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Change is a Skill Development Learning Process

Change, like almost every other life experience, is a learning process. With each new idea or situation comes the need to learn about it…what is it? How does it work? How do I fit in? What are the good and bad aspects of it? So let’s talk for a moment about the process of learning. LEARNING is a lifelong process. It neither starts nor ends with formal schooling. In fact, school mostly teaches us how to learn. Experience teaches us what we need to know, but it’s up to us to go out there and get the knowledge and the information. Change is a learning experience (if you let it be). So here are the four skills you’ll need and some questions for you to answer.

STUDYING AND DEVELOPING NEW TECHNICAL AND HUMAN SKILLS

– Do you hold back until you are forced to learn, or do you reach out for the information you need or want?

– Would additional study, perhaps formal courses at a college or junior college or adult education program, help in this situation?

SEEK OUT LEARNERS – people who know more than you do…or are learning

– Do you seek out the advice of people who have already been through the learning process, asking how they did it?

– Are you open to seeking out a mentor…or two…or three?

PUSH YOURSELF

– Do you recognize that you may be trapped in old ways? Can you tell yourself there must be a better way? Remember the old saying, “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.” LEARN TO ACT WITHOUT HAVING ALL THE INFORMATION IN HAND

– Do you believe in hunches? Can you risk enough to act even though you don’t necessarily (or can’t) have all the facts? You need to assess, at every stage of change, the wisdom of acting, even when it feels risky. The fact is, it is risky, but perhaps it’s more risky NOT to act than to act. Reproduced below is a “Change Checklist.” In order to give yourself some insight into the level of stress you may have endured recently – and therefore to help you realize what need to change in your life, what process needs to be undertaken. There is a scoring key at the end of the exercise.

CHANGE CHECKLIST

Change comes in many forms — expected and predictable (which you can plan for — and should), or unexpected (whoops!), sudden (ouch!!), and unsettling (oh, oh!). Planned change often doesn’t feel like “change,” because we know it’s coming and it doesn’t seem to hurt like the other kind.

Then there’s “sea change” — overwhelming change that envelops us — such as economic or political change, social change (like the Los Angeles Riots), or natural changes such as fires, floods, tornadoes, snowstorms, earthquakes. We need to recognize that change of all sorts affects us — even when we’re not aware of it. What’s more, change is a way of life today, and the degree and rapidity of change — societal, environmental, political, social and personal — is increasing. For an in-depth look at this phenomenon, read The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler.

But for the moment, read the list below and check off any change that you’ve gone through in the last year.

WORK

_ Changed to a new type of work

_ Changed work hours, conditions

_ Increased or decreased job responsibilities

_ Experienced company merger, acquisition, re-organization

_ Had trouble (dispute) with co-workers, supervisors, subordinates

_ Taken work-related educational courses

_ Been introduced to a new technology or work process

_ Fired or laid off

_ Retired

HOME, FAMILY

_ Death of spouse or other primary family member

_ Death of relative, close friend

_ Got married

_ Became a parent or took in a relative

_ Spouse started or stopped working outside home

_ Had serious argument with spouse

_ Separated or reconciled with spouse

_ Got divorced

_ Changed residence

_ Undertook major home improvements or repairs

_ In-law problems

_ Child left home — or returned to live

_ Change in habits of family gathering

_ Change in health or behavior of family member (substance abuse, etc.)

PERSONAL, SOCIAL

_ Started or stopped school, college

_ Realized major achievement (personal)

_ Took a vacation

_ Changed a social activity (joined, resigned from club, et

_ Changed religious beliefs

_ Made major decision about your future

_ Had sexual difficulties

_ Had legal problems

_ Changed political party or beliefs

_ Started a new personal relationship

_ Terminated a personal relationship other than marriage

_ Had loss by theft, damage to personal property (car or belongings)

_ Had an accident (automobile, fall, etc.)

HEALTH

_ Had an illness or injury requiring hospitalization or bed rest

_ Changed eating habits (including weight loss program)

_ Experienced change in sleeping habits

_ Changed recreational activities

FINANCES

_ Bought a home or made other major purchase (car, boat, vacation property)

_ Had business failure or major uninsured financial loss

_ Had change in personal finances or significant change in income or expenses (up or down)

_____ Record the Total Number of Checkmarks

What your score means:

1 – 15: You’re in good shape, the year’s been easy.

16 – 25: This has been a challenging year. Take a deep breath.

26 – 35: Perhaps you may need a professional counselor to help you through the changes.

36+: Your stress level is near boiling — slow down, re-group, get help.

Copyright 2002, 2005, 2009, 2011 Optimum Performance Associates/Paul McNeese.

Paul McNeese is CEO of Optimum Performance Associates, a consulting firm specializing in transitional and transformational change for individuals and institutions through publication. His author/speaker support company, OPA Author Services, is an advocacy for self-publishing authors of informational, instructional, inspirational and insightful literature. He is also a partner in “The Author’s Roost,” a membership portal site for authors and speakers and a reference for media representatives worldwide.

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