traits that make you a good employee, like communication, teamwork, and flexibility. This means that employers recognize they can easily teach a new hard skill to someone who possesses excellent soft skills and, therefore, are placing extra emphasis on important soft skills.

When seeking new talent for job openings, the ability to adapt and be resilient has become a top soft skill sought out by employers. Likewise, the employers themselves must be adaptable to acquire and hold on to top talent.

A global study by PwC found that increased adaptability on the part of both employees and employers will help narrow the skills gap that many industries are facing. “Employers operating in less adaptable markets face not only a potential loss of productivity, but also higher costs associated with the recruitment process,” the study warns.

The study shows what strong companies already know: adaptability is vital to solid leadership that trickles down and creates strong, successful teams. Strong leaders will guide those around them through the murky waters of change and will come out on the other side more agile and flexible.

Successfully managing change is better accomplished with the help of everyone in the business. As such, people must understand the need for change and the strategy behind it. Leaders who are forthright and honest with their teams will gain trust and have more people supporting the transition.

People are looking to leadership to see how their leaders will handle change. A leader who fears, fights, or flees change will generate confusion and lower morale. The leader who rises to the challenge of change with an adaptive mentality will lighten the burden for others. With a resilient leader and an adaptable team, businesses can successfully face an uncertain future together.

Looking Forward

A new year has just begun. Change is coming with 2020, and now is the perfect time to prepare for the unexpected, readying the mind for what is to come. Begin to put some strategies in place that will increase resilience. Decide to stop fearing the inevitable change and start capitalizing on it.

Practical Tips for Increasing Resilience

In your personal life…

Make a list of personal priorities. We're talking the big things, like "What matters most to you? How do you want to spend your time? What are your personal goals?" When change comes your way, reference these priorities, and examine how your response can align with your priorities to shape your future.

In your family…

Eat dinner together! Use this as a time to check in with each other and see how everyone is doing with the changes they’re facing.

"Develop a family mantra," says Gwen Felton of Northwest Counseling Center. It can be something as simple as "We are a strong family! We will get through this!" Help kids to see that change is a natural part of life and that there are changes every day. "Every day, the sun rises, and the sun sets. You have done all that you can do today. Tomorrow is a new day, and it's going to be different."

In your career…

Evaluate specific ways that you can be more adaptable at your job. Is there a new process that you can create to streamline tasks? Could you take on a role that is paramount to company success, even if it’s outside your comfort zone?

Create an open dialogue with your manager about ways that you could grow in your role and express an openness and readiness to learn new things.

In your leadership roles…

Do you have people in your life or job who are counting on you to guide them through change? Intentionally place yourself and your team in situations that are outside of comfort zones to practice strategic adaptability. Discuss the team’s response to the change and ways to improve in the future.  

Originally printed in the January 2020 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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