As the saying goes, the only people who like change are busy cashiers and wet babies. We find change disorienting, creating within us an anxiety similar to culture shock, the unease visitors to an alien land feel because of the absence of the familiar cues they took for granted back home. With an established routine, we don’t have to think! And thinking is hard work.
We tend to respond to change the same way we respond to anything we perceive as a threat: by flight or fight. Our first reaction is flight–we try to avoid change if we can. We do what futurist Faith Popcorn calls “cocooning”: we seal ourselves off from those around us and try to ignore what is happening. This can happen in the workplace just by being passive. We don’t volunteer for teams or committees; we don’t make suggestions, ask questions, or offer constructive criticism. But the changes ahead are inescapable. Those who “cocoon” themselves will be left behind.
Even worse is to fight, to actively resist change. Resistance tactics might include negativity, destructive criticism, and even sabotage.
Rejecting both alternatives of flight or flight, we seek a better option–one that neither avoids change nor resists it, but harnesses and guides it.
Change can be the means to your goals, not a barrier to them. Both fight and flight are reactions to perceiving change as a threat. But if we can change our perceptions, we can avoid those reactions. An old proverb goes, “Every change brings an opportunity.” In other words, we must learn to see change as a means of achieving our goals, not a barrier preventing us from reaching them.