Having upped sticks (and jobs) a number of times to work across East and West Africa, I’m no stranger to change. In fact, I’ve made it my living, working on a range of behaviour change projects across sectors and industries. But this time, it’s felt different. If I had to put my finger on it, it comes down to having very little control over the biggest change I’ve ever known - a change that I didn’t see coming, let alone wanted!
The old adage that change is a constant has never felt more true with each day bringing new challenges and surprises. For lots of us, we’re having to navigate the world of virtual working (if we’re able to work) whilst living alongside housemates, partners, children and pets (ready for their onscreen cameo at any and all moments). And the normality we once knew seems like a distant past after just four weeks of lockdown (or is it five? I’ve lost complete track of time in the lockdown bubble).
In fact, when you stop to think about it, we’ve been forced to strap ourselves in for one helluva rollercoaster ride (like it or not), with more loop the loops and G-force than even the most die-hard rollercoaster fans would normally care for (just to be clear I’m a moderate rollercoaster fan at best, unlike my bosses…and yes that really is them in the picture above!). But what if I hate rollercoaster rides, you say? Well, you might find your reactions to this enforced rollercoaster are even more difficult to stomach. When we’re denied of choice and control, the fear and anxiety that this creates can trigger all manners of weird and wonderful reactions…
I for one have experienced a multitude of highs and lows, frustrations and acceptance, sadness and joys - and it’s felt exhausting and downright frazzling at times.
But, as I keep trying to remind myself, my reactions to all of this are completely normal. I may not know when this will come to an end, but what I’m experiencing is all part of the process for going through change and (eventually) embracing this new reality.
Now I say that with complete confidence because of the brilliant research carried out by Kubler and Ross who recognised that while we respond in different way to change, we typically go through a number of stages over time, until we’re able to accept the new status quo and move forwards with some key learnings tucked into our back pocket.
Many of you will already be familiar with the Kubler-Ross change curve which has stood the test of time for good reason. It shows the stages of emotions and feelings that we experience when facing change.
Now, as you can see in the diagram above (an interpretation that we stumbled across from the fab team at Red Bull), the stages of the change curve aren’t linear, or even the same for each of us. In fact, our processing of change is about as unique as we are. My ride might plummet towards shock and corkscrew through frustration and resistance multiple times before slowly climbing back up to the acceptance, experimenting and finding meaning stages. You of course will be on your own unique ride (you lucky so-and-so you!).
For me however, there’s something reassuring in knowing about these stages; knowing that what we’re feeling and experiencing is completely normal (well, whatever normal is, but you get the idea!) and part of the process for accepting our reality and the changes that come with it.
And with understanding, comes our ability to deal better with it.
Our friends over at Red Bull have also created a brilliant tool (above) for navigating this rollercoaster of change, enabling us to ride the twists and turns of uncertainty. As you can see, they focus specifically on the common pitfalls that we might face and how to side-step these altogether - something that's proven especially useful over the last few weeks.
After the novelty (possibly even excitement) of week one lockdown, week two really felt like a low point for me as I struggled to come to terms with the change. By week three, however I was determined to avoid this pitfall at all costs and started to focus on my next step, simply putting one foot in front of the other, rather than the long slog ahead. This approach has really helped to keep me more positive…and no doubt has something to do with endlessly losing track of time!
Occasionally though, the toughness of this whole situation does get to me and I wonder whether it’s just me struggling while the rest of world gets on with it. In those moments, reaching out to friends, family and colleagues for support has been a life line, creating brief yet vital moments of happiness - and I’ve mastered more video conferencing software packages than I knew existed!
Equally, the Thursday evening ‘Clap for Carers’ has stood out for me as a powerful way to bring communities together up and down the country, celebrating our heroes, and in those moments of distanced connection, there is solidarity - we are all in this together.
So by taking action to avoid the pitfalls of change, we’re in a much better position to manage and, over time, accept the change. For me, it’s also a way of taking back some control in this topsy turvy world we find ourselves and importantly, creating some much needed happiness during this time.
“When life gives you lemons, just add gin” — Helen Lawrence
Why not reflect on your own rollercoaster ride and the choices you’ll make to reclaim control - whether that’s making it more manageable or making this the ride of your life! We’d love to hear your top tips for riding the rollercoaster - your way.
So hang on in there and we’ll see you on the other side!
Senior learning consultant & programme director
We recently launched a series of energy workouts to help ride the change - head over to our Facebook or LinkedIn pages to give them a go:
And finally, a big shout out to the the Red Bull team for sharing!