- Psychological Issues
“Change” – we are enamored with the word. If something is not changing, many think something is wrong. How many of us have said “a new job, friend, spouse, town, haircut, diet, book, car, suit, nail polish or dog, will change my situation”. Indeed, many of these things will enact change, but what is the reason driving the change? If you are comfortable with it and it is your choice then the impact of the change is normally perceived as positive. More often however, especially today, the change is externally driven and may result in a significant level of stress, if we let it.
As human being are we drawn to change, a constant dynamic between the new and the mundane, it is in our nature to change. Change can be both gradual and planned or rapid and unanticipated. Significant stress can occur when the pace, extent or impact of the change differs from our tolerance to change. Our tolerance is built off several collective elements that include; who initiates the change, the speed of the change, and how the overall change impacts us and those around us. I refer to this as our Change Quotient; it reflects our perception of a change event, our comfort and control level and our tolerance to the intensity of the change. It is a dynamic and changing measure.
Is the pace of change in your life contributing to your mental anguish and conflict? We want to feel secure, in our mothers’ bosom, but everything today seems to detract from our basic security. It seems as though everything is changing and that we don’t have a chance to breathe before the next change. Change is indeed viewed negatively as often as it is viewed positively, more negatively when it exceeds or impacts our current change quotient.
The pace of change in today’s world is dizzying. Friends come and go, our families grow or face a state of upheaval, our health changes or technology drives us to adapt to new and strange ways of doing what used to be so simple. New bosses, new co-workers, new product launches, new budgets, new policies and procedures, companies cut back or close, new scandals emerge. Our perceptions and resultant level of stress from these events define our change quotient. Does this impact our relationships, does it impact our willingness to buy and invest, and does it impact our mental and possibly even physical stability? Yes. Some may argue that change is a natural occurrence and I tend to agree, yet the impact of change can have profound effects depending on how we view it.
Now let’s look at what is actually changing, the reasoning behind change and the impacts of change. As an example new bosses, are expected to “change” something, the intent in this event is to garner greater company profits. You can call it efficiency, economies of scale, continuous improvement or what ever the latest buzz word is, but it is all about profit. Nothing wrong with that, our companies need profits to survive. When we talk about change, we need to understand the impact to profit, our company’s profit or OUR profit. What is our profit? It is the gain (or loss) we feel we will realize as a result of the change. It can be objective, as in more or less money in our pockets, or subjective, resulting in the perceived feeling, or manifested actuality, of better or worse offedness.
The following Change Quotient Worksheet allows you to determine your change quotient for a particular event. The ten change elements encompass a global view of change and allow you to realistically evaluate your perceptions of the change event. Note that this is your perception. If you think of what others would think at this point during this exercise it will not yield true results. The scale is from 1 (the worst possible outcome) thru 5 (the best possible outcome). The rating you assign should be viewed as a sliding scale 1,2,3,4 or 5 based on only that element related to the specific event. If the change will have no perceived impact on an element a rating of 5 should be given as the change would have no negative impact on that element and the overall perception of the change. If you find that your change quotient is particularly low, below 50, or that you still have overwhelming or paralyzing stress surrounding an event, it is OK to get help. Some change is simply too much for any one person to deal with, but take a stab at filling out the worksheet first.
|Description of change event||*|
|Change element||Quotient Scale 1 (worst) thru 5 (Best)||Score|
|Initiated / driven by||1 = Externally driven / forced|
5 = Internally driven / planned
|Prior knowledge||1 = Unanticipated – tomorrow|
5 = At least six month plan – can see it coming
|Financial impact||1 = Bankrupt|
5 = Winning the lottery
|Housing||1 = Homeless|
5 = Affordable Upgrade
|Friends||1 = Loss of friends or betrayal|
5 = New friends w/ connections / support
|Family||1 = Destruction of family element|
5 = Strong family benefit
|Community||1 = Loss of community|
5 = Great benefit to community
|Extent of personal change||1 = Total restructure of self / being|
5 = Small element of being / hiccup
|Security||1 = Unknown outcome / impacts|
5 = Predictable / known outcome / impacts
|Profit||1 = Significant loss potential|
5 = Now I’m Living!
|Total Change Quotient this change|
|(Total x 2)|
One point of clarification is that while this may appear to be evaluating a specific change event, your responses reflect a perception of the event that is unique to you, resulting in a reflection of your current underlying tolerance.
As you evaluate your change quotient, look for ways to raise your change quotient. While one element may be negative, another may upon reflection, provide a balancing positive effect. To cope with change, find an unchanging core; realize that no matter the extent of the change, not everything (typically) is changing. The loss of a job does not mean that your family will fall apart, or that you will lose your friends, or house for that matter. Once you have determined your quotient on an event, it is now time to share this with those close to you. Have them evaluate the same event, brainstorm and build consensus on the impact of the change. If your change quotient comes out low, indicating a change you view as stressful or negative, look for a core value or a stable base on which to build as this will help to maintain your sanity. Change applies to a specific thing, not all things. Your quotient will not be the same for all change, and that is the point. Note that this can also be used to evaluate change alternatives and possibly even produce new internally driven changes (a positive) to position you better for the next event. By compartmentalizing or itemizing the impact of a change you can better deal with it by being able to quantify it within the scope of your total being.
I should note that this is not intended as a scientific treatise on the psychological impacts of change. It is simply one way to evaluate the changes in your life and to heighten your awareness. It is intended to help you view change realistically and give you an opportunity to look for ways to improve the outcomes of any change and reduce the stress you may be feeling. You’re OK.
© James D. Tippett, MBA, CSP – firstname.lastname@example.org