I’m hearing a lot of discussion at present about resilience to change and how to develop it at individual through to organisational level. This, you will not be surprised to hear, has set me thinking as it is a topic not only close to my heart but also to my brain. As someone who lives with a major neurological condition I am exposed to change every day. Parkinson’s Disease can present its symptoms in a wide range of severity, depending on my levels of fatigue, anxiety and dopamine production. This means that my physical condition fluctuates from ‘almost normal’ to ‘almost non-functional’ within the space of a few hours, sometimes through several cycles in any waking period. This is upsetting in itself but it’s compounded by being largely unpredictable from day to day; some days are worse than others but at different times. For instance, today I felt ‘off’ from the start; I woke up early (0600) and couldn’t get going at all. The first part of this article was typed with one finger and it is only now (1129) that I can feel the drugs beginning to work and two-handed typing has emerged again, although PD does affect my key-board aim so a lot of back-spacing and deleting is going on as well right now. So this means I have been pretty ineffective for most of the morning, not forgetting the cramping and discomfort that accompanies the persistent hand and foot tremors and the associated constant wriggling about in my chair to get comfortable. The good news is it feels great when I feel my motor functions returning, my hand loosens up, my left leg stretches out almost involuntarily and I can do helpful things again, like open bottles, walk without stumbling and smile, all things that most people take for granted.
These ‘off’ periods are also stressful because everything takes longer and ironically almost always seem to coincide with multiple skype messages, e-mails and other activities that require much valued ‘brain-petrol’ from my depleted tank. (I am thinking of putting a message on my skype profile and e-mail signature that reflects the fact that sometimes I will be slow to respond to communication; not through indifference, more through incapacity!) Without labouring the point, this has challenged my concepts of change resilience and I thought it might be helpful to detail a few of the things that help me deal with it.
Resilience vs resistance
I dislike the concept of resistance to change, mainly because I don’t think it’s possible and is thus a waste of resources. It’s true that to an extent you can resist change but its going to get you eventually. I think the following table demonstrates my view here as to the quality of the experience
|Needs energy||Conserves energy|
|Negatively biased||Positively biased|
In my view, the feelings on the right are much preferable to the ones on the left.
I think it’s important to have a perspective on change. Obviously the primary perspective is that it’s happening to you and as it’s your universe* it’s only to be expected that you apportion a lot of energy/importance to your change event. However, sometimes it’s helpful to compare scales of change. OK, admittedly you’ve got a really difficult change to deal with but there is always, somewhere, someone who is experiencing something much more challenging. You can take this intellectual experiment as far as you want; it is entirely possible that somewhere out there an entire intelligent civilisation has just been wiped out by a super-nova, cometary impact etc which does tend to add a different twist to your train being cancelled. Remember, I’m not belittling anybody’s challenges here, just challenging the apparent vs actual scale of them.
To me, it’s important to conserve/nurture yourself when going through challenging times. It may seem counter-intuitive but taking time out to relax and reflect, or simply do something that you enjoy and energises you is much better for you than throwing all your energy into ‘solving’ the problem and can often lead to useful insights from the subconscious background programme rather than the in-your-face foreground programme! I also have created some powerpoint decks of a positive meditative nature which I play when feeling off centre that help me chill out and relax and I’d recommend you find something similar; perhaps a piece of music or a picture or video that means something positive to you.
‘Viewing the Distant Mountain’
This is a concept I’ve borrowed from Yagyu Munenori and his tome “Heiho Kadensho” (Do your own research if you’re interested) which essentially reminds me to look beyond my immediate challenge or opponent to see what lies beyond it. This is something that usually brings both perception and perspective around the problem and allows me to see what the future looks like once the challenge has passed. Sometimes we can’t see the horizon for the things immediately in front of us…………
So there you have it; a few of my techniques for embracing change and being more resilient. I hope you get something of value from them; they have been forged in the fires of my individual experience but hopefully they will spark something positive for you.
* i.e. you are reading this in your universe, whilst I am typing it in mine……
David Beckham has spent his career working in Financial Services, initially at Norwich Union then subsequently with Aviva. He was a founder member of the Business Analysis Practice when it was formed within Aviva IT and has had two terms as the Practice Lead. He has worked on numerous large change programmes and has been heavily involved in building the capability of Business Analysis within the organisation over the last decade. He has presented at the European BA Conference on a regular basis and has had several articles published on Business Analysis topics. Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2010 at the age of 43, David continues to relish his role as a Business Analyst and is a passionate advocate of the profession and the benefits it gives to organisations everywhere. Since his diagnosis, David has been developing a series of seminars focussing on his recent experiences and regularly speaks on the positive power of change, both on a professional and personal basis.