Personal Change


Becoming a Change Thriver

Organizational change is personal when we are going through it, whether we are in the role of a change leader or not. As a human being, we cannot escape the cycle of change in our lives. We have no choice but to experience the breaking-apart stage of the change cycle. But we have choices in the exploration and break-through phases. We have the choice to thrive through change.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin

Becoming a Change Thriver means that we grow to be change-ready—we have learned ways to embrace change rather than run away from it. Being a Change Thriver is not something we are born with. Although certain personality traits can make it more comfortable for some people to deal with change, for most people thriving in change is a developmental process. The first step to becoming a Change Thriver is to identify the essential characteristics and the role they play in making change an easier process for us. The next step is to take inventory of our skills and determine the additional skills we need to develop.

To thrive in change we need to examine 3 main sets of characteristics of Change Thrivers:

Internal Mind-Set and Beliefs

  1. Have a sense of their life purpose
  2. Incorporate their spiritual beliefs as a foundation in their daily life
  3. Strive to be true to themselves and are motivated to live their own truth
  4. Stay attentive to internal messages
  5. Trust in the process of their life
  6. Can let go of control in things they cannot control
  7. Practice an attitude of gratitude and seek the advantages in situations


  1. Cultivate a solid support network
  2. Care for their body, mind, and spirit during the process of change
  3. Honor and express their emotions
  4. Recognize the value of humor
  5. Have strategies to cope with uncertainty
  6. Stay open to possibilities
  7. Are adaptable


  1. Know and are confident in their own abilities
  2. Know their own shortcomings without judging themselves
  3. Think beyond the obvious
  4. Have the courage to be proactive
  5. Are willing to take prudent risks
  6. Are willing to follow through with plans and commitments
  7. Approach change holistically and take into account the impact of change on others

The more we learn and practice these skills, the easier it becomes to thrive in change as well as lead change.


Organizations Can’t Change If Leaders Can’t Change with Them

This excellent article in Harvard Business Journal makes the point that effective change begins with the leadership.

“Few leaders would disagree that personal transformation is an important building block of any successful change effort. Unfortunately, too many leaders want transformation to happen at unrealistic speeds, with minimal effort, and everywhere but within themselves. A leader’s ability to affect change depends on their ability to affect change within themselves. Accepting this will fundamentally shift how one leads. The more a leader knows how they will react during change, the better equipped they’ll be to foster real change in themselves, others, and the organization.”




Thriving in the Face of Adversity | Stephanie Buxhoeveden | TEDxHerndon

Stephanie Buxhoeveden embodies the spirit of Change Thrivers. “Life is going to challenge you at some point. When this happens you have a few choices- deny, cope, or thrive.”


7 Steps for Overcoming Personal Resistance to Change

As change leaders, you are not immune to the emotional impact of change. To lead others, you must understand the role and importance of resistance, manage your own reactions and overcome your opposition first.

Major change is often accompanied by a great deal of emotion. Negative emotions about change, such as fear, manifest as resistance, while positive emotions energize you towards action. All of your emotions are valid, important, and necessary to the change process, because they provide clues and signals that direct your path through transformation.

The more negatively you view a change, the more you will resist it. But resistance can be a good thing. It is nature’s way of helping you navigate perceived dangerous situations with caution. You have to understand and value the role of resistance in keeping you and those you lead safe—without judging or labeling it.

It is also true that the more you perceive a change as positive, the more excitement and energy you feel towards making the change—even though you might still experience some fear. Positive emotions like hope motivate you and those you lead towards constructive ideas and actions.

The key to mobilizing for change is to transform negative emotions into positive ones by addressing fears and concerns.

  1. Allow yourself to feel your emotions and recognize them as protective, self-preserving signals from your subconscious.
  2. Accept your emotional reaction to change and give your feelings expression. Expressing your feelings is healthy, as long as it is not at anyone else’s expense. Cry if you are sad, laugh if you are joyous, and scream if you feel frustrated (you may want to consider screaming into a pillow or when you are alone in your car!). Talk to someone you trust or write or “journal” if that is more your style. You need to give yourself the opportunity to release emotional energy before you can get logical and practical about the change.
  3. Explore the messages your emotions are bringing to you. Ask, “What are my feelings telling me?” Be nonjudgmental and honest with yourself—especially when you examine your negative emotions.
  4. Write down your hopes as well as your fears and concerns. Things are a lot less scary when they are not whirling aimlessly in your head. Sometimes your fears have no basis in reality, but you can’t see that until you look at them closely.
  5. Write down your questions about the change and try to find out the answers to as many of them as you can. Remember—less “unknown” means less “fear”!
  6. Study what you have written. Doubtless, all the outcomes you consider are possible—but which ones are most probable? Identify and focus on those that are likely to happen and let go of the far-fetched concerns for now.
  7. Prepare yourself the best way you can for the likely outcomes. Control and influence what you can in the process and let go of the rest. There is no point in wasting energy on something you cannot do anything about. Make a transition plan that considers all your options, your support system, and your behavioral response to change.

A Framework for Personal Change and Growth


Human nature seeks the comfort and safety that stability brings us. However, everything in the world is constantly changing, so stability is relative. Of course, not all changes are the same. Some changes are very real to us because of their direct impact on our life. Some do not even attract our attention. Change can be scary when it causes us to experience instability and confusion.

All our lives are is filled with changes—some are minor and incremental, while others are major and transformational. We consider some of these life transitions successful while others have left us beaten. Yet, we have made it through them all. There is no question that we can handle change. After all—what is the alternative?

How we respond to change depends on the kind of change and our own nature and belief system. Reactions can vary based on the frequency, speed, and intensity of changes in our life. The degree of control, our involvement, and the impact of a change in our life are also determining factors in our response.

Working through change is a personal process and often differs for each person. Some people need to talk about it, others may worry about the worst possible outcome, and still others may feel a need to control events. Some individuals want to face changes squarely, while others prefer to bury their heads in the sand as long as possible. People react to change in their own way, but common to all people is the key role emotions play in their response to major life changes. When we face great change, we can expect to feel fear, anxiety, and loss of control. These feelings are natural, human, and—most important—they will pass.

Society and its organizations have traditionally downplayed the importance of emotions. Expressing emotions, except for anger, is often considered a weakness. People are not taught or encouraged to understand and work through their feelings. Most individuals discover early in life that a show of emotions can make them vulnerable, so many learn to hide their feelings from fear of getting hurt.

However, whether we wear our emotions openly or hide them in the closet, they are the force behind many decisions and actions. All life involves emotions; the more significant a moment in life, the more intensely we experience the accompanying emotions. To navigate change successfully, we have to recognize and make space for our feelings and those of other people. We have to keep in mind that emotions are powerful; they give internal directions for growth, survival, and avoidance of pain. Not to feel is not to be alive!

Significant emotional events trigger change because they engage us at the feeling level. When our emotions are engaged, they energize us and encourage our willingness to change.