I was walking around a local store yesterday when I was struck with a bit of an epiphany. There, on the end of a shopping aisle, were some lightbulbs for sale. These lights were the, now ubiquitous, compact fluorescent bulbs, but there was something odd about them. These bulbs were manufactured with an outside enclosure to specifically make them look like the incandescent bulbs that most of us grew up with. A company had taken the time to do the research and create this product specifically for those people who were unwilling to give up their idea of what they thought a light bulb should look like.
Kudos to the company for seeing a market opportunity, but it made me deeply wonder about the potential of society today. How are we supposed to change the world for the better (or change it at all) when we can’t even change our idea of what a lightbulb should look like. This inability– or more likely, unwillingness — to change effects us all. I firmly believe that those who will do great things in the future will be those who can look beyond their long held concept of a lightbulb and see that change can be good even if it requires us to think in new ways.
But it’s just a light bulb, right?
I am sure some of you have a quizzical look about now. You might be thinking to yourself, “But Doug, it’s just a light bulb!” Yes, it is just a light bulb, but it is also a clear indicator of how people think. It is more than likely that the people buying these light bulbs are buying these bulbs specifically because they look like, well, the way a light bulb should look. They don’t provide any advanced features or savings, but they are more comforting to look at than those weird curlicue bulbs that we have all been forced to use. Small actions like this can clearly show an aversion to change, even small change.
The trouble being, though we are resistant — or fearful of change — change will still occur. We might try to ignore it or deny that change is happening, but in doing so we will be swept aside by change. We will be left behind by the biggest benefits of change and have no voice in counteracting those bad changes that come along. We isolate ourselves — our fingers in our ears chanting “la-la-la-la-I can’t hear you” — hoping that it just goes away. Of course, even a cursory glance at past history will show you that life is nothing but change. One change leads to another and another and another. If we want to succeed in our lives and careers, we need to face change, embrace change, even learn to love change and all the wonderful things it can bring to us and the world.
Take a look at yourself
In order to learn more about your relationship to change, take a look at your own actions. If you are like me, you will be very open to change in some areas of your life and very resistant in others. That’s OK. We all have our normal likes and dislikes and thinking critically about them can help us to decide what is most important to us. If, on the other hand, you find yourself hating ALL change, then you might have a problem.
I know that at various times in my life I have become almost hermit-like — frequenting the same restaurants, the same locations, talking with the same people. I find that sometimes the world is overwhelming especially as a small-town boy living a big city life. That said, every time this has occurred, I soon start to feel the “itch” of something in the back of my mind. I can sense that I am hiding from the world in some regards and my mind knows that I need to break out of my rut and re-engage with the world around me. I am sure many people also feel this way at times. This “itch” is a sign that you need to get out and start dealing with life outside your self-created bubble. Use these intuitive feelings to your best advantage. Don’t ignore them.
Facing change — embracing change — is especially important in your work life and your overall career. In today’s work world, change is a constant companion. I have seen jobs change from month to month, from year to year. You may be hired to do one particular set of tasks, but change in the world requires change in your work. If you cannot adapt to this change, your career is at risk. Remember, if you are not embracing change, change will simply pass you by. If you want to remain relevant in your career, you simply MUST change. There is no other way.
If you are shaking your head right now, I beg you to think again. Surely you have seen in your own career how change can effect you and those around you. Surely you have seen large swaths of friends and peers swept away in layoffs and company closings. There is no denying that change happens. Those who understand this that will prosper in the coming years. Please don’t be like the people buying the new lightbulbs just because they look like the old lightbulbs. Don’t deny that change is occurring even if there are others who will try and help you ignore it. For your own sake, and the sake of anyone who depends on you, embrace change. Remind yourself regularly that ALL change is not bad. Fight for the good changes. Fight against the bad changes. Do not deny that change exists. That is a battle you will not win and one that limits your success in both life and career.