Back to school sales start when the temps are still in the 90s. The thought of wearing leather, or wool, or flannel is laughable. The sun sets a little earlier, but not so early as to impact my day. And the trees might start to take on a little more color, but I’m never really sure whether it’s because fall is coming, or that we just went six weeks without rain.
*Seattlites don’t really want outsiders to know that it rarely rains here in August and September, so shhhh…. let’s just keep this between us.
We live on a little lake, populated by ducks year round. Theses ducks are a part of our landscape, any time of year. In the spring, they’re accompanied by ducklings, following their mama around the lake, until one day I notice that mama duck is accompanied by smaller ducks. By the time fall comes around, I can no longer distinguish the parents from their offspring.
The trees around the lake are just starting to show a hint of red and gold. The color change happens gradually, but I never experience it that way. One morning, in the not too distant future, I will look out over a brightly colored landscape and wonder when this transformation occurred.
It happens this way every year.
Just as every few months I look at my daughter and wonder when did she get so big, but she was maturing right under my nose all along.
Friday the 13th was a travel day. My time was spent contending with weather delays, missed connections, mismanagement, cancelled flights, long lines, and four separate boarding passes before I finally broke free of the Houston Airport. That flight actually took me to Washington D.C. (yes, coast to coast) before I could reach my destination in Indianapolis.
Exhausted from the chaos of the previous day, I joined my colleagues for breakfast, and the opening address from our CEO. I leaned back in my chair, sated with a delicious breakfast, and allowed the coffee to find it’s way through my circulatory system. I was acclimating. Then the words she was saying started to sink in. Like scraping the needle across a record, something in my brain screeched to a stop. I sat up straight.
You want to change YSC? You want to change the one thing that has been most helpful in keeping me sane over the past two years? I looked around the room; I wasn’t the only one looking uncomfortable. This wasn’t just any room, this was a room full of breast cancer survivors and supporters. These are women and men who are all-too-familiar with having change thrust upon them, changes no one should have to endure.
While the purpose of the event was to steer the organization towards a sustainable future that supports its mission to provide services for young women with breast cancer nationwide, I got a little something else out of it as well. The three day weekend distilled itself quite neatly into a lesson in change management.
On one day I saw agents rolling their eyes, defensively barking at everyone that they can’t control the weather, and disparaging travellers who were exhuasted, hungry, sore, irritated, anxious, travelling with a hoard of kids, and some (who may or may not have been me) who desperately needed to go to the bathroom but didn’t want to lose their place in line after already waiting an hour. To be sure, I do not envy their jobs; dealing with that many people in a crisis situation far from home can’t be easy. But in many ways the agents themselves contributed to the chaos and stress of the situation, encouraging it to advance from an unfortunate inconvenience to angry, pushing crowds.
The next day, I witnessed a very different method of dealing with change.
These are big changes that impact programs that were built with sweat, tears, and heart by unpaid volunteers. They are mucking about with, what is for many of us, our safe place. But I went home feeling ok about the situation, not because I agree with everything that has been decided, but because of the way the announcement and the subsequent activities were handled. The day was programmed around providing more information, and requesting comments, criticisms, and concerns from the participants. I’m fascinated by how liberating it felt to make a comment and have it really heard. Each time that happened, the stress lightened up a bit. After a night of dancing, things started to look a lot better the next morning.
There is also a great deal of value in hearing management say they don’t have that nailed down yet because they intend to consider our responses. Whoa. This was more than just letting affiliate leaders vent to get things out of their system, they were really collecting information.
I think there were two elements that were most effective in helping us process these changes: understanding and time. There’s just no way to quantify the value of being heard and really understood. Additionally, I have a better understanding of the plan, and on a logical level, I can see that these changes will help our organization be more nimble and responsive, remain sustainable, and ultimately help more young women with breast cancer. My head is there, my heart may take a bit more time to catch up.
And time was a critical element here as well. It allowed me to get used to the idea. These changes are six months off, so we have room to acclimate, plan for them, and make the best of them. Over the weekend there was a pattern of relieving pressure by taking and answering questions, followed by some time, and then another pressure relief opportunity. By the time I got on the plane to return home, I was still unsure how I felt about some of the elements, but the angst was gone. The transparency demonstrated throughout the event gives me hope that concerns that arise in the interim will be handled with the same grace.
