#025 - Make change less scary - the project management approach.
Which is an introduction to the topic of this season and the question: can we project manage the crappy bits out of how we deal with and digest surprising and unwanted changes in life.
Hey friend, I know it's been a while.
How have you been?
Well, whilst I do not know for sure what you’ve been up to since we last spoke in season two, I have a very good idea of what you have not been doing, because Corona was reigning this planet.
And I know you're tired of talking about the topic itself, and I hope you were not affected by the disease, but Corona as a global phenomenon has happened and it changed everybody’s life.
And that’s what I want to talk about: Change.
How has life changed for you? Because I know it did. And whilst I’m hesitant to claim broadly that the pandemic had it’s upsides - one remarkable side effect it definitely had is:
It made us take a closer look at the nature of our lives and how we set up our reality to play out on a daily basis…. Which is what my business ‘AHWH’ is really about. So please forgive me if I might at points sound exited about that. The learner and observer in me is just too intrigued to sit quietly.
So the pandemic changed our personal lives, but also how we socialise and work.
It influenced how we perceive our own safety and shook our confidence on what the future holds in store for us. That is no small thing because it’s destabilising us by messing with our sense of self.
And it definitely changed our behavior and small habits in public:
It changed how we interact and meet with friends and how we move, or don’t move and we don’t travel anymore.
And it also changed how we practice some very fundamental, very intimate family customs Like, how we celebrate our holidays.
And it led us to question what we value in life and, most of all, who we want to hang out with.
Who are the people that, if we're forced to be selective, we choose to have in our inner circle?
The pandemic made us confront some tough realities on how we set up our lives. How we designed our … well, for lack of better word,…how we designed the process of how our life unfolds and play out each and every day.
If our lives were documented like day-to-day travel itineraries that we set up to run smoothly, Then pandemic was the slap in the face that showed us All the weak spots on how, and where we made ourselves dependent on other people and outer circumstances to provide life quality for us.
And that in itself is not a bad thing as such. But the extent to which we gave authority and responsibility away to others and allowed them to make us feel good about ourselves and our lives… that’s what made so many of us feel so helpless and feel like we're struggling.
Do I sound really nerdy? Well, wait … it’s getting worse:
See, I can’t help myself but notice that, despite the fact that we are all tired of constantly being cautious, general population seems to separate into 3 broad groups:
Those that suffer, those that manage and those who thrive.
So how come that the pandemic plays out for some like a nerve-wracking thriller with one cliffhanger after another, leaving some at the edge of the cliff. Holding onto bare life, clawing to routines like it was an icy edge and leaves them really struggling to get by?
And how come that, what seems to be the mayority of people, those to whom the pandemic was or is an obstacle race. The change of reality is a hurdle. Clearly they’d prefer things to be easier, but In the end: It’s something that -quote on quote - JUST has to be figured out - like extra work.
And finally how come that a few actually really enjoyed the side effects and experienced it as a gift?
See, being an interior designer I’m definitely your project manager kind of girl. I consider myself an analyst and creative solution finder.
Making change happen is what I do for a living. I make change feasible and hopefully exciting and easy for my clients.
So I was wondering: how can we make change, work for us?
I want to be able to understand and manage as much as possible and yes, let's face it: Manage is this context a substitute for control.
How much can I control the change? Because I believe the more confident we feel about the areas that we can handle and we can manage, the more whitespace we have for those areas that are out of our control. We just have more patience and maybe more grace if we have the ability to contain uncertainty to some extend, whilst leaning on what we know we can do well.
And this is - after all - the AHWH podcast, it’s all about how we can create more belonging and become creators of better circumstances for ourselves. I like to us #Betterlivingactivists
Home is more than a place with stuff.
Scan your own life and your own memories of the homes you had in your past.
Home is a vibe, a feeling of how we remember our life - the daily little things in life in-between those big external events (like the pandemic) that rock and shake our world.
If you don’t like the vibe of your life that is happening within the walls, within the area of your control, it does not matter much how pretty those walls are or how many riches, how much stuff you have.
So the big questions this season are:
- How can we make change, work to our advantage?
- Can we break it down?
- Can we make it enjoyable?
- And can we learn and ultimately grow from it?
So that being said, let me lay out the project management approach to change:
It clearly suggests that change is a finite project, right?
You have a before, during, and then an after Situation.
