Embracing Change

Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For November 7 Weekender, 2015

 Embracing Change

David W. Hegg

It is common to hear people hate change. Leaders are cautioned to go slowly, to manage expectations, and to lead change strategically. Good leaders heed this advice for sure, but they also understand the necessity of change.

There are several reasons we hate change, but few of them are actually positive. In most cases, aversion to change stems from personal insecurity, or inability, and most often, pride. Change intends to move us from our current niche of complacency to a more productive place. Change is the fuel of progress, and without it we eventually go backward.

If we look in the ethical mirror we can see a few reasons for hating change, and the personal flaws from which they spring:

First, we often hate change simply because it creates uncertainty in us. We don’t know how the change will affect us and, more often than not we fill in the gaps with negatives. Have you ever noticed, when we don’t have the full story, we fill in the gaps with dreary predictions of failure and pain? The reason is we are almost totally unable to live with uncertainty, and if we waited to get all the information, we’d have to remain in the cloud of unknowing. And so we make up dire predictions in order to forestall the changes before they can materialize. Our fear of change is actually our fear of uncertainty dressed up in hasty criticism.

Second, we often hate change because no one asked us if we wanted the change, or if we had any thoughts on what changes should be made, or how to effect the changes that would be the most beneficial. And while leadership is wise to include a wide-range of opinions during the planning process, the real culprit here is personal pride. If change is planned without our input we feel slighted, overlooked, belittled. Why? Because we consider ourselves more highly than we ought, and our pride rises up to war against any change being considered apart from our invaluable input. Our fear of change in this case, is actually our arrogance dressed up in childish petulance.

Third, we often hate change because it has a way of uncovering our complacency. We all are prone to find comfortable routines that can be managed with less and less effort. Change threatens all that with new ideas, new systems, and new goals. Once again our fear of change is actually something else entirely. It is our fear of having to work harder, or differently, that is activated. It isn’t the change, but what it might cost us personally that sparks our reticence. Our fear of change is actually our own laziness masquerading as champion of tradition and routine.

Lastly, we may hate change simply because we’re afraid we won’t be able to function successfully in a new environment, system, or under a new philosophy. The truth is, our insecurity is showing. Simply put, it isn’t change we’re afraid of, but our own inability to think differently, to learn new things, and keep up as the progress of time and technology roll on.

But, let me ask you. What is the alternative? Everything is changing, in large and small ways, every minute of every day.

I was at the beach this past week and I noticed an amazing paradox. The sea, which we all love as a beautiful, relaxing, and rejuvenating element in life, is constantly changing. It is constantly in motion. Yet, we could also say it is always the same! It is fluid, and yet constant simply because that’s it’s nature. Change is an integral part of what constitutes it as the sea, and also what makes it so beautiful, mesmerizing, and spectacular.

Change is inevitable. There is no alternative. Everyday we age, and our bodies change. Everyday technological advances bring change to our way of life, our work, and our leisure. And as we all know, everything that has life is changing all the time. For living things, the alternateive to change is death. When you stop changing, you die.

Given that progress always brings change, and that change is inevitable, my advice is learn to own it, to grasp its opportunities rather than criticize its uncertainty. We must learn to expand our comfort zones to encompass all life will demand of us. In so doing we may find the “new” holds myriad delightful experiences. After all, you’d better be ready to engage your grandkids on Instagram, and return their texts, and at least be competitive on the newest app game or they may just consign you to yesterday. And believe me, that’s not a change you should be ready to accept.