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Stop the Stress: The Yaaaas Moment for the Positive, Intentional New

Change is Chaos. Change is good. Or so we’re told.

Positive, intentional change lowers stress. Photo Credit: DepostPhoto.com, 187520722.

Chaos shakes our world. Routines disrupted. Like, what, shorts season is over? I have to find a pair of jeans that fit?

Change zaps our neurons into a ’70s strobe light frenzy. It is so ex-haus-ting. And no one likes things to be hard. Or to take longer. Or to feel like we don’t know, you know, what we’re doing.

As a neuroscientist who creates process changes and acts as facilitator in the pharmaceutical / biotech industries, I engage in organized, positive change so often it’s like breathing. If you don’t know how to deal with change or create positive change, you are going to be stuck like John Travolta disco dancin’ under the spinny silver lights. Stress Queen. You’ll believe your failure to change was “bad luck” or the dreaded, Lack of Willpower. As in, “You ate that eleventh chocolate cookie because you have no willpower.” And who would? Who would have will power when their boss yells at them for missing a deadline that had been moved up twice and their best friend broke up with their significant other and is texting you every 30 seconds and now you have to find someone on your team to help you finish your client’s social media posts RIGHT NOW. With all those neurons twitching you’re darn right you’re eating that cookie.

Dr. Jekyll: Good change, bad change

What is it we really want? Change is fickle. Is it good? Is it bad? At the very least, it’s different. Sometimes we are so sick of everything being the same day after day then it changes, and we go, whoops, that’s gonna hurt. Like when over the long dark, winter, we decide wine has no calories and if you only eat one chocolate at a time and hide the box, it really doesn’t count. As the month names shrink to fewer and fewer letters and days get warmer, taking out your shorts on a sunny May morning, and, wow, it takes a lot of wiggling and huffing to get into those shorts.

On the change flip side, who doesn’t want a title change with promotion after working day after day for that client who whines about every dip in post likes when you finally hit the viral post lottery?

Every change not being equal, serve me up that promotion.

Is this karma? Is this luck? Uh unh, no way. The first change happened by accident. Or less charitably, lack of planning. The second change was created with intention.

Even when we create intentional, planned change, it may not go the way we intended if we didn’t carefully consider, analyze and compare to arrive at the outcome we wanted. Let’s peek into the elements of successful, positive and intentional change.

How many times have you heard- Imagine the change you want and it will happen? Think Positively! I’m sure you are saying, “Yeah, if I hear one more over-caffeinated, perky, smiling self-help author tell me this, I’m going to…something, something not good.” Thinking positively is emotional spice that primes our brain for change. Yes, thinking positively is a good start. We need to psych ourselves up, talk ourselves into change. We need to deeply want and believe we can achieve this change.

Positive thinking doesn’t go the mile

Yup, emotional readiness alone can’t get us where we want to go. So, take that, squirt gun in the face, perky author!

If we think positively, I’m going to get a promotion, while laying on our bed, looking at the ceiling and eating chocolates, change will happen to us, and it ain’t gonna be a pretty picture. The neurons will start zapping, yelling, “Change alert! Change alert!” We will pull the comforter over our head and devour the whole chocolate box. Why? Because our brain is screaming- Change, Stress, Overwhelm.

We not only have to think positively, we need to plan then act both with positive intent. We need to decide where we want the change to take us then decide in very specific actions, how we’ll get there. It’s like if you decide, I want to lose weight. That’s the change I want and…that’s it. Will you have shrunk into those sleek jeans in 6 months? Probably not.

We need to rationally and logically plan then execute the steps needed to achieve the change we want. Thinking positively keeps us going. Our brain will throw up tons of obstacles. It will appeal to laziness. “I’m too tired to exercise.” It will appeal to logic. “Gym memberships are expensive.” It will appeal to emotions. “Going to the gym in tights will be embarrassing.”

Without rationale planning it’s like we’ve thrown ourselves in front of a bullet without Kevlar. We’re just gripping our lucky rabbit’s foot and hoping for the best.

How to plan when you didn’t think you needed to

What if instead of letting things slip, finding as the days got colder you’re going out for fewer and fewer weekly runs, you’re sneaking extra pie at Thanksgiving and just a few of grandma’s sugar cookies, what if you had started the fall with a plan?

You expected you might gain weight over the fall and winter because you did last year, so to avoid that outcome, you joined a gym and agreed with a buddy to take two classes a week. Plus, you bought smaller plates and bowls, so you just couldn’t fit as much on them. By spring, you’re rocking tiny shorts!

Solving work problems by intentional change

The same sort of planning solves career and daily work problems.

What if the last time you hired an employee, you had to fire them a month later because the rest of the team felt the person was loud, overbearing and tended to finger-point instead of being a team player? What if before you hired your next new employee, you asked your team to meet with the final two candidates for half an hour? Afterwards, you gathered insights from your team regarding their thoughts on fit with the team. You may not have planned on this extra interview. Maybe you’re afraid it would take too much of your team’s time. Wouldn’t a better fit save time in the long run?

Success is achieved by:

· Look for situations where the outcome differed from what you expected or situations you are concerned might not work out as expected

· Think about what went wrong or might go wrong

· Talk to other people involved in the situation to get different perspectives

· Create a plan with multiple, realistic, clearly defined, deadline defined steps and execute it

Plan to go beyond basic

Lack of success is not due to lack of willpower. It is also not due to bad luck. We make our luck by planning. If things change in the middle of our plan, we pivot to accommodate the new situation. Far fewer plans than we think fail due entirely to circumstances we can’t control.

We fail because we aren’t clear what the problem is, or we aren’t clear what steps we need to take to avoid the problem. Complex situations need more structured methods outside the scope of this article. The fundamentals remain the same. It’s all about process. You feel stress when you let change happen to you instead of shaping the change. This might seem basic, but in the day-to-day pressure of work and home life, we tend to be passive until something forces us to act because we believe we don’t have the time to do anything else.

In reality, we don’t have time not to plan for more success and less stress.