Tag: Breaking Patterns

Founders Corner – Breaking Patterns

“We all require and want respect, man or woman, Black or White. It’s our basic human right.” These are the words from singer, songwriter and pianist, the late Aretha Franklin. Her music can often be heard coming from my classroom wherever in the world I’m developing leaders.

We begin February celebrating Black History month. We are also celebrating American Heart Month, Cancer Prevention Month, Valentine’s Day, and Self-Check Month. Also later in February we are celebrating National Entrepreneurship Week.

What’s the significance of these celebrations to Triple Axel Executive Coaching? Each celebration speaks to the anniversary of our February 2022 blog on Restorative Self-Care.

Here at Triple Axel Executive Coaching we urge you to tend to your heart, prevent cancer, love others and yourselves this valentines with a restorative self-care, self-check!

Hi, I’m Byron Darden welcoming you to another edition of Leading with Purpose on Purpose. In this installment of our continuing series on Transition our focus is on Breaking Patterns: The Neuroscience of Facing Change

The one constant in all our lives is change. So we’ll take deeper dive into how we’ve come to resist change. Then explore how to manage it more effectively and hopefully minimizing being triggered by it when change presents its inevitable face. Enjoy.

This month’s blog begins with Breaking Patterns: The Neuroscience of Facing Change.

Breaking Patterns: The Neuroscience of Facing Change

Change is inevitable. At times, it is welcomed. At other times, it comes unexpectedly. The key is how we react to it. We base our actions on past experiences and our parents are often models for our behavior. The fact that your parents may have gone to college and worked a corporate job likely influenced your choice of profession. They may have set overt expectations or disapproved of your unconventional choice. 

Today’s job market and career possibilities are vastly different than when past generations entered the job market. Gone are the days when one started their career with one company and stayed until retirement. Enter times of uncertainty where one will likely change jobs and careers several times between age 18 and retirement. I have experienced this in my career – from professional ice skater to executive coach (and a few more deviations in between). I’ve experienced a lot of change and made numerous transitions.

In this blog, we will talk about facing change and what we can do when faced with modifying or altering the current state. We can embrace it and work through the discomfort, run from it, or freeze and stay with the status quo. 

Why do we fear change and how can we push through to achieve our purpose and goals?

Next up – The Role of the Brain in change.

The Role of the Brain

Change involves facing the unknown. As human beings, we like the familiar. It offers a sense of security. Even when we can clearly see that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, we stay in our lane because we know what to expect. 

The neuroscience of change involves examining how the brain reacts to and deals with shifts in the environment. When change occurs, different parts of the brain, like the prefrontal cortex and amygdala, come into action. The prefrontal cortex assesses the new situation and potential benefits, while the amygdala, responsible for emotions, may trigger feelings of fear or anxiety due to uncertainty. 

The brain’s ability to reorganize itself, known as neuroplasticity, is crucial for adapting to change by forming new connections and acquiring skills needed for new situations. Understanding this neuroscience can help develop strategies to manage resistance, improve adaptability, and encourage positive responses during times of transition.

Curious as to why you might fear change? Keep reading to learn about Change Factors.

Change Factors

Fear of Change by Byron Darden

The fear of change, known as metathesiophobia or neophobia, is the discomfort or anxiety people feel when they anticipate alterations in their familiar environment or routines. It’s a common human reaction as change often brings uncertainty and the unknown, causing unease.

This fear can appear in different ways, from mild discomfort to intense anxiety. When we fear change, we may resist or avoid new elements in our lives or systems of which we are a part. We may be driven by a desire to maintain the current state because we fear negative outcomes.

The fear of change is a complex emotion influenced by personal experiences, personality traits, cultural background, indoctrination, and the nature of the change itself. Understanding and addressing this fear is crucial for personal development, organizational management, and societal progress since change is a constant and inevitable part of life.

