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How to Thrive in Changing Times

By Philip Humbert

This week I did a training for an electric utility on the skills and resources for thriving in a world of constant change. What struck me is that I never thought about a utility having to cope with too much change! It's not like we're going to stop using electricity or their customers are all going to a competitor! They dam a river that's been around for a million years, they make electricity, send it through the power grid and bill their customers. How stable is that?!

Yet even the electric utility industry is swamped by change. People come and go. Regulations, standards and new software overwhelm them. And of course, there is competition from new energy sources, so even in the stable world of electric energy, the stress is enormous.

How about in your world?

Constant change both thrills and threatens us. We love the new opportunities, but sometimes we end up running as fast as we can just to stay even. New competitors, new tools and new skills challenge us every week. I'm typing this on my brand new laptop and I love it, but I've spent three days configuring the thing and it still doesn't feel right! Change is the constant in our world.

Here's the thing: We want to grow and have new things! We want new tools, new adventures and new resources. Most of the time, we welcome change with open arms. But, sometimes it's just too much. Sometimes we get caught up in the excitement of new things just because they are new, whether they actually benefit us or not.

Sometimes the old is good enough. Sometimes the familiar is more comfortable and actually more effective. I have a friend who uses an old-fashioned slide-rule partly for the nostalgia, but also because it's faster than doing calculations on his computer. Sometimes, the old is good.

Here are three suggestions for thriving on change:

  1. Maintain lots of "personal bandwidth." That means taking superb care of yourself! People who are happy, healthy and rested simply do better than people who are tired, hungry, stressed or worried. Practice extreme self-care. Maintain your personal bandwidth.
  2. Focus on the Big Picture. Stay current and be aware. But always evaluate change in the context of your values, your goals and your preferences. Use change to create the life you truly want, rather than to merely "keep up." Understand what's happening, and leverage it to your advantage.
  3. Invest in Tools. Knowledge and skills matter! The more you know about your industry and what's happening (and who's leading), the more options you have. Remember, "leaders are readers." And I love the quote from Buckminster Fuller that, "You cannot learn less." Watch the news, read the business journals, network with the smartest people you can find. Stay current and stay ahead of the pack in 2011.

Our world is infatuated with anything new or improved and that's not going to change. What you can control is your response to change. Master it! Learn to respond rather than merely reacting. Use change and growth to your advantage rather than merely trying to hang on and endure! In 2011, make change (and growth!) your friend. Use them to your advantage.

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