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๐Ÿ˜Œ Finding Joy in the Process of Change

behavior change joy resilience Aug 22, 2023
Change Leader Insights

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy

In nature, change is not a choice. It is an inevitable process that unfolds without resistance, in adherence to the laws of the natural world. There's a lot we can learn from nature about the process of change, from figuring out how to adapt to our environment to finding ways to bloom wherever planted. 

In the workplace, change is inevitable - and it's also a choice. Change is a vehicle for strategy execution, continuous improvement, and growth, but whether employees decide to go along for the ride is up to them. Resistance to change is common, even though change is required for companies to survive. 

The same can be said for change on a personal level.  If we avoid making inevitable or necessary changes in our lives because it requires additional effort, takes a long time, or is uncomfortable, we miss valuable opportunities to improve our lives, evolve as humans, and reach our full potential.       

The conundrum with change is that we do have a choice, and it’s easy to envision the ideal future: we have better health, we work more efficiently, we make more money. The hard part is taking the first step, and then all the subsequent steps required to reach the goal line and experience the benefits we desired.

Embarking on meaningful change, whether it’s work-related or personal, can feel overwhelming. This feeling is compounded when the directive to change comes from something or someone else. When change happens to us, it’s missing the motivation that’s required to get going and often, lacks clarity in terms of how the change should be prioritized in relation to all the other changes, tasks, and commitments we’ve already made. 

This is fertile ground for inertia. When the list of to-dos is long, the temptation to tackle the low-hanging fruit is high. The problem is that we stay busy working on projects or activities that make us feel productive, even if we don’t produce anything meaningful at all. To break the cycle of stagnation, leaders and the self-led must make a critical shift in how the change event is perceived, and how it is pursued by seeking out and finding joy in the transition process.

In the context of individual or organizational change, the transition process refers to the experience people have when they become aware of the need for change. It includes the emotions they feel based on what is happening around them, and the choices they make that either support or inhibit progress. Joy, on the other hand, is a positive state of being that is unaffected by external factors or stimuli. It is driven by internal motives, such as working towards a goal or on something that aligns with our life purpose. 

Finding joy in the process of change isn't difficult, but it does require intention and focus. The first step is to take ownership of your joy, which often requires a mindset shift. As Abraham Lincoln famously once said, “most people are just as happy as they make up their minds to be”. Finding joy in the process starts with letting go of the worn-out patterns and beliefs that hold us back and limit our potential. 

In the workplace, managers play a key role in helping workers find joy in the change process by providing feedback to help team members develop self-awareness around the blind spots they have that may be preventing them from taking the first step.  If the need for change is personal, a professional coach, therapist, or trusted friend can help you maintain a healthy mindset while you attempt to practice the new ways of thinking and behaving.

The next step to find joy in the process of change is to focus on what you can control. Change creates uncertainty, which can feel unsettling, while control helps us feel stable and that we can produce the results desired. In an older article published by the National Library of Medicine, perceived control is necessary for our biological survival, and we can control our perception by making choices. Each choice, no matter how small or even unrelated it may be, reinforces the perception of control and autonomy.

To help yourself or your team feel more in control of a situation, simple actions such as getting organized, talking to someone you trust, or taking a movement break can increase your sense of control, improve your outlook, and strengthen your ability to experience of joy amidst change.     

Another way to find joy in the process of change is to focus on what you will learn from the experience. Whether it’s acquiring new skills, developing your expertise, or being able to look at the same situation through a different lens, learning something new fulfills our brain’s cravings for novelty and challenge, which can lead to feeling a deep sense of satisfaction that is akin to being in a state of joy.

Finding joy in the process does not mean that we will always enjoy the ride. Finding joy in the process simply means doing your best, staying focused on what you can control, and looking for the lessons as the process - ideally naturally - unfolds. 

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