A few years ago, I used to hear people say: “America, love it or leave it.” In other words, “This is a great country. Don’t mess it up by trying to change too much of it.”
Today, it might be more appropriate to say: “Change. Move with it or be moved by it.” In other words, “The whole world is changing, and if you’re not somewhat flexible and resilient, if you’re not out there learning new things, you’re in trouble. Big trouble.”
The problem is–most people have no idea how to change or what to change. They go in one of two directions, resist all change or embrace all change. Both directions are ridiculous. The first one will turn you into a dinosaur, and the second one will turn you into a jelly fish.
The secret is to open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values. Take your job, for example. Whatever skills got you into your current job may no longer be enough to keep you in that job. Indeed if you haven’t been to several training seminars, read several books, or listened to several audio CDs on professional development lately, you may be in danger of extinction.
You’ve got to open your arms to change. But don’t let go of your values.
It’s your values that tell you which changes should be made and how to make them. For example, if you value family, then a change that promises to make you more money but lose time with your family would not be a good change. If you value honesty but your sales manager requires you to say “Whatever it takes to sell the merchandise,” then changing to a new job may be necessary. Hold on to your values.
I think of Paula Ferrato’s twin four-year old daughters, Maggie and Katie. They instantly grasped this concept of being open to change (finding new ways to have fun) while not letting go their values (having healthy fun). They had watched their Mom use the computer and fax machine on many occasions, but one day Paula watched them on the play slide. Maggie went down head first, saying, “Here I come. I’m faxing myself.” Not to be outdone, Katie stood at the top of the slide and shouted, “Here comes page two.”
Jot down three or four of your most important values. Now think of a change you are facing and ask yourself, in light of those values, “What should you do?” You see when your values are clear, decisions are easy.