Growing up as a boy, I used to love going to see my grandparents. They lived in the City of Wangaratta, in the north east of Victoria. Back in the days when the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney was not duplicated, we'd often leave in the evening and travel up at night, Dad driving, Mum in the front and me sandwiched between my two brothers in the middle of the back seat, straddling the hump. I hated that, but at least it helped me to try to stay awake so I could see the statues of Ned Kelly, at Glenrowan.
Fast forward, something like 40 years, and some things have changed; a couple of weeks ago we found ourselves travelling up a fully duplicated highway to visit my grandparents' graves. I was driving, my wife was in the front seat, my kids were sitting comfortably in the back. No one was sitting on the hump! The highway bypasses Glenrowan now, so Ned can't be seen, but the police are ever present with radar at the ready, pointed like guns at a different type of metal armour.
And some things don't change. As I went out for a run that evening, I decided I'd head to my grandparents' house at 16 Turner Street. It was evening and the smells of a warm, summer evening, complete with delicious smells of BBQ in the air, took me all the way back to my childhood. Smells are the strongest anchors, or triggers, of memories and my happy thoughts came flooding back. When I arrived, there the house stood, just as I remembered it, in the warmth of a Wangaratta twilight.
What I realised at that point was, I knew very little of my family history, of who I really was, of how I came to be here. I'd squandered opportunities (as we often do) when my grandparents were alive, to ask more questions, listen more, find out more. It suddenly became important for me to understand my past.
In years gone by, researching your family would have been a time consuming task, interviewing relatives, searching births, deaths and marriages etc. With changes in technology and the internet these days, researching your heritage can be as easy as signing up to Ancestry.com. And so I did. Within a week, I've traced my family back 5 generations. I've discovered Scottish, Irish and Maori heritage. We appear to be connected to ancestors who arrived on the Second Fleet, and my somewhat infamous Great, Great Grandfather, Nathaniel Bates, died of drowning having 'fallen' from a bridge, supposedly resulting in the now widespread phrase, "Did he fall, or was he pushed?"
OK so great, Cam, you've found out stuff about the past. So what?
If you read my last blog, you'll recall that change is constant and that I'm not that good at handling it! And really, this article also deals with change; from past (perhaps the things we're comfortable and familiar with), to the present (what we're doing now). But why is researching the past so important and what about its linkage not just to the present, but importantly to the future?
The past is definitely worth looking into. We cannot ignore it, nor should we dwell on it. It tells us how we got here, our background and importantly gives hints as to why we hold the values and beliefs that we do. Many have been formed and passed down through generations, perhaps modified as time goes by. This may help to explain why we behave the way we do now, and therefore importantly must help us to formulate how we want our future to look.
Here's something for you to consider: if my current set of beliefs don't work for me now, then how could I change them to create a better future. Importantly, as my trawling through Ancestry.com has also highlighted to me, that in the future, your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren etc. may look to find out about you. What will they read? What will you want them to read? What will your legacy be?
If you want to create history, you must plan for the future.
First, have a dream, whatever it is. Determine what you want, your legacy, no one else's - and deliberately and consciously set your internal GPS to steer towards it. Write it down, be tenacious, monitor your progress, adjust your course and keep the dream in sight.
Andy Dufresne achieved it. Ellis 'Red' Redding achieved it. I intend to achieve it.
So how are you intending to get busy living? Leave me a comment and start a conversation.
Go catch your dreams.
"'Tis impossible to be sure of anything but Death and Taxes" - from The Cobbler of Preston by Christopher Bullock (1716)
I believe it's fair to say that that we can add a couple of other items to that; change, and arguably our response to change. We've been dealing with change throughout time so this shouldn't be news to us at all, however we do know that change these days, even when measured in technological advancements, is exponential. What that means for us is that we are going through, and responding to change more often and in some respects more deeply than ever before.
We only need to look at the world stage right now. Who would have thought that a dubiously successful realestate 'moghul' and reality TV host could ascend to become 'leader of the free world'. And is it really possible that the majority of people in Britain voted to 'Brexit' Europe? This air of dissatisfaction and desire for change is beginning to permeate its way to other countries, including Australia, bringing with it a great deal of uncertainty.
