The Busy Person’s Path to Personal Change

 I recently led a workshop on Change Management for HR professionals in Toronto. Most people are familiar with the planning and communication skills needed for the objective side of change; the new behaviours and new systems we want to put in place. We are not so comfortable with the subjective side of change – the personal transitions we need and want to make. But how do you put new resolutions into effect when you are already totally busy?

The busy person is full up

Let’s face it – most of us lead full lives. Whether demanding jobs, growing families, tumultuous markets or shifting competition, we have our hands full getting through the week. We rely on an effective set of skills we have painstakingly honed over the years. There are times when this is quite satisfying, when our actions are productive, our clients’ needs are met and we feel personally satisfied. We are ‘in the flow’! Our responses match the demands on us and we feel full; like a cup that is full to the brim!

Our go-to place is our strengths

But what happens when some new demands come our way, or we move into a new role, or our old responses no longer seem to be quite as effective? If we are being asked to be more productive in new circumstances, our first response is to do more of our tried and true strengths. Typically we don’t even think about this. These skills are so embodied in us they become our instinctive ‘go-to’ place. Particularly when the pressure is  on!

No time for personal change!

But if we were already at capacity – if our cup was already full – there is literally no more room for new skills, for new ways of thinking or new kinds of relationships. We may feel like we are about to shatter. We realize that, in the words of Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here won’t get you there”.

Make room for personal transition

It feels pretty counter-intuitive, but one of the best things we can do in these situations is to find something to STOP doing, or something to do less of.  We need to release energy, send a signal to our brains to ‘get out of normal’. We need to get a little distance on our usual patterns of behaviour and modes of conversation. When we create some empty space, in ourselves or in our schedule, we can create room for something new to emerge.

New Year, new space

Here are some simple techniques to get you started in creating the space for personal change.

  • Find out what you usually do when faced with a challenge. Do this by journaling for a few days – or simply asked a few trusted friends of colleagues.
  • Is there one piece of this you can do less of? Is it still necessary? Could you delegate to someone else? Would involving someone else actually  help their own development and aspirations?
  • Schedule some empty time slots in your schedule when you cannot be booked, or when you take a few minutes for exercise or stretches.
  • Use this time to try out new moves, test new skills, or develop new contacts or relationships.
  • Are you feeling a bit uncomfortable relying less on your ‘old faithful’ of what works? Good! It’s a sign you’re taking a risk. No risks, no learning, no change.
  • Tell one or two trusted others of the new skills and approaches you’re trying to develop and periodically ask them for their views on how you’re doing. These can be short, 5 minute conversations.
  • Keep your eyes open for new insights, new energy and new connections.
  • Try out new moves in low-risk ways. Think of them as mini pilot projects!
  • Be prepared to be surprised!

Happy New Year and warm wishes for a 2013 that fulfills you and yours in both new and old ways!     


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