marisa morby

How Do I Keep Up With Change and Not Lose My Shit?

Change Is Coming

I had finished the interviews. Finally. It had taken longer than I expected, and I was happy to be done with them. I like interviewing, but after a whole month of almost back to back interviews, the glow had worn off.

I typed up my last assessment, gave my opinion on who I thought we should pick, and sent it off to the hiring manager.

Someone’s getting a celebratory glass of wine tonight, I thought to myself.

After lunch I reviewed my emails and saw one from the manager.

Great! They’ve made a choice!

And then they dropped the hammer.

Due to some changes in strategy, they were now looking for a different profile than what I’d been interviewing for. Budgets had changed. And by changed what they really meant was, got cut by a quarter.

The last line of the email was the real punchline: Could I please go back and re-interview, or screen new candidates?

Basically, can you please hit the undo button on the last month?

Since there is no undo button for life, it’s safe to say that I was a little pissed. I felt disrespected that no one had bothered to include me before this happened, I was angry at the time I’d wasted, and was anxious that they still wanted a quick turnaround time when I was starting from zero.

You Need to Adapt if You Want to Survive

I took a few minutes to be pissed, and then I pulled my shit together and did something that it took me years to learn.

I adapted.

I wrote an email back saying, Sure, I can start the process over, but we were going to have to work on a different timeframe. And since the budget had been cut, the candidate pool was going to be totally different.

Then I closed my email and got to work.

Being upset for a minute is ok. But you’ve got to get over it. Being upset for a day makes you lose more than time. You also lose happiness.

Adaptability Requires 3 Skills

A few years ago, I used to be an uncontrollable force of emotion. When things didn’t go my way or plans got changed, I had a tendency to lose it.

I didn’t like looking forward to something and then being let down. I didn’t like being out of control. And—I’ll be honest—I didn’t like not getting what I wanted.

When I first started working, I would get really upset when work plans changed. I’d put in all this effort, and now I was going to have to go back and start over again?

But as time went on, I realized that plans changing were the only thing that was a constant. I could never ensure that plans would stay the same, but I could almost always be positive that_ something_ about it would be different at the end.

So, instead of railing against the change machine, I learned to do three things:

Manage your expectations

I used to assume that work plans were set. Nothing would change unless something drastic happened. This set me up for failure because it made me inflexible. I wasn’t ready to change direction on a project, or have departmental changes. It made me anxious and unproductive.

Now I know better.

Instead, I pay closer attention to what’s going on at work. I am more aware, and expect plans to change as needed. And I’m ok with that. I do the work for the project I’m given, but am prepared for something to change along the way. Just keeping this in the back of my mind makes it easy to switch directions without total emotional upheaval.

So now, I set hopeful expectations, but am mentally prepared for change.

Manage your emotions

Learning to control my reaction and manage my emotions was one of the most important skills I’ve learned. Take the two situations below. Both have happened. Which one sounds less awful?

My thought process used to be like this

Unforeseen Change: Hey lady, all that work you did doesn’t matter now, we’ve changed our minds.

Me (in my head): What the fuck. Are you serious??!?! No, screw this, I’m not doing it.

I would proceed to get no work done and do nothing but fume until the end of the work day.

I felt like shit, my attitude was shit, and everything was, well, shit. The best part was, all of that was under my control. I chose to let the situation get the best of me.

But now my thought process goes like this

Unforeseen Change: Hey lady, all that work you did doesn’t matter now, we’ve changed our minds.

Me (in my head): Silent scream lasting 3 seconds. Ok. Can I change that decision? No. Can I turn the clock back? No. Can I start working on the new direction for the project now? Yes.

I would then reply saying I could do what they wanted, but in a different time frame. Then I got to work.

I can’t control decisions of others. But I can control my attitude.

So now, instead of getting upset and letting it take over my day, I think about why I’m upset. I figure out what I actually have control over, and don’t dwell on my frustration. Instead, I cut through the overreaction and just move forward.

Manage your actions

I’ve begun to realize that I’m only in control of one thing — and so are you.

When you’re driving your car down the road, you’re in charge of your own wheel, but what about everyone else careening down the highway at 65 mph? You have no influence over them.

We have perceived control over our environment. Having this perceived control makes us feel like we can determine the outcome of certain situations, although this isn’t really true.

But what we can do is work toward changing a setback, failure, or change that is upsetting us.

We can figure out what actions we didn’t take that we should have. We can also figure out what actions we can take now in order to keep going. Then, the setback doesn’t define us, and we can move forward.

Letting Go Feels Good

Once I realized these three things, adapting and being flexible was a lot easier. In giving up control over everything, and only having control over my emotions and my actions, I actually feel more secure. Now the only thing I’m concerned about is the one thing I actually have power over.

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