Principles of Change: The Third of Nine

How Strong Is Your Change Muscle?

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Ariane de Bonvoisin
Ariane de Bonvoisin

I've interviewed thousands of people going through all types of change -- job loss, divorce, a cancer diagnosis, a baby, a new business -- and I've noticed some very similar patterns, behaviors and attitudes in people who are good at change. I've discovered nine principles, and I'll highlight one of them in each of my columns in the next few months. Here, then, is the next one:

Principle 3: People who successfully navigate change know they are resilient, strong and capable of getting through anything. Period.

More Principles of Change
The Change Guarantee: From this situation something good will come.
People who successfully navigate change have positive beliefs.

You have a "change muscle," as I affectionately call it, a part of you that can and will get you through anything. It's right there in your DNA. Think about it: In the first nine months of your life, you went through more change than you ever will in the rest of your life. Your body is made for change. If it didn't change every second, you would die. It's the same with life: "change is the law of life." It must happen, you must allow it to happen. Remember, if you're in a bad situation, don't worry, it will change. And if you're in a good situation, don't worry, it will also change.

Your change muscle is the strength that is accumulated from all the changes you've been through, the big changes you've faced, the ones you've initiated, the changes you've helped someone else with. Your change muscle has a memory, it remembers every change you've made and faced. The change you are facing today may be new, but you don't show up naked, with no resources. You have a part of you that knows exactly how to get through change -- you have beliefs, people, insights, a toolbox. That's the part you activate now.

The change muscle is like any other muscle -- you use it/flex it when you need to dig deep. People are always surprised at how strong they really are. Remember, the very best of who you are comes out during times of change and transition, not during times of stability.

Many people tell me some version of the following: "I hate change" or "I'm bad at change." Here's the truth: Your whole life to date is a combination of change. You've just not seen it that way; you have what I call a "change resume." It's full of change -- you may have graduated, found a job, lost a job, fallen in love, broken up, got married, had a child, gone through a health diagnosis, lost weight, quit smoking, bought a home, lost a loved one, gotten out of debt. For every one of these changes, you used your change muscle -- inner and outer resources to get through it. Each of us has a very defining moment of a change we didn't think we'd get through. I call this the "Kili moment" after an experience I had at a Mt. Kilimanjaro base camp at 18,000 feet where I had to do something crazy to survive (for more information on that story, pick up my book). What is your Kili moment, that time when you had to pull on every ounce of courage, faith, strength and initiative to get through something? Honor that.

Ariane de Bonvoisin shares her change secrets in a free daily e-mail. Her book, "The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier," is now available in paperback.

That part of you is available any time you choose -- to face something tough right now, or to be bold and make a change you know you've been craving. Leaders get through change and tough times by being bigger than their obstacles even though they may appear fixed or permanent, and by changing themselves first, re-thinking what's possible, and using their change muscle so that they can then change their personal or professional environment.

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