Questions are at the heart of change.
For the individual change practitioner (the coach, the mentor, the therapist), questions are a critical–even the primary–tool.
Organizational change practitioners rely on them as well, though generally not as often.
But what about you if you are the one taking the change journey? What questions are you asking yourself?
I’m not referring to questions like Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening now? and so forth. I am referring to those self-exploration questions that help move you forward on the path.
What are some of those questions?
“Why am I taking this journey?”
If this is a change you have elected to take, why? If it is a good idea, will that be enough to get you through the tough times? If the change is imperative, why?
When you reflect on this question, where are you feeling things in your body? What are you feeling? What does that tell you about taking the journey?
“How can I not be a victim of what is happening to me?”
I went to work for the AIDS Resource Center in New York City back in 1990. At that time, the basic paradigm was “people die of AIDS.” We provided permanent housing and support services for homeless people with AIDS. Some clients saw their diagnosis as a death sentence. Others went so far as to call it “the best thing that ever happened to me because I have a home, people who care about me, and a fresh start on life.”
There are things over which we have little or no control that drive us to change. It may be a medical diagnosis, an accident, a death of someone close, the loss of a job, an unanticipated divorce. While you will have an emotional response to changes such as these, it is also important to ask yourself, “How can I not be a victim of what is happening to me?” Taking charge of your response, empowering yourself, will have a significant impact on the journey even when you cannot control the destination.
“What do I need to let go of?”
Sometimes our change journeys are stalled–or can’t even get started–because of anchors that are keeping us from moving forward. Don’t forget to look at your anchors when preparing for and planning your change, as well as when you are on the way. They can’t all stay as they are!
“What do I do like breathing?”
There are a number of tools that practitioners use to help people prepare for major change. As a coach, mentor, and consultant I have developed some of my own. At times I have also found it useful to use “StrengthsFinder 2.0,” or Resilience Alliance’s “Personal Resilience Profile.”
But there is one question that I routinely ask clients to reflect on that isn’t in any tool I have seen: “What do I do like breathing?”
Perhaps if you underwent a battery of assessments the answer to this question might appear in one of them. But your own self-observation is the best source to turn to. What do you do like breathing? Whatever it is, it’s likely that you take it so much for granted that you don’t realize this is a resource you have that you can call on during change.
For me, the answer to this question includes my ability to see both the big picture and the detail that goes into achieving it; it includes my intuition for asking the right question at the right time and for providing the right information at the right time; and it includes my ability to remain present.
My encouragement, even if you are not facing change at the moment, is to reflect on this for yourself. Perhaps carry around a small notebook (or use your smart phone); take time to reflect on your day and make notes. “What you do like breathing” may surprise you! And, being conscious of it can be a great resource.
“What is the worst thing that can happen?”
Years ago I read this advice; I wish I could remember the source. The author recommended that we prepare ourselves for the worst thing that could happen in a particular situation. The reasoning was that if we are prepared for the worst, we will be ready for anything. I am not sure that I buy into that thinking 100%, yet I know that I frequently ask the question. For me, it is often motivational. “What is the worst that can happen if I take on this challenge? I can fail… And if I don’t take it on, I have no chance of succeeding.”
“Who will help me on the journey?”
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main (John Donne)
Even the most solitary of journeys touch and involve others. If this is a big change, think through who you will count on for help. Communicate with them. For example, one of my clients knew an upcoming change would dramatically reduce his time to spend with friends. He reached out to the friends in his support network, told them about the change, and asked them to be sure to check in with him if/when he goes silent.
If this is a change that takes you “outside your zone,” find others in the new zone who will share with you their perspectives and insights. For example, if it is a career change, talk with people in your future career field. If you are moving to a new region, get online and find people to talk with who live there. Don’t take anyone’s word for gospel…but by talking with a number of people you will be able to get a sense of where you are heading.
And, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Organizations bring in consultants all the time because of their expertise. There isn’t an Olympic athlete–or a professional one–who doesn’t have a coach. There are often mentoring programs in larger businesses, or find a personal mentor. Many religious organizations offer some form of peer counseling if that is appropriate. There are many ways to find a Sherpa for your journey. Don’t try to take it alone. “No man is an island.”
When you are facing a major change, what questions are you asking yourself? Comment below.