Embracing Change – How We Learn, Grow & Move Forward


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Embracing change and responding quickly is so much more than simply being flexible. When talking about flexibility in my previous blog, we explored the various reasons why it’s important to be adaptable and make the most of changes we encounter. This is a necessity in mountaineering if an expedition is going to be successful, but is also a crucial skill to develop in the workplace, and for life in general. Diving further into this topic, we can uncover more about our responses to change, the benefits of change, and how to develop systems to identify the best response methods. This is how we learn, grow and move forward.

Here is a statement that so many people find hard to accept, even when they know it’s true: “We all change – our friends and family members change, everything changes. It’s inevitable.” When we acknowledge change as a normal part of life, we will see how much easier it is to adapt – and ultimately find more success along life’s journey.

It’s important to note that some of the change in our lives has been chosen and planned, and can therefore be anticipated. When we move to a new home, change jobs, get married, or even go on a diet, we decided to do that, usually because we thought it would enhance our lives or at least have some solid benefits. In many of these situations, we have control over this change, and despite the occasional setback or obstacle, we plow through it, because after all, we signed up for it.

Managing chaos and unexpected changes

So much of the change we encounter comes straight out of left field, and is thrust upon us. To make matters more complicated, we are also dealing with an ever-increasing speed of change, and simply put, there’s no avoiding it. The key is to learn how to respond and to find a solid plan of action.

Sometimes when we’ve gone through a turbulent change, we learn what NOT to do the next time something similar comes along. Other times we learn that we handled the whole thing remarkably well – and came out of the experience for the better! The key is knowing that regardless of how bumpy a ride the change is, you will survive, you will acquire new skills, and somehow you will move forward despite the challenges. What I love about unexpected change is that it develops our resilience; we become stronger and better prepared for the next big thing – whatever that may be. We can join the “been there, done that” society and hold our heads up proudly. Even those times when something completely random has descended upon us, like a sudden weather event, a visit from an unexpected guest, or showing up to work to find out there is a “closed permanently” sign on the door, we can dig down to find those coping skills and techniques and get to work managing each situation.

Another remarkable thing about change is that it often forces us into uncomfortable situations where we muster up the courage needed to move forward. So often, our first response to sudden change is to panic or run away, but having a strategy to better cope with change is a skill we can all learn, just like tying our shoes. Recognizing that going back to the old ways isn’t an option is essential to moving forward and seeing positive results.

Steps for success

One critical part of embracing sudden change is to have a feedback system in place. We need to bounce ideas off others and explore other possibilities so that we can learn from that feedback and adjust course accordingly. In mountaineering, the conditions and interpersonal dynamics are so volatile that we must be constantly aware of the changes and identify ways to respond. We have to anticipate sudden changes and be ready for anything. This is at the heart of agile thinking.

Another key component is to respond quickly – not impulsively. In life-threatening situations, sometimes it’s the pure adrenaline that kicks in and we’ve embarked on a course of action before we’ve even processed it, but for our everyday lives, we can respond to a sudden change with a quick, but well-thought-out plan. Our response time is critical – the longer we flail around and tread water thinking of our next move, the more likely we will overthink the change, and miss out on a great experience or opportunity.

Finally, during times of change or volatility, don’t think of yourself as a passive victim, who had this sudden thing forced upon them – and as a result are now powerless. We are strong and intelligent beings, and we know how to take control, evaluate, discuss and make a move – even if it’s somewhat messy or imperfect.

The next time you get through a significant change or disruption in your life, take a step back and review what was learned, what was gained, and what, if anything, you would do differently next time. Even if there were struggles and heartache along with way, you’ve emerged stronger and wiser. Life’s like that.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new” – Socrates