One of the questions Iâm asked the most is, âWhat credit card should I get?â The answer: It depends on what you’re looking for in a card. Here’s how to decide.
While each person’s experience in 2020 has been unique, I bet many of you lived through some version of the following:
One day you were in an office, shaking hands, having in-person meetings, and serving a known set of customer needs. And the next day, your home was your office, Zoom was your conference room, handshakes were lethal, and customer needs were being completely reinvented.
Change has become our everything. Get ready to be stretched.
Prior to 2020, you could still get by as a great performer at work even if you were a little resistant to change. But now? Not so much. Change has become our everything. And if it’s not something you naturally lean into, then the time has come to fix it. Stat.
So if you’re someone whose default has been 'I don’t want to learn this new system, process, or way of engaging with customers…', then get ready to be stretched. If you want your career to continue to soar, you’re going to need to be able to roll with change.
Resisting change is natural
If you find it hard to get comfortable with change, you're not alone.
When my kids were babies, getting them to try new foods was an experience. After they spit spoon after spoon of strained peas or carrots back into my face, I talked to my pediatrician. I learned it would take seven to eight experiences with a new food before my baby would begin to like it, or at least stop spitting it at me.
In our work lives, we’re not always offered a grace period of seven to eight exposures to a new idea.
This is due to the mere-exposure effect. While we may like or appreciate some things out of the gate (hello, chocolate fudge sundaes), our natural inclination is often to resist anything that feels different. But more exposure equals more comfort. We're wired to prefer the familiar and comfortable.
But in our work lives, we’re not always offered a grace period of seven to eight exposures to a new idea before we have to adopt it.
So let’s talk about actions you can take to open your mind and expand your comfort zone with change.
1. Scope the change
Sometimes “a change is coming” can sound like “the sky is falling.” But usually, the blue abyss above stays put. So let’s start by putting change into perspective.
Before you panic, check the sky. Is it still there? Phew! You’re OK.
Your boss just told you that you’ll be reporting to a new team. Or you’re switching to a new people-management system, or you’ll be managing a new product or account. Before you panic, check the sky. Is it still there? Phew! You’re OK.
Start by asking yourself what's really changing and what’s staying the same. You may have a new boss or new relationships to manage, but your day-to-day responsibilities aren’t shifting.
You may have a new system to learn, but the data it’s tracking, the reporting it offers—how different will they really be? Your skills will carry over.
So start by putting some boundaries around the change. This should help you take a deep breath. Now, let’s charge ahead!
2. Find your bright spots
When my kids—the spitters of pureed peas and carrots—began remote schooling this year, the change was all kinds of unwelcome. They missed friends. Their new homeroom teacher (yours truly) was highly unqualified. Everything felt messed up.
But I asked them to spend a few minutes finding and focusing on the bright spots. Because every change has bits of sparkle.
Focusing on bright spots helps open your mind, readying it for the change ahead.
They came up with extra sleep (don’t we all need it?!), jammies all day, and breakfast and lunch in bed. (Yes, we've let go of the reins a bit here at my house.)
Maybe for you, it’s the opportunity to add fluency in a new system to your resume, or to build your reputation with a new leader, team, or customer base. What’s something you can get excited about?
Big or small, focusing on bright spots helps open your mind, readying it for the change ahead.
3. Acknowledge the pains and challenges of change
Do focus on the upside. But not at the expense of acknowledging and preparing for the challenges. Don’t put your head in the sand.
If this triggers mild concern or anxiety, don’t push that down. Give it space. Address it.
We resist change for a reason. There will be growing pains. Transitioning to a new system does provide you with new opportunities. But there will also be a learning curve. It will take time, focus, and effort. You’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone. If this triggers mild concern or anxiety, don’t push that down. Give it space. Address it.
Part of gaining comfort with change is giving yourself a chance to master it. The only way to master change is to resolve and repair pain points. We can’t resolve what we can’t see, so give yourself the space to list out every single thing, big or small, that scares or challenges you.
RELATED: Why Negative Emotions Aren't All Bad
What might live on your list?
- Finding time to learn a new system
- Having to build new relationships virtually
- Feeling like a novice after years of feeling like an expert
4. Identify actions within your locus of control
Part of what makes change feel scary is the sense of losing control.
