I hesitate to write about change, ironic since my work predicates that I work with people in transition. What I find I am reluctant to add too, is a pile of “4 steps to change” or other seemingly quick-fix articles. Personally, I am attracted to organic transformation. When words and ideas that resonate deep inside me, prod my curiosity, and force me to fill in the rest of the page.
Yet, here I am with a self-assessment piece. I was inspired to share when I came across, on the same day, a quote and a short questionnaire on discovering your change personality. I’ll share both with you to see if you are also intrigued.
First I discovered this particular quote while flipping through one of my journals, “a bird doesn’t fall out of a sky; a fish doesn’t drown in water.” My cynic mind wondered about the flying fish, a description that fits those of us who have been overwhelmed or acted overwhelmingly during transition. Which traits are so empowering that will prevent you from “falling out of the sky or drowning?”
For instance, let’s say you have answered the call. There was a stirring, something needs to change, must change. You could have chosen not to answer, but it was time to recognize the caller. All this buzz about saying “yes,” YES you say, you are going to listen to your authentic self (be it fish or fowl.)
At other times, the change is being requested of you. You see it coming for you like the proverbial train down the tracks.
Either way, stress is riding right along in the passenger seat. Even a bird or fish can be scared silly in their natural environment.
Lets say a decision needs to be made, implemented, or acclimated to – what rises are your fall-back patterns that will either propel you forward creating something new, or will prevent you from adapting. In the latter, we may ricochet from one emotion to the next, an endless stream of thoughts.
The initial, biological reactions have been well studied. Common phrases describe our fight, freeze, and flight pattern: “It was a fight to the end,” “I was frozen like a deer in the headlights” or “I just wanted to flee the situation.” And as written in many articles on fear and stress, there is good reason for this natural response. Since thoughts of chaos and uncertainty often accompany our transitions, the fear response is easily stimulated in these situations.
What is harder to detect, are our covert patterns that may also become stimulated. Our fall-back patterns or habituated responses to fear (change.) Having a deeper knowledge of your personal dynamics (and what the heck, how about those of our colleagues and loved ones) permits us to function better while in this time of discord.
Preparing for change may entail skills training and pondering the steps necessary to accomplish a project. Would it be helpful to also contemplate inter-and-intra personal responses? Could this enable us to bring better service to our organizations, relationships and ourselves?
Back to the bird flying free and the fish submerged but not drowned; to see a visual representation of the strengths and weaknesses from our authentic self – we need to reflect on our natural responses – the fear that arises around the unknown.
Part of the work is to honor the authenticity, support the strengths, and mine the gold from the blind spots. This creates space, and the ability to move forward in the best light.
The brief quiz on the next page offers a way to reflect on your “natural” response system to change.
This easy-to-implement questionnaire by the “Center for Motivation and Change” (O Magazine printed it as well) begins to outline personality traits that are useful when facilitating change. The Center posits that the following are desired personal faculties useful during transitions: a strong sense of self-awareness, a strategic approach to the challenge, and a good perspective on the challenges involved.
Circle an answer for each question that best describes your change process. Then take a look at the answer and scoring key. At the end of this article, I have added a few ideas on ways to work with this information.
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1. When you consider your goal, what else do you automatically think of?
a.The sacrifices I’ll have to make.
b.All the great things that will come of it.
c.I actually try not to think about it too much; “just do it” is my motto.
d. Both the costs and the benefits. I can’t help feeling a little hesitant.
2. How important is this goal to your happiness?
a. This is the ticket. If I meet my goal, I will finally be happy.
b. It’s a pretty big deal, but I realize it’s not the answer to all my problems.
c. It doesn’t seem crucial to me – though I feel like it should.
d. It’s a small but important step for me.
3. What is inspiring you to try to make this change?
a. A suggestion from a loved one.
b. My own desire.
c. Societal pressure.
d. At least two of the above.
4. Do you expect to encounter any obstacles on your path?
a. Yes, my path is a minefield!
b. I certainly imagine I will, though I don’t know exactly what they will be.
c. Not really. Once I decide to do something, nothing can stand in my way.
d. I can think of a few. But I have some ideas about how to get past them.
5. If you were to start making the change today, what would you do first?
a. I don’t have a plan per se. Determination is all I really need.
b. I’d talk to a friend about my expectations. I want to be sure they’re realistic.
c. I have no clue. I get overwhelmed just thinking about it.
d. I’d make a rough list of the steps I need to take.
