It’s January as I write, the start of a New Year and, unsurprisingly, I’ve been thinking back over the year that has just passed, and in particular the impact of the changes that have happened.
For me and my family it has been a pretty big year.
We moved from Australia to Scotland. We took the kids out of school and away from the lives that they’ve known since birth. We took my wife away from her home country and we moved to the other side of the world.
And although I’m from Britain, I’ve never lived in Scotland before and I’ve had to start a new job in a new organisation, in a different role, in a different city.
So pretty much everything has changed for all of us.
I’ve written quite a lot about the subject of change on coaching.fm because it is something that is becoming more and more the norm for all of us all in our working lives. The reality is that it is exceptional when things are not changing in most organisations.
Indeed the organisation that I’ve joined is itself going through a period of huge change that started before I got there will continue throughout the coming year.
But, the truth is we’ve been struggling quite a lot as a family, as we get used to the impact of change – living in a new place, trying to build up new contacts, new routines and so on. And it has been been quite instructive for me, and quite challenging too, to see first-hand how this change is affecting those around me – the people that I love.
I was discussing this with my wife, talking over some of the difficulties that we’ve had and, as we talked, an analogy came to mind that helps explain what we’ve been going through.
It seemed to me that this kind of significant change is a bit like being taken blindfolded and set down in a wilderness far from home.
You don’t know where anything is, there are no paths and no signposts to anywhere.
You have to decide where you want to go and you have to cut the path through the wilderness as you go. Sometimes you go off in the wrong direction and you have to come back and start again, thinking carefully about what might be the better direction to go in.
And eventually you do begin to carve out these paths and the more that you use the paths, the easier they are to travel on and the more familiar the journeys become.
Change is hard because we are grappling with the unfamiliar.
The things that we do habitually we can do without any real thought because we’re used to doing them. Thus, there is no struggle in working out what to do in the morning as you shower, brush your teeth and so on, because these are routines you are familiar with.
Yet, there is an increased cognitive load when you are working on things that you haven’t done before, within new systems and with different processes, or you’re building new relationships with new people.
These experiences are tough, but gradually, as you find your way through change to a kind of new equilibrium, you feel more comfortable and under less strain.
So what the last year has demonstrated to me clearly is that you can’t help but have struggles when you go through the change but that each step you take helps establish your new reality.