It should be noted that the participants in this meeting are women and men who have already faced daunting changes and challenges, rose above them, and used them as a catalyst for helping others and improving the world around them. We have plenty of experience in adapting, and making the best of a situation. Give us a little time, resources, and infrastructure; we will make this work.
On the other hand, less time in Houston would have been preferable. But DCA turned out to be a beautiful airport (top photo), and I got to see the Washington D.C. monuments from the air, both coming and going. It’s been a quarter century since the last time I saw them.
How do you deal with change? Do you prefer to have time to get used to an idea? Or does more time mean you stew and worry more before it happens?
I can’t say goodbye to the cancer experience just yet, I’m still dealing with some residual complications, but I am in the process of moving on. I did so much more than deal with cancer in 2011, but it featured prominently in my life.
Before we get to the rest of my life, I did write up a post detailing what a day of radiation treatment is like, which has been quite a popular post over the past year. I hope it helps people who are facing this treatment, and a little nervous about what they are in for. (I also wrote a similar post about chemotherapy.)
Random act of kindness: I received an amazing gift that still brings a smile to my face and checks my attitude every time I use it
I am so ready to get on with 2012.
I’m not doing resolutions this year, instead I’m picking a couple of words on which to focus as a kind of guiding principle for the year.
I picked “habit” and “kaizen”
The two are related. By habit, I mean I’m going to be intentional about creating healthy habits, slowly and gradually, the same way my bad habits get their start. For instance, I’m gradually improving my diet instead of going on a crash diet cutting out everything at once. Kaizen was a new term to me, meaning small improvements made every day will lead to massive improvements overall. This year is going to be all about incremental, sustainable change.
Do you have any plans, resolutions, or words of the year for 2012?
Every single one of my New Years Resolutions have already been derailed, in the first six weeks of the year.
My resolutions weren’t anything revolutionary or out of the ordinary. Not even all that difficult really, with the exception of that 33 grams of fat thing (multiple sources recommending this as a means of preventing a cancer re-run). That one is REALLY difficult.
Become skilled at yoga
Keep daily fat intake under 33 grams per day
Eat 7-9 servings of vegetables per day
Take at least one picture every day
Get my house organized, and keep it looking nice
So what’s going on? Why can’t I stay on track with these relatively simple and straightforward changes? Well, aside from the fact that I’m a full time student, and I have a toddler that climbs on me like a monkey all her waking hours, and I’m still recovering from 2nd degree radiation burns over half my torso, I’ve had a few writing gigs lately as well as some other opportunities to learn and gain experience doing exactly what I want to do for a living. Mama’s been a little busy. Maybe, for starters, I over-committed myself. Maybe I need to give myself a break.
So what to cut? Most of the items on the list above are recommended to prevent a recurrence; the house, well that just needs to get done. Obviously I can drop the picture a day idea, but that leaves 5 things – major changes for a 15-hours-a-day-on-the-computer-while-eating-junk-food type of girl like me. Bear in mind that the vast majority of the computer time is spent on school.
I read a wonderful article a few weeks ago about creating sustainable change in our everyday lives. I really wish I could remember where I read it; I would give the author some link love here. The article stated that in order to make a real and lasting change, we need to make one change at a time, make it really stick, before adding the next change. Over the course of the year, devoting 6 weeks or more to each individual change, we can create sustainable change in several areas with a much higher degree of success than the “I’m going to change everything all at once” approach.
Change is not something you do once and then get on with your life. It takes practice. You fall down and then you get back up again. Over and over and over and over again.
So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to decide to make a change, but I’m not going to change everything at once. I’m starting with the eating 7-9 servings of vegetables per day, and if I don’t hit my goal one day, I’ll keep trying the next day. Once I’ve built a practice of eating vegetables, I’ll add working out every day. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to exercise between now and when I start working on that resolution, it just means that the focus on habit building for that particular change will be delayed.
I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the amount of kitchen time eating that many vegetables will take. I’m now accepting applications for volunteer prep cooks if you’re interested in chopping vegetables.