So let me lay out to you how I, and I guess most project managers, lay out the critical questions to ask:
‘Before’ is when we analyse:
- What is the situation?
- What is the problem?
- What else is relevant and needs consideration?
- What do we want instead?
- What does a good solution look like - or in my case: good is not good enough. what would a mind-blowing solution look & feel like?
Then we go into planning.
- How can we get there?
- What do we need?
- What is our budget? Or what are, our material, skill & time resources.
- And when we start drafting out a solution I like to ask:
- what is the easiest versus what is the cheapest solution? Easy costs money and cheap costs time and requires personal involvement. How does that influence the project?
Finally, going back to what we envisioned as a possible solution, what will give us the most for our time, effort and money. Where are our priorities?
- How will we get it done?
- Consider your budget of the planning of design details (details cost money), time management, logistics and money. There is also expertise and other people to be managed and
- Last but not least, of course your own energy.
I guess these are the standard questions to manage any project of change- but the bonus that gives my projects the extra kick and I would ask at this point would be.
- What would a fail look like in detail - draft it out meticulously and then DON’T do those things & how will we deal with setbacks when they occur nonetheless?
- How will we know that what we've done is a good result? Some results we measure by the instant impact they bring and others by their long-term effects.
- What will satisfaction feel like? Because that is the holy grail of any change we intentionally set out to accomplish. And it is so easy to hustle, hustle, hustle and never taking the time to cherish and be proud of the long way we come since starting.
Now, I’m not going to deny it: Nerdy me is right now really turned on by just speaking about this.
Season 3 is going to be great. I have a list of interview guests that really know their shit in their area of expertise and I will ask them about their experience and wisdom when it comes to creating and dealing with change. And if YOU want to be part of this season: reach out - I’m thrilled when people want to participate. And I’d love to hear your story of change - the good, and the sad ones.
And I want to encourage you today to think back to those times you went through change and to the particular things you struggled most with during this time. Is there a pattern?
If there is, it’s worth working on those so that we’re at least prepared and can emotionally pre-digest, so that the blow doesn’t hit us as hard.
I did this for my process and where I see my clients struggle most often & came up with these 5 areas:
1 Struggle vs. Ease -
The struggle can never be greater than the result or the reward we seek. Right? Because then it won't be worth it. We'll be more tired. We'll be worse off than before. And we'll feel morally depleted in, maybe even end up with less self-esteem
2 Time and patience -
that is a fickle one. We tend to label impatience as something bad. But my experience is: as soon as my clients have a concept they love and a roadmap on how to make it happen: they get impatient in the best possible manner. They’re ready to start and show commitment. But it can also go down the other way and become a fear factor. Depending on your personality you can start to worry that change will happen too fast and burn you to, or not fast enough and drag you down with no noticeable improvement of the situation.
3 Public versus private or internal versus external change.
This is all about motivation, stamina, and ultimately dealing with the satisfaction we want to feel. because behind every project lies a life or several lives. The change we seek when working on our homes and the way we live Is not really about the stuff as much as it is about us, the people It’s about you_ the person and making your soul feel good. The stuff was just the tools that will evoke a certain feeling.
I should have put this on no 1 - because first things first. Clarity is so essential because it’s about expectations, security. It’s the main ingredient to in making sure that the project runs smoothly. What is outr level of clarity about the situation, the problem, the process and the solution?
5 And then finally hindsight,
hindsight is always 2020. So in retrospective change is always cohesive because when you’re in the after and you look back to the process, everything makes sense. Every step that you took got you to where you are now. But when you’re still in the before or even in the during phase we don’t have that knowledge and that is be a major source of insecurity.
So. We need to some extent, leave room for human error.
We need to make the difference between insight and practice. If we don't have the luxury of practicing this over and over again, and this is our limited chance of getting it right then it's about the insight. So we need to try to be wise beyond our age. That’s the question upfront: what would need to happen for this project to die? It’s Darfting out the worst case scenario in order to know what not to do.
The usual goals are:
We're trying to avoid overspending. We're trying to avoid stress. We're trying to avoid pain and struggle because in the end, how cool would it be if we could make the entire process enjoyable?
Because again, friend, life is not about the results at the end of the of The process. but it's about the overall quality whilst doing this thing we call life
Life is better when we can take pleasure in it!
