All About You

All About You: Expect, accept and learn from change

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

“Nothing changes until it becomes what it is.”

I have a depiction of these words above my desk with a picture of a bird escaping its egg below them. It took me a while to understand what this wise expression means, but I think I do now – at least to a degree. It has often helped me handle change.

I wrote about handling change in this column six years ago. But I believe what you and I are going through now makes this topic worth addressing again.

The familiar feels comfortable. However, life is change. Local and worldwide events force change upon us. Could you have imagined last year what’s happening now?

There’s no way – no matter what you and I do – to prevent continuous change. Without it, there would be no progress. To better enjoy your life and handle the immense changes we’re going through, you have to expect, accept and learn from change.

Who you are now is the result of change

Change doesn’t seem to bother me much. It isn’t something I’ve worked on. Since early childhood, I’ve had an extraordinary life with a wide range of mixed experiences, including living in a variety of places, which I think has honed my ability to handle change.

Obviously, the situation we’re all in now – with a pandemic, economic upheaval and social conflict – is exceptional. To many of us, the idea of a major shift in how we interact – and even in the way we do business – can be scary. I’d like to share some thoughts that help me handle change.

“Nothing changes until it becomes what it is.” Here’s a bit of an explanation about this idiom. Do you like who you are right now? I do. I’m not a perfect person who does everything the way he should. I still have all kinds of problems, angst and behavior tics, but who I am now is someone I want to keep, despite all my past misbehaviors. Although I may at times long for my younger days, I’ve changed dramatically since I was a teen (thankfully!) in ways that I love.

Same goes for your present situation and the world in general. Realizing that who you are now is the result of many changes, including difficult ones, can help you feel more optimistic about the changes and challenges you’ll experience in the future.

Go with it

We fear change because it can (and sometimes does) threaten our lifestyle. That’s understandable. Consider our work as safety and health professionals, which is to prevent an adverse change in a person’s life. But this kind of change is quite different than the unpreventable change of what I like to call “everyday living.”

My main tip on not letting change and the thought of it bother you is to wrap your arms around it. Want it. My mother-in-law gave me a book that I cherish: “The Good Old Days – They Were Terrible!” by Otto Bettmann. The safety section is my favorite. If our safety culture hadn’t undergone major changes, children would still be working on milling machines without shoes! But I’ll bet in the 19th century people were upset about many of the changes that were being introduced (such as the horror that electricity was going to bring to our society). More recently, without change we wouldn’t have OSHA and the regulations that have prevented so much misery.

So if you have to change the way you do business, whatever that means, go with it. It’s taken me a bit of time and complaining to realize that I have to be more “virtual,” but so be it. Sure, I’ve had to buy some equipment and learn about lighting, but now I’m excited about what I’m doing. Embrace change. It’s made you who you are.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps safety professionals become better leaders through his keynotes, workshops, articles and books so they can create vibrant safety cultures. His popular “Mindfully Safe” keynote teaches employees how to focus better and improve their situational awareness, a key skill to preventing incidents. To contact Richard, visit makesafetyfun.com.

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