This fear of the unknown is often rooted in various factors:

  • Stepping Outside one’s comfort zone: A key principle in my coaching as I’ve been coaching clients to do this for over 20 years. Learning from years of examples too numerous to count, I’ve discovered that doing so allows us to grow and develop new skills, ways of thinking, and approaches to problem-solving. Stirring things up serves as a path through transitions. 
  • Loss of control is a fascinating concept given the only thing we have control of is our response to life as it happens. Even though I know this all too well, I still get caught up in the ‘need to control’ mindset which I find is an ineffective use of time and energy.
  • Fear of failure can stop us mostly because of our belief that we are unworthy. Nothing could be further from the truth. It would be great to have the opportunity to sit down with a group of close friends and have them remind us why they are in our lives. Should failure be true, why would they stick around? I recall the 1991 movie Soapdish when Sally Field’s character, Maggie, the actress, conspired with one of her friends to go to the local mall and pretend to be a fan who spots her on the escalator, making a big deal about the star being out in public. It was a boost to her ego and emotional grounding that afforded her the ability to return to her life with more confidence.
  • Lack of confidence is a constant companion we learn to shake over and over again. It is a process much like learning to figure skate or learning to meditate. It is through repetition that we learn to master whatever it is we wish to accomplish. It can be seen as a test of our ability to overcome discomfort. Yet the road to overcome discomfort is to feel the fear and do it anyway. Much the same way, we will find discomfort in healing and feel discomfort should we choose not to heal. Either way, there will be discomfort. The difference is how that discomfort will grow in negative ways should we choose not to heal. 
  • Break in routine or predictability is not easy for most of us. We find this in the patterns we develop neurologically as the synapses connect our patterns of thinking, behaving, speaking, and reacting to any one of these or all four.
  • Loss or change of social dynamics is something anyone experiences from time to time, particularly when we move from one geographical location to another. I know this for myself to be true as I’ve lived in nine different places in my life. 
  • Past trauma can trigger the fight, flight, freeze, fawn, or friend reactions. I urge you to explore our January 2024 blog on Trauma.
  • Cultural factors can play a role in adapting to change, especially when the change goes against our cultural norms.
  • Overwhelm is a recognized response to dealing with the fear that comes with the unknown. I speak to this in my November 2023 blog on Leadership and Resilience. What can be comforting in the midst of one’s overwhelm is the fact that the breakdowns we face when things get tough at the office or at home are evidence that a breakthrough is about to occur. When you think about it, our entire being is responding to what is happening to us. Which is significantly informed by our neurological patterns that sometimes send us down the rabbit hole of anxiety.
  • Uncertainty about the future is a concern for many of us . The best advice I can give here is to keep learning and growing and focus on the present while preparing for the future. Action might involve continuing education and networking to ensure you are aware of opportunities.

Click here to learn how to Reframe Your Beliefs.

Reframing Your Beliefs

Reframe by Byron Darden

Changing often involves rewriting the stories we’ve been told or lessons we’ve been taught. You’ve probably heard the saying “money doesn’t grow on trees”, meaning that there are finite financial resources and that you’ll need to work hard and say no to a lot of things and experiences to be successful in life when defined by the amount of money you have. This phrase limits your beliefs about abundance. Here are some more examples of well-known phrases and alternative ways to reframe these beliefs:

Instead of Consider This
At the end of the dayWhen the sun sets
Think outside the boxPush the walls of the box out
Bring to the tableShare your thoughts
Break down the silosWork together
Ducks in a rowCome prepared
Push the envelopeTest the limits
Pain PointChallenge
Circle BackLet’s Revisit This
Keep Me in the LoopProvide regular updates 
On my RadarIn my Focus

Reframing is a useful approach when you are feeling stuck. It allows you to imagine a larger variety of outcomes, and connect with others on a different level. Reframing allows you to shift from a mindset of judgment to one of curiosity. Once you get a different perspective on change, you can adapt to it more easily.

Keep reading to discover ways to Reduce Stress.

Reducing Stress

There are coping skills based on evidence that we can draw upon to turn the tide, help us overcome the overwhelm, and get us back on track. Here are some suggestions. 

Just Breathe

Breathing exercises are a powerful way to combat what is getting in your way of recovery. Different ways of breathing can provide us with the stress reduction we need to help our thinking simply by reoxygenating the blood. Not just for our bodies, breathing techniques and also for our brains. Fresh oxygen to the brain helps clear the cloudiness and provides what our brain needs most. Shortness of breath can be a major factor in contributing to the overwhelm that leads to the fear of the unknown. 

Get Social

Expanding our social connections with others is another way to deal with what is happening to our being that can plague our performance. I know for myself that when I feel this way, I tend not to be as social. I’ve learned to change that mindset and get out among people. You might very well come across someone else who’s having a difficult time. Just because you made the effort and found them, the connection could be just what you both needed to heal. The old saying, ‘misery loves company’ is not my favorite way to look at it and yet, there is comfort in the sentiment considering how much more effectively we deal with anxiety when we discover we are not the only one. 

