Change is in the air. Actually, change is stalking me. It began with a colleague at work denouncing proposed changes to a project with a rant that ended with the declaration: “Change is not good!” A few days later, one of my LinkedIn professional groups came out with this topic: “Why do you think people resist change and what steps would you recommend to reduce this resistance?” On the heels of that, Hubby’ called: “I’ve been reorganized. The good news is, I still have a job.” And as if all that talk about change wasn’t enough, there was this excellent blog post by Fast Company: Make Change Work for You.
OK, universe. I hear you.
Let’s face it, we’ve all seen our share of change these past two years: economic, housing, employment, financial, healthcare. That’s why Fast Company’s post resonated with me, especially the very first line: “One of the chief reasons that so many people are uncomfortable with change is because it happens to them not for them.”
Knowing that change is inevitable, how can you better handle change and make it happen for you rather than to you? As a creative professional working in marketing for nearly 20 years, I see change as essential to my livelihood. Audiences change, products change, messages change, styles change. And I’ll confess, I crave change–from the fast pace of agency work with ever-changing projects and clients to writing in different voices for different brands and coming up with new ways to engage my audience and sell the beer/spa/IT technology/microwave antenna/casino that I’ve been hired to market.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love the fact that Hubby was reorganized or that a colleague is resistant to new ideas. But I know that change in marketing tactics can help my clients achieve better results. I know that change helps me keep my edge, stay fresh, see new things and see old things in new ways. I embrace new experiences, people and places because I know it will open my mind to new thoughts, fresh ideas and more creativity. For me, change and creativity are interchangeable. I don’t know any other way to live.
Naturally, I have learned to tone down my enthusiasm a few notches so as not to overwhelm people who hate change and give me dirty looks when I start extolling its virtues. Here are three things that you can do today to become more comfortable with change and start using it to boost your creativity:
- Question everything. I remember reading a story once about a woman who always cut off a large chunk off the end of a ham before putting it into a pan to bake it. When her young daughter asked why, the woman replied that she did it because her mother had always done it that way. Curious, the young girl asked her grandmother about it. The grandmother replied, “Oh, well, the pan I always used was too small, so I had to cut the ham so it would fit.” How many hams are you cutting without knowing why? Sometimes just asking questions–not necessarily making a change–can open the door to new ideas.
- Rearrange your surroundings. Move the furniture at home, especially in the rooms you use the most. Rearrange your workspace, even if it’s something as simple as moving your computer from one spot to another. Move the art on your walls. I rearrange the furniture in my creative space several times a year. Sometimes just turning my desk in a different direction unleashes a new idea or helps me solve a problem I’ve been noodling on.
- Do something new every day for a week. New food, new haircut, new book. If you’re a morning person, be a night owl. To get ideas, read articles you wouldn’t normally read. Ask friends and colleagues about their favorite sport, hobbies or authors. An art director colleague of mine loved to make pottery, so I asked if I could tag along sometime and try it. We got to know each other better outside the office, it was a fun way to spend the afternoon, and I got a funky misshapen dish that I made with my own hands. It makes me happy every time I look at it. Best of all, when I got home, I found myself brimming with creative energy that I applied to a short story I had been struggling with all week.
- Say yes when you would normally say no. How many times do you say no without thinking twice? This can set you up to be in a rut, professionally and creatively. Sometimes we say no without even considering a maybe, let alone a yes. Take baby steps: say yes to wearing pink when you always wear black. Say yes to sushi when you always eat steak. You may still hate pink and sushi, but the more you expose yourself to change in smaller doses, the more resilient you will become to change when it happens to you. When weighing heavier options, give yourself permission to explore saying yes before you say no. You may still say no, but at least it will feel like a conscious choice.
Change is tricky to navigate. But you can teach yourself to be more open to change–we can’t always control changes from happening to us, we can control how we respond to it. And when it comes to creativity, change can spark new ideas, inspire innovation and make life feel more meaningful. It reminds me of the 1984 rock documentary parody, This is Spinal Tap, and the rock stars who have an amplifier that goes to “11.” When you declare that change is not good and resist it at every turn, you’re living life with your amplifier set at 3. You’re going to miss some great opportunities, perspectives and insights because you just can’t hear it. So turn that amp up to 11 and listen to what the universe is telling you.