6. Say a few weeks down the road you slip back into old behaviors. Which scenario is most likely?
a. I’d feel very discouraged and probably give up, at least temporarily.
b. I’d try to figure out what went wrong, and fix the problem.
c. I can’t even entertain that possibility now. It would be like giving me permission to fail.
d. I’d look back to the success I had early on and use it as inspiration to keep going.
7. Imagine that before you meet your goal, you start feeling worse rather than better. What would be your first impulse?
a. There must be something wrong with me.
b. It’s too soon to quit. I need to keep pushing myself.
c. This is a sign. I’m not ready to change.
d. I need to revisit my goal to see if it’s still what I really want.
8. Which best describes your attitude towards challenges?
a. I embrace them, but I get impatient when I’m not successful right off the bat.
b. It depends on the challenge. Sometimes I’m motivated; sometimes not so much.
c.I have to admit I don’t love them. I prefer to stick with what’s familiar.
d. When I commit to something, I’m committed 100 percent.
9. Remember the last time you struggled with a challenge. How did you get through it?
a. I buckled down and tried to tough it out on my own.
b. I called someone to get encouragement.
c. I focused on the expectations of my friends and family; I didn’t want to let them down.
d. I did something really fun to rejuvenate myself.
10. Think of your favorite hobby. How feasible would it be for you to commit more time to it?
a. That’s not an option. I choose to devote as much energy as possible to my work.
b. It’s possible. In fact, I’ve been planning to do just that.
c. I’d love to, but time is a luxury I can’t afford.
d. I’d need to think about whether there was anything else in my schedule I could afford to skip.
11. When you have a craving, how do you handle it?
a. I don’t like to deprive myself too often. Life is short.
b. I think carefully about whether it’s worth it.
c. I usually cave, and then feel guilty. I should have more will power.
d. I distract myself with another activity, like taking a walk.
12. When you don’t get what you want, how do you typically react?
a. I want it more.
b. I feel angry or sad at first, but then I get over it.
c. I try to convince myself that it wasn’t worth having anyway.
d. I try not to dwell on the loss. You win some, you lose some.
Answer Key – The Three Essential Elements for Change Creation
Questions 1, 2, 3, and 8: The Concept of Self–awareness
Questions 5, 6, 9, and 10: The Concept of Strategic Approach
Questions 4, 7, 11, and 12: Perspective
Give yourself 1 point for every (a) and (c) you circled and 2 points for every (b) and (d). Then tally your scores.
Self-awareness Questions 1, 2, 3, and 8: The Concept of Self–awareness
(5 points or more) You have a healthy sense of your own motivation. Within reason your motivation peaks and wanes.
(Less than 5 points) Although you may feel ready for change, you aren’t as mentally prepared as you could be. You are struggling between the goal and the possible side effects of this change. It’s helpful to identify and process your frustrations, motivations and feelings.
Strategic Approach Questions 5, 6, 9, and 10: The Concept of Strategic Approach
(5 points or more) You have the ability to use strategic planning towards goals and change.
(Less than 5 points) Chances are you harbor one or more of these misconceptions about change: (1) As long as you want it enough, it will happen. (2) Planning is basically a form of procrastination. (3) Anticipating obstacles is negative thinking. Without some acknowledgment and idea about how to move through obstacles, you can easily get derailed when big hurdles appear.
Perspective Questions 4, 7, 11, and 12: Perspective
(5 points or more) You have a smooth ability to keep things in perspective allowing you to shift through feelings.
(Less than 5 points) You can easily be irritated and overwhelmed and go into self-defeating behavior.
Once you are done and have examined the answer key, I suggest picking a faculty that you want to develop. Play with the information by using it as a “theme” over a period of time. Observe how it permeates your relationships and decisions. You may recognize subtle nuances that can have a big impact.
Writing down your findings and then reading them over is a great way to clarify patterns. One young man, who tried this technique successfully, recognized that his need to be in control, often ironically put him in situations that were out of control. Of course he was unhappy with this pattern, he was tired of having to jump in and take over a project in order to reign in the chaos. But he didn’t see his part in the equation.
By keeping a daily day book, he witnessed the same pattern arise in different situations. He was finally able to see his responsibility within the pattern. He noticed the triggers that overwhelmed his system, and developed ways he could change to make more fruitful decisions. He was able to effect change even when he couldn’t control the situation. Finally letting go of some of the control gave him a greater sense of creativity and flexibility, which released stress.
It looks like an easy process to identify. Realistically, it took time, deliberate observation then action steps to recognize this habit in all its sneaky illustrations and to be able to implement new timely responses that gave him much greater satisfaction, a true sense of personal control even in uncontrollable situations. I’ll be curious to see what this brings to you.