Trust Yourself

Demonstrating self-compassion is another antidote to overcome the sometimes debilitating impact of facing change. In my February 2022 blog on Restorative Self-Care, I map out ways you can develop your practice of self-compassion. 

Write it Out

Journaling is yet another useful tool in getting back on track. I urge all of my clients at the start of every coaching engagement to start and maintain a leadership journal. It is a powerful way to gain insight and support from within, from which all our needs can be met with a little practice and discipline. 

One of the most helpful ways to journal is not by typing, but rather by picking up a pen and paper. A direct connection between the body and heart comes from the physical act of writing, for which a keyboard relationship becomes a wall between you and your inner self. As much as I value my keyboard to write – when it comes to journaling, writing is a therapeutic activity in and of itself. 

Read about My Reaction to Change.

My Reaction to Change

I recall a time, not very long ago when I too experienced the temporary setback that comes from facing change and the unknown that accompanies it. I’d begun working on a certification to enhance my coaching when I discovered there was more to the curriculum than I originally thought. The process required much more time than I allotted. 

Not having had eyes on the extent of what I’d agreed to and thought I was finished with the coursework, I began working on my MBA. Weeks after the course began, I discovered I was nowhere near done with the first certification and now I had committed to the rigor of a Masters in Business Administration. In addition, I was also facing a huge marketing project for my coaching work and barely had time to sleep and study. By the time I finished my MBA, the coursework for the certification, and reached the halfway point of my marketing project, I hit rock bottom. I knew I had to implement some type of recovery plan. 

What did I do? 

I didn’t strike out for Disneyland! Instead, I dropped everything and decided to visit my family. 12 days of nothing except family and close family friends, I immersed myself in the familiar company of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Doing so did not help matters at work because I was getting further behind. Yet those twelve days made a huge difference in restoring my energy and providing me time for plenty of rest with high doses of relaxation and laughter. 

I was also planning a trip to Egypt that was thwarted by compromises I did not want to accept. Instead, I postponed my trip and went to France for a week with one of my cousins. Did that help me get ahead? No! Yet, by doing the unthinkable and getting away, I was able to return to work and sense a renewal of my spirit and energy that I desperately needed to cope. All of that to say, sometimes pushing forward is the most unproductive choice we can make when what we really need is a break.

Discover the dynamics of moving from Judgment to Curiosity.

Judgment to Curiosity

According to a report by Gartner, 73% of change-affected employees experience moderate to high stress levels. Tools such as breathing, journaling, connecting with others, and developing a greater sense of compassion can alleviate stress. 

Over 80% of employees report difficulty with competing priorities during a change and struggle to find balance. This stress affects performance. Culture-informed judgment is one of the biggest factors to consider. In a nutshell, culture-informed judgment is the influence of one’s cultural background, values, and beliefs in the decision-making process.

Understanding the role of culture in judgment is crucial for fostering effective communication, collaboration, and mutual understanding among individuals from diverse backgrounds. It helps to recognize that what may be considered appropriate or rational in one culture might be perceived differently in another. Moreover, acknowledging cultural nuances in judgment can lead to more inclusive and respectful interactions.

This is where thoughtful transitions can help us manage change because a solid plan for how to get from the current state to the desired future state is established from the start. There are times when our plans are thwarted or interrupted. That is just a part of life. Our next step is to revisit our plan and make mindful adjustments to keep us moving on our desired path.

Find out how to embrace and Thrive Through Change.

Thrive Through Change

“Healing involves discomfort, but so does refusing to heal. And, over time, refusing to heal is always more painful.” -Resmaa Menakem

Our instinct when faced with a change is to react. A more effective action is to stop and take a moment to think about the change. By doing so, we allow ourselves to gain a deeper understanding of the situation, consider potential consequences, and make informed decisions rather than simply reacting on instinct alone.

Embracing change can be a transformative journey, and understanding its impact on your life is crucial. When you find yourself grappling with significant changes in your life and would like a supportive space to explore their effects, I encourage you to take the next step. 

Booking a call with me provides an opportunity for us to engage in a thoughtful conversation about the changes in your life, how those changes are affecting you and your career, and explore strategies to navigate them successfully. Your well-being is important, and a conversation can be the first step toward clarity and empowerment. Schedule a call, and let’s navigate this journey together.