According to the Harvard Business Review:
Many employees have had to abruptly accept fundamental changes to their work routines. And these changes have been stressful… because [they have] stripped people of their autonomy… [which] is detrimental for employee performance and well-being.
In other words, it’s normal to crave a sense of autonomy, of control. So here is where you focus on what you can control, and you make it happen.
Look at your sources of anxiety or discomfort. Identify tangible actions you can take to close the gap or minimize the pain of change.
When I left the world of full-time employment to start my own business, I was terrified of managing that change, even though I’d been the one to initiate it. But as a taker of my own medicine, I followed this very process. And when I arrived at this step, I identified a series of actions in my control.
Here’s a sampling of what I came up with
- Invite every small business owner I know to coffee and pick their brain
- Read one book per month on a relevant topic—consulting, marketing, pricing, etc.
- Hire a coach to help me learn to build
- Hire a lawyer to ensure I don’t step off a cliff
You get the idea. I was stepping into the unknown. But by identifying a series of actions designed to get me incrementally closer to known, I was re-establishing a sense of autonomy and control.
Maybe you have to learn a new system and you’re afraid it will be complicated. What steps can you take to close the gap? What can you control?
5. Commit positive change experiences to memory
I reflect on the days of smushed peas and carrots. Mostly, it was gross. But once in a blue moon, a baby would accidentally swallow a mouthful. And I was nothing but jazz hands.
Turns out, my jazz-hands-enthusiasm was accidental genius because now, baby associated mush with entertaining Mommy gymnastics. For her it became fun. And over time she downed more mush.
And really, that’s kind of your goal.
When you have your first positive experience with that new system, even if it was an accident, make a note of it. When your first client lights up at the description of that new product feature, capture that.
These winning moments add up over time. And suddenly one day you realize: Hey, these smashed peas and carrots are kinda delish! Who knew?
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One question I see time and again is âHow much should I spend on groceries for my family of four ?â â or three, five, etc. When youâre making a household budget, itâs easy to know how much you need to include for most of your living expenses, like utilities, student loans, and even fuel. … Read More about How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!)
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Marnie and Tom live in a nice suburb in the Midwest with their two young children. Marnie’s mother, Elaine, lives about an hour away.
When the kids were babies, Marnie's mother used to drive to Marnie and Tom's every day to see her grandkids and help out. But lately, Marnie's mother's health has been declining, so she can’t drive over anymore.
One day Marnie gets an idea: What if she and Tom sell their house and move closer to her mother? Then the kids would be able to see their grandmother more often. Plus, Marnie would be able to keep a closer eye on her mother in case her health gets worse. Seems like a perfect solution.
There’s only one problem—Tom doesn’t want to move. Tom likes the neighborhood they’re in. He thinks he and Marnie paid too much for their house, but other than that he’s very comfortable.
Tom says no.
Tough decisions and zero-sum situations
Faced with big decisions like this, a couple will ordinarily try to compromise. But in this case, there’s really no half-way. Economists call this kind of thing a zero-sum situation. Someone’s going to win, and someone’s going to lose.
For over thirty years, I’ve watched couples struggle with zero-sum problems. Some more successfully, and some less so.
Some classic zero-sum problems for couples involve whether or not to move—often for one partner’s career—and whether or not to have another child. But there are lots of others.
For thirty years, I’ve watched couples struggle with zero-sum problems. Some more successfully, and some less so. Today, we’re going to talk about what works, and what doesn’t, when you’re faced with one of these situations.
Three ways not to make tough decisions as a couple
First, let’s talk first about what doesn’t work. There are three main approaches that don’t work. Unfortunately, most couples try all three:
Mistake #1 – Trying to convince your partner they'll be better off
The first mistake is to try to convince your partner that they’ll be much happier if they do things your way. In Marnie’s case, this might involve demonstrating to Tom all the wonderful things about the neighborhood she'd like to move to. Wouldn't Tom be better off there?
No one likes to be told they’ll be happier if they just do things your way.
Here’s the problem: No one likes to be told they’ll be happier if they just do things your way. It's better to assume each person has good reasons for feeling the way they do. And that those reasons aren’t likely to change. In couples therapy, we call this "staying in your own lane."
