How To Change When Change Sucks – Part 1

Change Roadsign

I think we all secretly say “this sucks” when change is thrust upon us – as it often is.
In recent months I’ve been working with many people from the financial services, software, and telecommunication sectors. Here’s what they’re reporting:

  • “We must launch a new service in 3 months which realistically would take 6 months to do properly. If we stuff it up we probably won’t have a job. The project is running 24/7.”
  • “We’ve been told that all our jobs are being outsourced to Asia, but we’ve been asked to work hard until we are no longer needed. They don’t know exactly when that will be.”
  • “For 8 months we’ve been going through an organisational restructure, and for much of that time we didn’t know if we had a job, who we’ll be reporting to, or what our job will be.”

I have never seen stress levels higher amongst Australian employees. 

Ironically, many of these changes have been initiated to increase productivity and profitability, but most people I talk to admit that their commitment and discretionary effort has withered.

Most of the people I speak to feel they have little control over what they are asked to do, and the uncertainty is very distracting.

How can we cope with this change and uncertainty? Are we just victims?

There is only one thing we can control, and that is what we choose to do each day. By doing so, we create a feeling that we are navigating our own path. When working with people approaching change I recommend three things:

  1. Boost your mood
  2. Tap into your strengths
  3. Asking “how can I serve?”

In Part 1 of this series, I’m going to cover practical things you can do each day to boost your mood. Over the next month I will present parts 2 and 3.

So why boost your mood?

Well for one thing, people with a positive mood are 31% more productive, sell 37% more, and are 300% more creative, according to a an article by Shawn Achor in the February 2012 Harvard Business Review. Good qualities in times of change?

5 proven activities to boost your mood
  1. Exercise – A 30 minute brisk walk (or equivalent), significantly improves your mood after 2, 4, 8 and 12 hours compared to those that don’t exercise (Mayo Clinic 2008). Exercise boosts energy, confidence and sexual desirability (American Fitness, 19 (6) 32-36). For further information about how to start when you don’t feel like it or haven’t got time.
  2. Rest well – we grow in physical and mental capacity by expanding beyond our normal limits then recovering, according to Tony Schwartz in his book the Power of Full Engagement and with his work at the The Energy Project. Elite athletes and businesspeople have found that 90 minutes of focused activity followed by recovery in the form of doing something different for 30 minutes is the key to high performance.  A NASA study of 4000 of their employees showed that those who took a 20-40 minute nap or meditated after lunch increased their productivity by 35% and decision-making ability by up to 50%. This practice became known as the NASA nap.
  3. Engage – People who have 3-4 very close friendships are healthier, enjoy better wellbeing and are more engaged in their jobs (Rath 2006). When people are asked to list pleasant activities that boost their mood for their day, the most often mentioned were “Being with happy people” ,“Having people show interest in what I say”, and being with friends (Lewinsohn et al 1982). Choose your friends carefully!
  4. Self-compassion – It’s common to beat ourselves up for faults big and small, but according to psychologist Dr Kristin Neff, that self-criticism comes at a price: It makes us anxious, dissatisfied with our life, and even depressed. According to research by Dr Kristin Neff summarized in her book Self Compassion, it appears that self-compassion offers the same mental health benefits as self-esteem, but with fewer of its drawbacks such as narcissism, ego-defensive anger, inaccurate self-perceptions, self-worth contingency, or social comparison.

Self-compassion is treating yourself with the same type of kind, caring support and understanding that you would show to anyone you cared about. This involves:

  • Self-kindness – as opposed to self-judgement
  • Acknowledging imperfection as part of the human experience
  • Mindfulness – knowing when you are suffering and practicing self-care.

Be grateful – According to research, people that write down 3 things they were grateful for each day (Martin Seligman), or once a week (Sonja Lyobomirsky) for 6 weeks, not only boost their mood for that period, but up to 6 months later, according research done by Martin Seligman. Consider volunteering for those less fortunate – it will make you feel stronger, more energetic, and more motivated after helping others, in even the smallest way (Stoddart, Men’s Health 2009). For more information on gratefulness.

Download our free poster: 10 Things Science Says Will Make You Thrive.


How To Change When Change Sucks Part 2 – Tapping Into Your Strengths
How To Change When Change Sucks Part 3 – Asking “How Can I Serve?”

Graeme Cowan is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps people to lead a more resilient and thriving life by learning how to master their mood.

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