Even for those of us who seek it out
I used to say “I hate change.” At some point, I looked around at my life and noticed how often I deliberately make major changes. I realized that I don’t hate change. I love it. And change is hard.
I’ve already made several major career changes. Founding a startup was a major leap of faith, but it’s not out of character for me.
Here are some things I’ve learned about change:
- It doesn’t matter how much you want the change, it’s going to be uncomfortable, at least some of the time. I’ve found it helpful to remind myself that this is part of the process. If I’ve made a major life change, and suddenly I start feeling unsure about everything else in my life, even things I’ve thought were solid, I make a mental note to check in with myself in a month or so and see if I was learning something new or just having a temporary emotional response to the change. Often, the solid things are still solid, I just had emotions that were looking for a place to land.
- Change involves a learning curve. This is part of the fun! And also exhausting. I try not to underestimate how much time and energy I’ll have to spend on learning with each change. I always do underestimate it, though. Then I wonder why I’m not more productive, until I remember that learning IS productive.
- Speaking of the learning curve, change involves making more mistakes. Being risk-averse and change-averse go hand in hand. If you’ve been wanting to make a change, but have been hesitating, one way to approach it is through risk management. Name the risks you will be taking and think through what will happen when you make mistakes. Will they be as bad as you fear? Is there a way to make them less risky or mitigate the consequences? Can you give yourself grace to make more mistakes?
- If you want change to stick, it helps to change your environment. This is part of why I hate working from home. I do much better when I create a separate space that I work in. I know there’s lots of advice on how to do that at home, but I tend to resist it. One of the hardest parts of the pandemic for me has been not having variety in where I spend my time.
- We often seek ways to revert back when change is hard. This has both personal and societal consequences. (This isn’t the right place to dig into why we continue to see societal backlash everytime there is a movement for change, but I strongly encourage you to learn about the reduction in white support of the Black Lives Matter movement and how that is the norm, not the exception to freedom movements.) Change will be more likely to stick if you commit in tangible ways, rather than just making a promise. For example, making a one-time donation to a cause you support is not as effective as setting up a monthly auto-payment. Having an accountability partner you meet with regularly can help.
- Speaking of which, definitely get support for your change. That can include moral support from friends and family, therapy and/or coaching, and having partners. I would be miserable in my startup without my co-founder and other team members. I’ve also focused on building community with other founders who have compatible missions and values. They have been invaluable to me in gaining validation, additional perspectives, and resources.
- I need to remember to stop every once in a while to look at how far I’ve come. It’s so easy to stay focused on what still needs to be accomplished. It’s important to remember that change is an ongoing process. Incremental progress is vital and I often find I’ve come further than I think.
This list is incomplete, but it’s a start. Which is how I feel about most things in my life right now. Honestly, the only reason I’ve gotten this far is that I made a tangible commitment to my team to post something every month and it’s now the end of May. Knowing me, I’ll keep running towards change. I’m glad that as I’ve grown, I’ve learned some ways to stay somewhat grounded as I do. A big thank you to all the people who have helped me and keep helping me along the way.