This week a person made an observation of me that stuck with me long enough to think up this concept. He observed that change was really a big part of who I was but noted that most people run the other way due to fear and loathing of change.
Like a fire fighter running into a burning building, I also run to the flame of change. Why is that? What makes a person gravitate to things that frighten other people? It occurred to me that it is a lot like an extreme sport. There is a skill, a process and a bit of fearlessness that comes with the confidence. The confidence is not foolishness. The confidence is the type of feeling you get when you are practiced and thoughtful. A fire fighter doesn’t just rush into a burning building. Equipment is gathered. The body is conditioned and the mind is practiced and knowledgeable about what lies ahead. The extreme sport of initiating and mastering change in your life is exactly the same. So finally, I’m a Personal Change -Athlete-!
I contend that within each of us lies the personal change athlete just waiting to get out. As with any sport, you have to work on your capability and over time, it improves. What do you need to do to get into personal change shape?
Understand the Process There are 2 parts to change: 1) an event and 2) the internal, emotional -adjustment- you make to the event. The internal part is known as transition and that is often the part we dislike the most. Transition can make us anywhere from mildly confused to seriously uncomfortable. This discomfort is a natural reaction we have while we are learning new behaviors driven by the change event. Many people find some satisfaction in simply knowing that what they are going through is natural and will pass. We tend to avoid things we aren’t familiar with. Learn to take on new things with curiosity and openness. There are things you can do to help yourself improve your situation.
Plan Your Way Through the Process What are some things you could do to help yourself adjust to your life following a change? I have found that in both organizationally prompted changes and personal changes, if a person sits down and answers this question, it will help them in many ways. Emotionally, it gives you an anchor or something to focus on so you’re not so caught up in feeling funky. At a practical level you most likely need to be taking some actions to accommodate a variety of things the change has impacted.
Examine Previous Changes and Learn We don’t do this often enough. We are so busy gritting our teeth; we tend to just be glad it’s over and move on without looking back. If you are facing an upcoming change sit down and reflect on other changes in your life. What are some things you did that helped reduce the discomfort? What should you avoid? Make it a practice to use change events as an opportunity to learn more about yourself. Record your results and then add to them over time. Each time you go through a change, you will learn more about what helps you to maximize the opportunities that come with change.
Develop a Support System Learn to experience all the internal and external changes you are making. Talk about them with others, especially people who have had experience going through what you are about to go through. Not all people are the right support to have. So don’t think your entire base of friends is your target group. You don’t need people who fuel your anxiety or are dismissive. If you need to blow off steam, find the ear that will let you vent without personal involvement in what your issue is. If you need insight, find that person.
Take Care of Yourself Don’t over-do anything. Don’t step up the drinking, smoking or eating. Exercise. It will help reduce anxiety and give you a greater sense of peace. Get enough sleep. Think about some other things you can do to make yourself feel calm like a walk or massage.
Becoming a world class -Personal Change Athlete- is simply a matter of getting familiar with the process and not allowing it to be something to fear. It doesn’t take courage, it takes practice.
Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is an expert on organizational and personal change. She focuses on helping people master life changes, no matter what the nature of the change is. If you would like to know more about Dorothy’s work or would like to read more of her work go to: or email her at If you are bored with your life or ready to make the next step, take the FREE NEW LIFE assessment by clicking here: