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If You're Not Living on the Edge?

Dr. Alan Zimmerman

"If You're Not Living On The Edge, You're Taking Up Too Much Space."
                                                                              Dr. Alan Zimmerman

I got today's tip from a nursing home resident. Even though she was old in years, she was young in spirit. She knew about the absolute necessity of change, growth, and living outside her comfort zone.

That's not an easy concept to grasp, and it's not an easy way to live. After all, our entire culture pushes us in the opposite direction. Listen to people, and you'll hear lots of comments along the lines of "Be careful ... Take it easy... and... Don't take any chances."

Unfortunately, just the opposite is true. Security is not found in an ever-stable, non-changing environment. That will never happen. Security is not found in the avoidance of change. That's not possible.


Alan Zimmerman
As Anne Morrow Lindbergh said, "Only in growth, reform, and change, paradoxically enough, is true security to be found." In other words, security is found in knowing you must change and knowing how to make those changes.

That's so important because you will be forced to deal with change. And some of those changes you won't like. And some of those changes will be imposed.

Do you know how to make the necessary changes in your work and in your life? I hope so. You won't accomplish much living inside your comfort zone.


And do you know how to deal with changes you don't like? Again, I hope so, because a lot of changes that come your way will be imposed on you from the outside world. Those imposed changes will include some things you: 1) couldn't predict,2) didn't cause, 3) don't want, and4) can't avoid.

So how do you make change more positive and productive? Start with an attitude adjustment. ACCEPT THE FACT THAT CHANGE WON'T EVER GO AWAY. If you're still carrying the old mindset, thinking "If I can just hang on a few more weeks and get through this, I can get back to normal," you're in trouble. You've got to accept the fact that change is the norm. It won't ever go away, and it won't ever be over.

This is especially true if you're an executive, manager, or supervisor. If you try to relieve your coworkers' stress by saying there will be a calm after the reorganization, or after the merger, or after the new product is launched, or after whatever, your coworkers' trust will take a real nosedive the next time you announce another change. So be honest with your people. Tell them they're never going to be done with change.

Accepting that fact can be a little scary. As one college commencement speaker asked the President of the college, "How can I tell the students the future of the world is in their hands without frightening the rest of the guests?"

And accepting that fact can be rather illuminating. As one of my audience members told me, "You know the children have grown up when you find yourself straightening up the house before they come home instead of after."

You've got to accept the fact that change won't go away, and that's okay. Charles Kettering, the head of research at General Motors way back in 1949 said, "We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there."

Second, MAKE SURE EVERY CHANGE MAKES YOU BETTER, NOT BITTER. Whenever you go through a change, you will change. That's not debatable. How you change is up to you.

Some people go through a divorce, a job loss, a financial difficulty, and they get bitter. They cry out, "Life's not fair. God doesn't care. Why me?"

They fail to see anything good in the change. They don't realize, as Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, said so long ago, that "When one door closes, another opens." The trouble is, Bell went on to say, "We often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."

By contrast, other people can go through the same things, a divorce, a job loss, a financial difficulty, and they get better. Two weeks or two months after the crisis, they're back on their feet using guts and skills they never knew they had.

Those who get better don't waste their time looking at the closed door, bemoaning what has gone by the wayside. Instead, they take Louis L'Amour's approach. L'Amour, the author of many western novels said: "There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."

Third, FIND THE HUMOR IN EVERY CHANGE. There's always something funny or at least a bit amusing in every change. Finding it will take away some of your stress.

For example, look at the humor in our changing life- styles. Years ago, man got tired of living outdoors and cooking over an open fire. So he moved indoors, where he eventually convinced himself that the food would taste better cooked outdoors over an open fire.

Or look at the humor in our changing jobs. In 1979 there were 32 Elvis impersonators. In 1996 there were 48,000.Talk about a growth industry. Based on that rate of growth, by the year 2010, one of every two people on earth will be an Elvis impersonator.

And look at the humor in our changing priorities. We just get everything figured out, and then we find that our wants, desires, and needs change. It's like the old man who picked up a frog that said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess." The man put the frog in his pocket without kissing it, and the frog said, "Wait, why haven't you kissed me yet?" The man responded, "At this point in my life, I prefer to have a talking frog."

And look at the humor to be found in the pronouncements of arrogant, self-appointed prophets who think they know it all. Voltaire, one of France's greatest intellectuals, said in a 100 years the Bible would be a forgotten book, to be found only in museums. When the 100 years were up, Voltaire's home was occupied by the Geneva Bible Society. The truth is, no one is immune from making mistakes. So lighten up and see the humor in change.

Finally, REMIND YOURSELF CHANGE MANAGEMENT CAN BE GOOD. It's easy to think you like things just the way they are, that you don't want any change, and you don't need any change.

Seeing you're going to go through a bunch of changes, whether you like it or not, wouldn't it make more sense to remind yourself that change can be good? Remind yourself that every improvement is a result of change. If you think along those lines, you'll have a lot more flow and a lot less resistance in your life.

Change can be good. An old proverb says a wise man changes his mind, a fool never. How true. You'll never know everything; so you'll have to keep changing your mind if you want keep on making improvements.

And change can be fun. It's like the American fellow who visited a London pub on a foggy night. Hoping to strike up a conversation with a distinguished looking Englishman, he asked, "May I buy you a drink?" No," said the Englishman." Don't drink. Tried it once and didn't like it."

Later the American fellow tried to make conversation again and said, "Would you like a cigar?" The Englishman said, "No. Don't smoke. Tried it once, and I didn't like it."

The American thought for a moment. Then said, "Would you like to join me in a game of gin rummy?" The Englishman replied, "No. Don't like card games. Tried it once, and I don't like it. However, my son will be dropping in after a bit. Perhaps he will join you."

The American settled back in his chair and said, "Your only son I presume?"

 


Dr. Alan Zimmerman is a professional speaker who helps companies build customers, relationships, and the bottom-line.
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