I wish I had a dime for every time someone threw some little cliche about change at me. That’s the kind of change I know how to use!
No! Don’t go! I swear I’m not turning into a dad-joke machine!
In all seriousness, I’ve been thinking about change because I may have some rather large changes in my life coming this year. I mean, I already decided I’m moving next winter, so there’s one change. Still, even if it’s something I want, I get that “sinking rock in the stomach” feeling about it all. It’s strong enough to make me stop putting in effort toward what I want and need to accomplish. I think we all have heard the lines spouting snippets of supposed wisdom. “Change is hard.” “Change is constant.” “Change is inevitable.”
Do you know where I’ve heard those used the most? It’s when working for organizations who want to get employees to accept and normalize shifting goals, expectations, and requirements. No, I’m not joking, I’m 20+ yrs serious. Side rant, this is the environment most of my adult work life has been in. I used to think it was “exciting” and “innovative.” No. Innovative is technology that moves the world forward. Telephones, electric cars, even cell phones.
What these places do is call it exciting and innovative and “challenge” employees to rise to their “call to action” when really what they’ve done is set standards that employees have minimal control over, and then made payment dependent on it so there are actual losses pending if an employee doesn’t hit those new targets. Oh, and complying or exceeding isn’t really recognized or rewarded because the company is about to drop another set of these same changes.
The places that embrace a change because it’s needed, and because it benefits the company overall will use other lines, things like “If you don’t change direction, you may end up where you’re heading.”
Notice the difference in the tones? I sure do. To me, the first set is “This is the hell to which you consign your soul, don’t bother whining.” The second says, “We realized we need to change something to stay viable/be stronger, so we’re shifting our course a bit.”
That second one is also where a project manager comes into play… someone like me, who helps define where things aren’t working and then hammers out a plan to get a company back to where it wanted to be in the first place.
So, interesting little insights there for me: How a company proposes change to its employees will tell you what to expect down the road.
The other thing I realized is that when I went digging through my memories, I couldn’t find a single thought about change that didn’t send my stomach clenching into my spine or my guts rolling around like a tilt-a-whirl. But, when I’ve initiated changes in my life, they’ve tended to have good results, so why am I having an anxiety response?
Well, see that first bit about organizations that advocate change on the surface but are actually just running roughshod over their workforce. That’ll certainly set up some rough responses to the idea of change.
Yet, the changes I propose for myself this year are beneficial in every way. The two largest are:
1) Move at the end of my lease next winter, and possibly buy a home this time.
2) Find a job that will allow me to use the degree and project management certs that I busted my ass to get.
Just being real with myself about those papers and their worth, I’m not even joking when I say I pushed myself to get them, or that having them is proof of my capabilities in and of itself. With the degree, I worked full time, published my opening trilogy, AND graduated Magna Cum Laude; that level of busted my ass.
The certs? I started them just as I came down with Covid last year and then as soon as my brain was clear enough to continue studying, I finished them in spite of the severe fatigue I still fought against. It was a cycle of study for 20 minutes a day, once in a while study for an hour, and then sleep for the next 4-5 hrs. When I did the exams, I cleared my schedule for the next two days so I could recover from the mental exertion. I flipping *earned* those papers.
So, clearly I recognize these changes are due, if not overdue, the outcomes will be beneficial, and I’m still terrified. Why? Well, because I’ve been conditioned to hear “change” and think “Great, I have to meet yet another impossible set of goals and if I don’t, I’ll lose income and opportunities.” (Not that opportunities actually exist in my current office, they just keep telling me they do.)
I think I need to reframe how I see change in my life, though. I need to ditch the mentality imposed by the corporate slave drivers and look at what change is doing FOR me, and plan for the better life these changes will bring to me.
Buying a home will give me a level of stability I haven’t had in the past. Moving, even if I don’t buy a home this year, will get me into a community where I can feel safer and less concerned about when someone will finally start shooting at a neighbor. (Hasn’t happened yet, but the way things are going, I don’t think it’ll be too far before we end up with people who would do exactly that.)
Changing jobs will move my career forward, increase my income, probably reduce the stress levels I am buried under with the current position, and likely provide actual advancement opportunities for the future.
Yes, time to shed the dread. Thanks, employers, for teaching me to have anxiety about the things I need to do for myself.