Mistake #2 – Suggesting there's something wrong with your parnter for disagreeing
The second thing that doesn’t work is to suggest there’s something wrong with your partner. Otherwise, they'd see it your way. If only they were less anxious, less obsessive-compulsive, less oppositional, less stuck in their ways, or less damaged by unresolved childhood trauma. Then they’d surely agree with you!
A lot of people get sent to my office for therapy by their spouses for just this reason. Believe me when I tell you, it doesn’t work.
A lot of people get sent to my office for therapy by their spouses for just this reason. Believe me when I tell you, it doesn’t work. It usually just leads to a lot of bad feeling.
Mistake #3 – Appealing to your partner's love
The third thing that doesn’t work is to appeal to your partner’s love and insist that if they really love you as much as they say they do, they’ll give you what you want. Almost every couple tries this.
Marnie is no exception.
“Tom,” she says, one night as they're getting ready for bed, “Don’t you see how I can’t sleep at night worrying about my mother? I can't stop thinking about how she’s missing out on so much of our kids’ lives. Can’t you see what this is doing to me? Don’t you love me?”
“The answer’s still no,” says Tom. “And it has nothing to do with whether I love you or not.”
I'd be inclined to agree. Just because you love someone, that doesn't mean you're responsible for giving them everything they want.
A better way to make tough decisions as a couple
The good news is there’s a much better method. There are three steps involved.
Step One: Let’s make a deal
In business, this would be a no-brainer, right? You’d never ask someone to give you something you want for free. Instead, you’d find out what their price is.
In marriage, it’s the same thing. The main question is: What’s going to motivate the other person to do a deal?
Let’s see what happens when Marnie tries this approach.
One night in bed, just before they turn off the lights, Marnie turns over to face Tom.
“Tom, what can I give you to make you agree to move?” she asks.
Tom is silent.
“A promise to never complain ever again about you watching TV?”
Tom smiles. “It’s going to cost a lot more than that,” he says.
Marnie thinks some more. “How about if I agree to spend every Thanksgiving and Christmas with your family?”
Tom shakes his head. But now Marnie has the idea. She’s not asking for favors anymore. She just wants to do this deal.
“I'll do all the cooking and cleanup three times a week,” she says. "And we spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with your family."
Tom raises an eyebrow. Now he knows she's serious. "Let me think about it,” he says, and turns off the light.
Time for Step Two.
Step Two: The $64,000 Question
The following night, Tom is sitting at his laptop paying bills. Suddenly it hits him. “Marnie,” he says, “I think I see a way to do this. If we’re going to move, let’s get a smaller house and start saving money again. What do you think?” Marnie’s actually been hoping for a bigger house. It’s painful to hear that this is what Tom wants. But hey, now he’s named his price. That means he’s in the game.
To me, this looks promising. Marnie gets something she wants very much. And she pays for it, fair and square. Same thing on Tom’s side.
Marnie thinks for a minute.
“Let’s see what we can find,” she says.
Step Three: The Price is Right
Now comes the fun part.
The following Sunday, Marnie and Tom drop the kids off with her mother and start house-hunting in earnest. After a few weekends, they find a house they both like well enough. It breaks Marnie’s heart to be downsizing, but it was the only way to make things work. And it helps that once they find a place Tom likes, Marnie gets him to agree to new cabinets and closets.
Decision making builds strong relationships
A good deal will have both of your dreams in it. That’s important, because it means you’re both fully in. You never know how a move like this is going to work out. If it goes well, you both share the satisfaction. If not, you share the blame.
A good deal will have both of your dreams in it.
One sign of a good deal is that in the end, neither of you got everything you wanted. The final result didn’t look exactly like what either of you originally had in mind.
But hey, isn’t that the case with anything creative? Eventually you have to face reality. And in a couple’s relationship, reality often takes the form of the person next to you in bed.
Sometimes life brings you to a fork in the road, where no compromise is possible. When that happens, assume you’ll need to do some serious deal-making—as if your relationship depended on it. Which in fact, it will.
Eventually, you have to face reality. And in a couple’s relationship, reality often takes the form of the person next to you in bed.
As Yogi Berra famously said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”
In the long run, how you settle the issue may matter more than which fork you take.
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