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I spoke at a Canadian Kidney Cancer conference recently. I talked about understanding the change associated with a cancer diagnosis.
I have not had kidney cancer, so what qualifies me to be the keynote speaker at their conference? Two things: I am a cancer survivor myself, and I use the Rollercoaster of Change (TM) to help organizations and individuals understand change.
No matter what kind of change you are experiencing – everything from implementing a strategic plan, to surviving a re-organization, to a cancer diagnosis. We all experience change in the same way, because we are all humans.
My goals for this talk, and any time I work with change, are:
Understand that what you & others feel regarding change is normal. Change is natural, normal and predictable.
Learn how to help yourself and others through change – depending upon where they are at that moment because we all go through change at different speeds.
We tend to use the word “change” when we usually mean “transition.” They mean different things.
Change is an event – like a cancer diagnosis or when you were told that your job would be changing. There was a definite time.
Transition is an internal, psychological re-orientation. It is the internal process you are experiencing as you deal with change. We each undergo transition as an individual journey – every one of us will experience it at a different speed and with different experiences.
There are four distinct phases in the Rollercoaster of Change (TM) – Shock & Denial, Anger & Depression, Hope & Readjustment, and Rebuilding. We will all experience the first two stages, we make a choice to stay in Anger & Depression or to go up the other side of the Rollercoaster into the final two phases.
In Shock & Denial people may feel in shock, disconnected, numb, in denial or disbelief. This is where people pretend it’s not an issue. They go on with work and life without much concern for the change. At my initial cancer diagnosis I basically went on with life as if the diagnosis didn’t mean much to my life. I learned that assumption was incorrect when it reoccurred.
People in Anger & Depression start feeling emotions: lonely, anxious, frustrated, angry, depressed, paranoid, overwhelmed, confused, disoriented, perplexed, longing for the good old days, sense of loss, turmoil, sadness. It isn’t a comfortable place to be, so people often slide back into Shock & Denial. I felt most of these emotions after my second cancer diagnosis.
In Anger & Depression people make a choice to stay on the negative side of the Rollercoaster of Change (TM), or to move into Hope & Readjustment.
People in Hope & Readjustment of the Rollercoaster of Change (TM) start accepting what’s happening, they try new things out, they try to search for meaning. They often feel more positive, more hopeful, more focused. They have more energy and are more productive.
In Rebuilding people are comfortable with the “new” normal and get on with their lives.
I like the Rollercoaster of Change (TM) model because it explains the natural & normal way we react to any change - whether it’s something we didn’t want, like a cancer diagnosis or a job loss, whether it’s something we want, like a new house or a child, or even if it’s something small, like the forgetting your keys. We’ll go thru these phases.
If you are going through any kind of change, determine where you are in the Rollercoaster of Change (TM) and then use the appropriate actions to move yourself through the phases. Don’t try to skip any phase, you are “wired” to go through them in order.
Once you understand where you are and are moving yourself forward, you can help others through change. Start with understanding what phase they are in and how you can best help them get themselves into the next phase. Don’t assume everyone is at the same place as you – everyone will be at different places based upon their past experiences with change, the perceived magnitude of the change, and their own make-up.
In conclusion, the steps to handle a cancer diagnosis are the same as those you take to manage a reorganization at work. The diagnosis will have a bigger impact on your life, but since we are all human, we react to change the same way.
I’d love to talk to you about managing change. Contact me at Valerie.MacLeod@HainesCentre.com
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