Volume 88: Moving Past the Fear of Change

RoyThose of you that know me well know that I don’t do well with change. I typically have to be dragged into it forcefully. Not kicking and screaming, mind you, but arms crossed, stubbornly trying to stay in my comfort zone.

All of that said, change is part of life, and it’s been a big part of my life the past few years. My children are growing up and getting to the post-schooling part of their adventures. My company is growing, which brings many changes and a lot of excitement.

But, even as a non-emotional person, I’ve had many sleepless nights over the past few years, worried whether the changes I’ve made are the right ones.

They are. They have helped me angle my way towards the future I want for myself and my company.

This fear is especially ironic because I help people change jobs every day. As a recruiting consultant, it’s what I’ve done for almost 35 years now.

I present options to individuals that they may or may not have known about before and help them gain access to the appropriate hiring managers within companies. Fear of Change is one of my most frequent adversaries, and it turns the most rational, reasonable people into emotional wrecks.

So, as we continue into a new year and decade, let’s talk about a few ways I get past the Fear of Change.

Focus on the Big Picture:

The easiest way to get past the fear of change is to focus on the big picture goal that you’re working towards. For me, all the change in our company is motivated by the fact that we are growing and want to continue to grow. This growth will allow me a lot more freedom and opportunity in the future.

So, as I struggle through the various technological, personnel, and system-based changes that my company has gone through and will continue to go through, I stay focused on the big picture.

Short-term pain for long-term gain.

For the people I work with and consult for in the industry, what goals are you moving towards? Are you trying to move up the ladder? Make more money to support your family? Get a better schedule so that you can spend more time with your kids?

That’s the thing you want to focus on when that fear of change starts to show its ugly head. Yes, moving is hard. Yes, learning a new facility and its systems and personalities can be tough. But those struggles will get you to whatever your end goal is.

So, rather than focus on the struggle now, keep your eye on the prize.

Accept that Change is Part of Life:

The other thing I try to keep in mind is that, as much as I may try to avoid it, change is part of life.

As much as I’d love it if my daughters and son had stayed young kids forever, where I could easily monitor their schedules and make sure they were on the right track all the time, that’s not reality. They’ve grown up, and I have to trust that I taught them enough to find their own versions of success and happiness.

This is true in business too. As a not-so-secret secret, companies like Smurfit Stone, Temple-Inland, and Gaylord Container were much more fun and easier to work with as a consultant than companies like WestRock and International Paper. They just were. 

Less bureaucracy, more control at the plant level to make decisions to run their facilities. These major integrated companies do many things well in their own right, but the industry has certainly changed from the days of old.

I can get frustrated by this change and end up with a mindset that tells the Major Integrateds to get off my lawn, or I can push forward and continue to work hard to be a resource for my chosen industry. So, we’ve adapted. Oberg and Associates still does plenty of work with the big boys, but we’ve turned a lot of our focus to the smaller companies of the industry, joining AICC again for the first time in years.

It’s not a direction I had envisioned taking my business 10 years ago, but that’s life.

The same goes for you in your careers. Sometimes, you have to make a change to reach that end goal, and while you can gripe and be frustrated by circumstances, I’d argue a more productive mindset is to look for the opportunity.

Think about the new connections you’ll make, or the new things you’ll learn in a new facility. You spent years making your previous house yours, but there were things about that house that drove you crazy.

Well, now you can learn all about a new house, and start with a fresh slate.

Conclusion:

At the end of the day, both of these ideas to make change easier hinge on one simple concept: you control the attitude you bring to each day.

You can choose to fear the short-term pain, and delay your achieving your long-term goals, or you can focus on the goals, understanding that the pain is temporary.

You can choose to be the old man yelling at clouds, railing against change in all its forms, or you can accept new circumstances willingly and make the best out of the situation.

Life is about change. Good, bad, or indifferent, so why not try to focus on the good?

Stay Strong.

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