It's Time We Became Friends with Change

In brief: 

  • Change is a fact of life, but it’s something many of us still resist.
  • To embrace change more readily, consider how your environment, your mindset, and your skill set can help you navigate times of transition and uncertainty with confidence.

You’ve likely heard the saying, “The only constant in life is change.”

Though Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote this around 500 B.C., the adage holds true today—perhaps more so than ever before. With change happening all around us—in our careers, our relationships, and every other aspect of life—shouldn’t we know how to embrace it by now?  

The truth is, change is something many of us still resist out of fear and anxiety. But rather than avoid change, we should anticipate, acknowledge, and readily accept it to manage our futures with confidence. To do so, we turn to author Spencer Johnson, M.D., for guidance on thriving in a world where change is constant.

In his book, Who Moved My Cheese, four characters live in a maze, which represents their environment, and hunt for cheese, representative of happiness and success. The characters find themselves in a routine of obtaining their cheese from the same place every day. One day the supply at their normal location runs out. From there, readers follow the development of Haw, a character who is at first afraid to veer from the normal routine to find a new path for cheese. Eventually, he moves out of his comfort zone and develops a new mindset that allows him to not only overcome his aversion to change and fear of the unknown, but to wholeheartedly embrace it and find success.  

From a business standpoint, we frequently revisit this fable as a reminder that even though the world will continue to throw unexpected changes our way and “move our cheese,” the right mindset and willingness to adapt can help us move forward confidently and achieve great success.

Take these three steps to embrace change more readily in an uncertain world:

Step One: Consider your maze

What environment supports you through change? Your environment—the functional (physical layout, décor, amenities) and emotional (mood, atmosphere, spirit)—plays an important role in your ability to navigate change. In a workplace setting, psychologically safe environments support change by promoting growth mindsets, inspiring continuous learning, and encouraging calculated risk-taking.

Step Two: Shift your mindset

What mindset will help you overcome fears and adapt to change? To thrive in a rapidly changing world, it’s all about adopting a growth mindset that inspires continuous learning and encourages you to push the status quo to discover new solutions. Your mindset determines the reality you live in, how you react to challenges, and the opportunities you ultimately embrace. Think about two individuals standing in the pouring rain. One accepts the circumstances and envisions dancing and singing in the rain. The other resists and focuses on the fact that he or she is cold and uncomfortable. Their perceptions of and mindset about their environment dictate how they experience it.

The same is true when it comes to how you experience change and the outcomes you drive. If you perceive change as something that will harm you or your organization, you will resist. But if you consider the possibilities that could come from change, you are more likely to lean in and drive positive outcomes. You can move past any fears that may be keeping you stagnant and overcome obstacles standing in your way. And just like Haw in Who Moved My Cheese, embracing change could pay off in a big way if you are willing to take the first steps with a growth mindset.

Step Three: Determine how to pivot

What new skills will help you prepare for future opportunities? As the fable highlights, in times of change, our ability to pivot becomes essential for success and even survival. And in our current business environment, which is rapidly shifting all the time, we must be able to quickly change course to remain competitive.

Consider the world of work, which has shifted dramatically over the past 10 years and is expected to continue on this path going forward. As a result of exponential changes, labor skills that were in high demand for years are suddenly becoming obsolete. This trend was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic: Jobs once considered essential were relegated to the sidelines as new skills became vital for business survival.

For example, the days of traditional truck driving may be numbered. As technology makes it possible for autonomous vehicles to increasingly take over road transport, it’s only a matter of time before drone operators and other workers who are skilled in operating vehicles from a command center are the hot-ticket business positions.

With the future of truck driving shaping up to look very different than it does today, fear and resistance can set in. But there is a better way. How can transportation workers cope with this impending change? We believe it’s all about pivoting to develop new skills for future career opportunities. Some skills we may all need to succeed in an evolving business include:

  1. Cognitive flexibility: Due to the increase of digital technologies, employers will value workers’ ability to conceptualize multiple complex ideas at once.
  2. Digital literacy and computational thinking: As the world increasingly relies on evolving technologies, the need for workers with digital skills will increase.
  3. Judgment and decision-making: Although automation may be better than humans at calculations and diagnostics, we will need humans to manage the subjective side and bring meaning to the data.
  4. Emotional and social intelligence: While technology can replace many activities, emotional and social intelligence remain uniquely human capabilities. Empathy, collaboration, and communications skills will be valued as organizations continue to evolve and embrace diversity.
  5. Creative and innovative mindset: Much like social intelligence, natural creativity cannot easily be replaced by digital technologies. Organizations will continue to need people who think outside the box.

We recognize the need for change and are well aware that change isn’t always easy. But we also believe that if you embrace it instead of resisting it, you’ll find that each change brings about new opportunities and better outcomes.

It's time we became friends with change