What about your own life? When I look at mine, I see change as a constant (and often a constant struggle, as you'll see). In less than two minutes, I wrote down: schools, homes, countries, friends, jobs, roles, companies, careers, relationships, health, mental health, lifestyle, salary, just to name a few.
Is change a good thing or a bad thing? Electing to embrace change see's us learn new things and grow, which is a positive for most people. The down side is 'change-fatigue', when change happens so often that we just can't handle it anymore. The case for not changing is that we stay comfortable, we reduce the risk of failing and that simply means we stagnate, become less vital, which may translate to a life without meaning.
So to our response. A useful model to understand many peoples' response to change is the Kubler-Ross Five Stage Model, developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and published in her book, On Death and Dying, in 1969. The model seems to hold true for most personal and organisational change, though it is accepted that the reactions she describes are generalised. The five stages defined by Kubler-Ross over time are:
Each reaction can be seen to change our level of resourcefulness, which impacts our behaviours and therefore the results that we get. In order to get through change, we have two levers we can pull. We can look to reduce the time over which the reactions occur, pushing through the change curve more quickly. And we can look to reduce the depth of the curve - in other words, look for ways that limit the impacts of our reactions, or indeed choose to respond rather than react.
Sounds great in theory, however in my personal experience, it's just not that easy! As the people closest to me know, I don't handle change real well - at all! In terms of the Kubler-Ross curve, I'm pretty damn good at hitting anger very quickly and deeply. Anger is a highly unresourceful state for me and so my behaviours become 'brattish', my results drop, I get angry, I get more brattish, my results drop further and hey presto, I've hit depression (which sits on top of the clinical variety that walks around with me normally). So I cycle around the anger and depression for quite a while before acceptance slowly kicks in. The end result - exhaustion, arguments, unhappy family and friends, loss of credibility and trust, disillusioned teams etc. Not ideal when you're a leader!
Wouldn't it be great if we could manage our way through change so that we get a better outcome, more quickly, with less stress? In dealing with my own reactions recently, I turned to modelling the behaviours of a friend who demonstrates incredible resilience when under the pressure of change. Here's what I've discovered.
When going though massive change, seek professional help. This applies particularly, but not only, to males. Whilst we'd all love to be super heroes, we're not, and professional help will get you through the change curve more quickly, and to reduce the depth of your reactions.
Understand the curve and accept where you are in it. It is ok to feel anger and even depression - we cannot be happy all the time. Accept the emotion and consciously choose to change your behaviours so that you don't spiral down, limiting the depth of the response.
Don't wallow in the valley of excuses - you know what I'm talking about. That's where you make excuses for all the reasons you can't move yourself forward. If you do feel the need to join a 'pity party' where you and few others get together to collectively bargain, share anger and do group depression, go for it. AND limit yourselves to a period of time, beyond which you consciously decide to move forward. Oh, and don't do this in public unless you want the pity party to turn into an out-of-control rave advertised to all on Facebook. Not cool.
Move yourself into acceptance more quickly by reframing the situation. Ask yourself early on in the change process, "what could be good about this?" and keep asking yourself that question. Other questions to ask could include the classic Cartesian Questions to get yourself aligned:
And watch your head spin for a bit!
Look after yourself and change your physiology. In terms of looking after yourself, do the right thing by your body - eat properly and sleep well. When it comes to physiology, we know that every emotion has an associated physiological state. So instead of taking on the physiology of anger or depression, move your body into something different. Go for a run, walk, lift yourself up, push out your chest and just for good measure, crack a smile. Join in the office banter, laugh...
After all, as a wise friend told me recently: "Everything will be ok in the end. If it's not ok, it's not the end." (This quote is often attributed to the late John Lennon.)
There is a common theme amongst those people who consistently achieve their goals, fulfil their potential, and live their dreams. And that is, not only do they get comfortable with the idea of change, but they thrive on it.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Get comfortable with discomfort in order to succeed.