The University Record, March 8, 1993

Changing for the better

Change is one of life’s inevitables. We can accept it and make it a positive experience or reject it and risk growing bitter and resentful, according to psychologist Ruby L. Beale and Denise L. White, employment representative in the Medical Campus Human Resources Department.

Beale and White led a workshop titled “Bitter or Better: The Personal and Professional Challenge of Change” at the Feb. 26 People of Color Career Conference sponsored by the Women of Color Task Force.

For personal or professional changes to have a positive impact, certain conditions must be present, according to Beale and White. They include:

—Strong desire for change.

—Use of support systems.

—Effective use of time to evaluate and absorb the change.

White invited the more than 60 conference participants who attended the workshop to give the word “change” a positive connotation, to think of change as correcting, modifying, replacing, reversing, even transforming.

Among the common barriers to turning change into a positive experience, according to Beale, are:

—Underestimating yourself

—Negative self image/esteem

—Confusion

—Fear of failure

—Going it alone

—Perfectionism

—Low energy level

Four steps of change

White outlined four steps of change, beginning with denial. That’s what happens when a person is blind-sided, as when an employee is told her job no longer exists. The person is stunned, numb and may initially minimize the change, telling herself “it is no big deal.”

Denial is followed by resistance. Angry and upset, the person experiences loss and hurt and may start to blame others and complain. Resistance often manifests itself in a sudden increase in sick time taken for ailments such as headaches and stomachaches.

“One of the worst things that can happen is that you start to doubt your abilities,” White explained.

The third step is exploration. “You kick into warp 10, start mobilizing resources, clarify goals and expectations, possibly sign up for classes,” White said, adding that the exploration phase can be chaotic but is a positive step.

The final step is commitment. The person knows where she is headed, is focused and balanced. She taps into other people and resources who can help her make the change, to reach her goals, White said.

To ensure success, goals for change need to be reasonable, understandable, measurable, believable and achievable, according to Beale.