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Master Fear of Change with These Tips

You can’t stop change; all you can do is prepare.

Wikimedia Commons
FEAR of CHANGE can be mastered
Source: Wikimedia Commons

When I was a kid, I hated Burger King. I hated it because they put sweet pickle relish on their regular hamburgers, and I hated sweet pickle relish. And, they put mayonnaise on The Whopper, and I hated mayonnaise. And, I know what you're thinking... “Why didn’t I get the fish sandwich?” Well, they put tartar sauce on that, and you know what tartar sauce is? It's sweet pickle relish mixed into mayonnaise. I was doubly screwed.

Now some of my younger readers are probably thinking, “Why didn't I just ask them to make a plain hamburger?” Back then, they wouldn't do that. I remember my Dad asking them to do that once, and they flat out refused. You have to understand the mentality of the fast-food industry back then, the key word was FAST. They worked up a recipe that MOST people liked and prepared the food EXACTLY that way. If you wanted something different, you could go down the street to the diner where they had short-order cooks, and you could WAIT.

Then one day in 1973, I heard the most beautiful song on the television: "Have it your way, have it your way. Have it your way at Burger King. Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce. Special orders don't upset us. All we ask is that you let us serve it your way!"

I heard that, and cried out, “Mom, Dad, can we go to Burger King?” They looked at me like I was out of my mind (but they hadn’t heard the commercial).

Meanwhile, McDonald's was laughing (along with all the other fast food chains), because they thought Burger King was wasting its time and money. In their opinion, there was NO WAY anyone could individualize food orders and still be FAST - it could NOT be done. Besides Burger King was having to retrofit their kitchens and hire additional employees. It simply did not make sense to BK’s competitors.

It didn't take long, however, before they realized Burger King was robbing them of market share. Then all the fast food chains - not just the hamburger restaurants - adapted and followed suit. Burger King’s organizational change forced a transformative change in the market - one that caused an entire industry to change the way they were doing business.

The problem with change is that it makes most people anxious or worse - afraid. It’s fear of the unknown that does this. Recently my bank was bought by a bigger bank. I was immediately worried because I had been through a merger before with a different bank, and I thought, “Now what hassles am I going to have to endure because of this?” It turned out to be not as bad as I feared. The were some changes that I liked, and some that I didn’t, but the overall transition didn’t take up too much of my time.

Change is inevitable, change is constant, change is what you find underneath seat cushions. What it really does is force us to adapt. We do this all the time in small ways without thinking about it. For example, you get new software for your computer, and you have to learn some new commands. The more you adapt to smaller changes, the easier it is to handle the big ones.

The world is changing rapidly. Automation and artificial intelligence are blazing new trails in technology. Dell Technologies and the Institute for the Future published a report stating, "85% of the jobs that our people will be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet." Wow, that’s only ten years away.

Because of all this change, skills such as questioning, analysis, innovation, and creativity, are becoming increasingly important in the workplace. As will a new one called Change Agility which is defined as an individual’s ability to predict and adapt to change. Learning these skills now will prepare you for the future and reduce your fear of change.

The best way to get comfortable with change is with practice. Start by intentionally experiencing new things. Try a new food; take a new route to work; read a magazine on a subject you know nothing about; listen to a different music genre than you usually do; take a class in something you’ve always been interested in. The more you expose yourself to change, the easier it gets when the big ones come along. You’ll have learned the art of adapting, and your change agility will be well conditioned for what’s coming next.

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an innovation/change speaker, author, and consultant.