How does this sound? Did you find yourself in in any or all of those areas of change when it comes to your past struggles?
Yes? Cool. Stay tuned, because I will make sure to talk to every guest about those points and more.
And maybe you’re about to make a bigger change in your life really soon, I mean the end of the year is close… So let me give you one last nugget of wisdom to bring this episode full circle.
The pandemic messed with our sense of self and was a change FORCED upon us.
God knows, that change is already so freaking hard when it comes from within us. Big, meaningful change is not satisfied with finding simple substitutions as in replace A by B and you’re done.
Big, meaningful & long-term sustainable change requires us to make a shift in identity and how we see ourselves. We need to change the story we tell ourselves about ourselves - past, present and future.
Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes of wisdom, which is:
“Sophistication is the ability to recognize, make (and enjoy) finer distinctions.”
We seek finer distinctions because they add more flavor, more richness and diversity into your life.
So let me make a first finer distinction here for you when it comes to change.
My work and especially my expat life have taught me that There are two different kinds of change that we can make.
One is change to adapt and the other change to transform.
The difference is this: adapting is always for something.
Adapting is about being open, and being able to let other things, new experiences, new knowledge in, into your life and letting them have an effect on you.
Adaptation requires you to be able to be shaken and to question yourself and the truths you hold dear - and possibly to hold two opposing truths at the same time. You need to be able to hold the tension. so adaptation needs confidence upfront. . It needs us to have confidence that whatever comes at us, We can deal with it without this experience harming or traumatizing us.
The other one is transformation and that is a change from something to something else.
So transformation is about setting boundaries. Sometimes it’s about cutting ties or burning brides, but It’s ALWAYS about protecting from harm n order to nurture something we hold dear. Something that maybe isn’t strong enough yet to be shaken and that's okay.
I always have the image of a greenhouse and tender Plants being nourished because they have great potential to grow into something amazing. But for now they need to be kept safe and protected. Those boundaries are meant to hold space for what is most precious at the core for a project of our life, of our desire.
So whenever I struggle if any of them I think of a quote that helps me worry less.
when struggle with adaptation and letting things in and letting them shake me and I find myself being stubborn,.. There's this brilliant French saying that goes as follows: Que les imbeciles….
and I love because it's so blunt and straight in your face. It’s translation would be: just idiots are not able to change their mind.
Oh the French…. Always happy slap you, right?! It makes me laugh and reminds me that I don’t want to be an idiot. I take myself and my triggers less serious when I say this to myself.
so that's my quote for adaptation
The one for transformation and setting boundaries. Is from a stoic philosopher called Epicurious and is not making laugh, but reminding me to be more aware about what I really want and why transformation is neccesary: It’s the phrase: Self-sufficiency is the greatest wealth.
yes. You could lay that out as saying, oh fuck you world. I'm going to do this by myself.
But seriously, It’s exactly the opposite of it.
It's about the more you can take care of yourself, the less you need other people to do that. The more I know, as in build deep inner knowing that I have things to give because I can give them to myself first. Then the more I can share them with others. And my sharing does not come out of a place of need and want and insecurity, but from confidence that I’m competent and able to enrich other peoples lives. “Self-sufficiency is the greatest wealth.”
Okay. Let me recap change is already hard enough when it comes from within us. But when it comes from within us, we have that hope for better. Nobody attempts to make a change with the intention make things worse. Of course not!
but forced change is a whole other game of hard. It just feels not just like a slap in the face, but a car crash because It usually comes out of nowhere and it's just pure uncertainty.
And our lived experience tells us That one change comes rarely on its own. Once you made one change, it usually a chain reaction. There is always more things, and sometimes it's hard to see the end of the change-tunnel.
So let me recap: if more and profound change is on the horizon for you, get clarity first.
Is it a change of adaptation or one of transformation?
Then go through those Qs the different phases of project management that I mentioned at the beginning of the episode - you can also find them under this episode on https://ahwh.ch/change/
And finally: stay tuned, subscribe to this podcast, because I have fantastic guest lined up that will make adaptation and transformation easier for you.
And we’ll next week with Katherine from BDA who helps people make a sound, level-head situation in emotional situations of uncertainty. If’ that’s not a superpower, I don’t know what is.
So hopefully till next week mon ami.
A bientôt - c’est Nic.
Other podcast episodes
Find the posts and episodes you missed before here: