Change is good, people like to tell us. Change is healthy.
So often we hear those trite adages when we’ve experienced a change we didn’t want to experience: the truisms meant to cheer us up, to soften the blow of the shift in our beloved status quo. We likely accept the condolences disguised as encouragement, not stopping to consider that we have a say in the matter, that it is our choice (albeit a sometimes challenging one) to have a positive or negative perspective on the matter.When it comes to change, we must choose to have an optimistic outlook. We believe it is especially important when leading and managing change in our personal and professional lives. According to Joseph Weiss (2011), “Optimistic leaders tend to see the good in people and situations and believe in favorable results. This doesn’t mean leaders are blind to the negative; they are simply able to see possibilities and seek opportunities” (p.25). Continuous change is all around us, and having an optimistic outlook and a basic understanding of change cycles are important to our future success. As Siebert (n.d.) puts it, “Your mind and habits will create barriers and bridges to a better future.”
Reflecting on and mapping the change that has occurred in our lives, it’s easy to see the personal and professional growths that have occurred during these times. We recognize the change cycles we’ve experienced. Some were successful, and others were less so. During these times, we gained experience and knowledge. Plus, we learned that experience is good for us. Evaluated experience, however, can be even better. When we examine our change experiences closely, we discover the silver lining in each of them—if we are willing to understand and adopt a fresh perspective on the circumstance. We realize during these change cycles that we have shaped new habits, adopted positive attitudes, and developed new skills. All of it culminates together to make us better employees, students, leaders, and all around better people.
According to Merriam-Webster.com, change is defined as “to become different, to make (someone or something) different, or to become something else.” Experiential learning is simply learning from what we experience, and regarding transformational change, it’s change that transforms you and makes you better.
What Experts say about Transformational Change
Alexander, Clugston, and Tice (2010), describe transformational change:
When you face a significant issue in your life, such as considering a new career or adopting a value system required by a new relationship, you are entering a learning cycle with complex challenges. Although the learning resulting from a significant experience of this kind may be renewing, its outcome is likely to be more far‐reaching than that. Because of the depth of its outcomes, this type of learning experience is called transformational. It produces a new level of meaning in your life (p.130-131).
We all experience cycles of change, but we can transform into better versions of ourselves when we find meaning in those experiences.
Hudson and McLean (2006) provide us with many good insights on cycles of change in “Life Launch, A Passionate Guide to the Rest of Your Life,” which proffers The Circular Rule. The researchers note:
Life itself, with its recurring seasons, is a self-renewing process. Our lives today are measured by cycles and chapters, not by linear accomplishments. This rule is the best, basic model for empowering your life today. Think of your life as a story, with many chapters. Each chapter itself has a beginning and an end, and a transition to the next chapter (p.34).
Experiential learning and transformational change occur. These cycles begin and end; some are short and some long. We are constantly learning, honing new skills, innovating, developing our emotional intelligence, and learning new and better ways to do things. It’s in our power to experience change consciously and to view it with a positive perspective. Reflection is one way to gain a greater understanding of change and the outcomes that change creates. By reflecting on past experiences, we discover more of how the change process transforms us, which helps us shape new attitudes, habits, skills, and resiliency.
According to Siebert (n.d.), “Resilience is the process of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences. Resilient people overcome adversity, bounce back from setbacks, and thrive under extreme, on-going pressure without acting in dysfunctional or harmful ways. The most resilient people recover from traumatic experiences stronger, better, and wiser.” To learn more about resiliency, Dr. Siebert’s website contains valuable information at The Five Levels of Resiliency.
A Theory You Can Apply
Change can feel like a breath of fresh air, or it can feel like choking on dust in a storm. It all lies within the way we view the change cycle. Here is a valuable theory that can be easily applied to successfully manage change. Drs. Witt and Mossler (2010) provide us with the idea of primary and secondary control, which can be helpful to consider during times of change. The authors note:
Primary Control is directed outward, trying to change the situation or environment to get what you want. Secondary Control is inward, modifying behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs to adapt to the realities of the world. We will all face some challenges and things we can’t control, but we can control some things. Understanding secondary control can be a plus when faced with stressful and changing situations.
A helpful acronym to remember secondary control is MABB: M = Modify your actions, beliefs and behaviors; A = Adjust and adapt to the change situation; B = Modify your behaviors; and B = Modify your beliefs.
Remember, life is a journey and a learning process; one in which we are constantly learning. We live in a very dynamic world that is filled with many cycles of continuous change. Dr. Wayne Dyer (n.d.) stated, “When you change the way you look at things…the things you look at change” (para 1). This saying is a great reflection of attitude and how we perceive change. During cycles of change, it’s important to examine our attitudes, stop and see the bigger picture, and realize that change can be good and transformative. All of us experience cycles of continuous change, and it’s how we adapt our perspectives to the change that will determine our happiness.
Written by Bill Davis MA, CM, a Core Faculty in the Forbes School of Business and Technology; Debra Swanson MBA, MAOM, a Faculty Support and Development Associate II in UAGC Academic Services who also serves as an Associate Faculty member in the College of Education; and Michael Reilly, PhD, a Professor in the Forbes School of Business and Technology and former Executive Dean of the Forbes School of Business.
Alexander, M., Clugston, W, & Tice, E. (2009). Learning online and achieving lifelong goals.
San Diego, Bridgepoint, Inc.
Dyer, W. (n.d.). Success secrets. Retrieved fromhttp://www.drwaynedyer.com/blog/success-secrets/
Hudson, F.M., & McLean, D.P. (2006). Life launch, a passionate guide to the rest of your life.
Santa Barbara, CA: Hudson Institute Press.
Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/change
Siebert, A. (n.d.). The five levels of resiliency.
Retrieved from http://resiliencycenter.com/the-five-levels-of-resiliency/
Weiss, J. (2012). An introduction to leadership. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Witt, G.A., & Mossler, R. A. (2010). Adult development and life assessment. San Diego, Bridgepoint Education, Inc.