Principles of Change: The Fourth of Nine

Work Through Your Change Demons

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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 4: People who successfully navigate change give themselves permission to be human. They feel their emotions and know how to move through them.

This also applies to companies. Getting through a tough change isn't about "thinking" yourself through it. It isn't about an action plan: three steps, here they are, boom. It also isn't about being all tough and logical.

What I've found from thousands of interviews is the opposite, actually: People who get through those tough life changes are much more human than you imagine. They feel, they are scared, they doubt, they worry, they are angry, they are impatient, they blame, they feel guilty, they are ashamed. The list of typical emotions, what I call our "change demons," is a long one.

We are meant to feel our way through change initially, not think our way through change. The emotion you are most resisting right now is the emotion that is ruling your life -- it's the emotion that isn't allowing the next thing to show up.

More Principles of Change
People who successfully navigate change know they are resilient, strong and capable of getting through anything. Period.
The Change Guarantee: From this situation something good will come.
People who successfully navigate change have positive beliefs.

Feeling again is the first step to getting through change. In the feelings is where you find your power; it's where energy starts moving again. Energy doesn't move in your head or thoughts. That's where it gets stuck. People get sick from not feeling an emotion and instead burying it somewhere in their body. Companies get sick from not addressing an emotion too.

Identify the feeling that is coming up. Is it self-blame? Is it fear? Is it powerlessness? What is your go-to emotion during change? Next, ask yourself: What is the emotion you would do anything to avoid? That's the one you need to get into.

Whether it's losing a job or a deal or a relationship or your health, the classic emotions of change are still the same. The way to get beyond them is to find the antidote. Take fear, for example. The antidote is faith -- faith in life, in yourself, in your team, in God, in things eventually turning around. Something needs to be bigger than your fear. Where do you really find your safety net?

Those uncomfortable emotions have always led the way. When we tune into our intuition, the tightness in our stomach over a job decision, the stress we feel, the sleepless nights, the emotion that is trying so hard to get our attention, only then do we find some peace. These change demons are a wake-up call to make some new decisions, to honor your intuition, to face the consequences, to get honest.

People aren't changed by information; they are changed by inspiration, by having their emotions shaken and moved. Remember that. Think of artists, singers, teachers, even some of our politicians. It all begins and ends with emotions, with getting in touch with feelings.

Emotions change a business and emotions create customers. Emotions are like fuel during change. Welcome them. Nothing is to be feared. It's a good sign when they are getting your attention. It means there's something for you to learn, realize, change, get honest about, make a decision about and then find a more empowering emotion in which to find some stability.

No need to welcome every emotion to the party. So when fear shows up, you have control over whether you invite its friends -- blame, anger, resentment, embarrassment and terror -- to the party and then feed them and let them stay as long as they like. That part you control. Change Optimists, as I like to call them, feel the full range of emotions. Give yourself full permission to be human if you are serious about getting through a change now.

Companies wrestle with their own "change demons." See if you can identify the emotion in which your company or team finds itself stuck. Give everyone permission to voice this and feel this; only then will you be able to move through to a better place.

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.
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