How to Take Charge of Change

People often ask how they can prepare for changes they didn’t anticipate and manage their lives given increased complexity.  Especially at work, we have to deal with one change on top of another. Add in personal demands and the result is stress, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. A recent study by North Highland and Harvard Business Review found that individual resilience is a key issue in managing disruption and in this blog we explore how individuals can enhance their own resilience.

Roots of Behavior

Resistance is the word that comes to most people’s minds when thinking of change. But we don’t resist change. We do resist loss. Related to change, there are three losses we resist:

  • SELF-IDENTITY is our basic sense of who we are and where we fit in the world. It’s made up of things such as self-confidence, responsibility and a sense of freedom.

  • RELATIONSHIPS are about the heart and sticking together has good survival value. Further, we expect others to act how they always have and are upset when this changes because we don’t want to lose the familiar surroundings, inclusion, respect, and even affection we get from relationships.

  • CONTROL is the most difficult thing for us to lose, especially over what is known and familiar. Control provides a sense of security, steady working conditions, priorities, privileges, status, and the ability to provide for one’s self and family.



So what do we do once we understand the losses we resist? What do those who are expert self-changers do to move through the changes they’ve chosen and prepare themselves for change that’s out of their control? Extensive research across many fields reveals characteristics of people who are better at anticipating and managing change – those who are more resilient. I’d like to suggest these Change-Abilities are: Grounded, Open, Tenacious, Ordered and Connected.

  • GROUNDED means having a solid sense of self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-efficacy. These people know and are confident in themselves and their abilities. They explain things to themselves in positive ways and determine what they can do to manage a situation. Being grounded means having a deep, abiding sense of what is truly important.

  • OPEN has to do with being flexible, future rather than past oriented, and agreeable (cooperative, good-natured and tolerant) with others.

  • TENACIOUS is being clear on what you want and able to maintain consistent focus to achieve it. It also includes being proactive to achieve what is most important to you.

  • ORDERED is the ability to see the underlying order of things, or the patterns and connections under the surface.

  • CONNECTED is the ability to establish and maintain solid relationships with others. A key element is the capacity to be and be seen as trusting and sincere.

Acknowledging these areas can be a useful first step to deal with both planned and un-planned change, and as individuals become more resilient in our personal and professional lives.