The past 18 months have presented each of us with the need to adjust in our personal and professional lives. We may have confined our social interactions, modified our work arrangements, and made other accommodations in response to the pandemic. While we could not avoid the push and pull we experienced, we were able to choose how we would respond to and meet the challenges we faced and the vulnerability we experienced.
The choices we have made likely had a significant influence on how we have experienced the pandemic. Depending on our choices, we may have struggled, navigated the experience, or even thrived. Interestingly, this experience offers a useful example of the importance of how we respond to changing circumstances and environments. The choices we make can determine how well we find our way forward and emerge from the uncertainty and shifting currents of life.
To help us understand the choices available and the outcomes to which they might lead, we can divide our choice options into four general categories: seeking stability, practicing flexibility, embracing adaptability, and designing for agility. Let’s explore each of these responses to pressure for change and how they can support or undermine our personal and professional success.
When we seek stability in response to the press for change, we focus on creating consistency and predictability. Our response to the pressure to change is to hone our current skills, reinforce our “go to” practices, and rely on “tried and true” approaches. In short, we bet that what we normally do and how we typically behave will carry us through. While this approach can carry us when the pressure to change is light and temporary, it can significantly undermine our effectiveness and compromise our success when circumstances call for significant adjustments. In fact, our inability or unwillingness to adjust can erode our competence and confidence to the point where it threatens the survival of personal relationships and viability of our professional future.
A choice to practice flexibility in response to the press to change broadens our focus and leads us to consider and employ the full array of strategies, approaches, and tools we possess, including practices we may have embraced in the past, but have since neglected. The broader the array of options, resources, and strategies we have developed and adopted, the better able we are to respond to the circumstances we face. This choice challenges us to use all that we currently possess to respond and meet the demands of the situation.
When we embrace adaptability, we move beyond what is familiar and has served us well in the past to ask ourselves what we need to learn and what skills will be required to respond to the press for change we are experiencing. We open ourselves to learning new strategies, creating new approaches, and adopting new tools. While often uncomfortable at first, this response to the need to change can be invigorating and growth evoking as we adapt our behavior, practices, and learning to move to a new level of success and satisfaction.
Choosing to design for agility shifts our position relative to the need to change from one of reaction to proactivity. Rather than waiting for pressure to fully develop and demand a response, this choice invites us to anticipate changes that may be necessary. We explore possibilities and develop strategies, approaches, and tools that will position us for success. This choice helps us to leverage change as an opportunity rather than a demand to which we must respond.
The application of the continuum of choices in the context of the pandemic may be obvious. Some people tried to ignore the need to change and cling to what used to be. Others shifted to other familiar strategies and practices hoping that they would be enough. Still others assessed the situation and embraced the learning necessary to succeed as they understood more about what was needed. Of course, there were those who saw the pandemic as an opportunity to imagine and create new strategies, invent new tools, and employ new approaches, and, as a result, thrived during uncertain and unpredictable times.
Nevertheless, it is important for us to recognize that this set of choices is available to us in myriad life circumstances. We are not always able to control the need to change, but we can choose how we will respond. The choices we make will likely determine our success and happiness during and well beyond the experience.