Making change work

January 5, 2007

Personal Best

Let's face it: Change happens, and it can be unpleasant. Maybe your new senior partners want you to see more patients per day, or your longtime office manager quit, or a severe injury ends your participation in a sport you're passionate about.

While some people jump in and adapt, others may react in one of four ways: by becoming depressed-feeling helpless, hopeless, and unmotivated; anxious-becoming tense, mentally overloaded and disorganized; angry-churning with hostility and blame; and denial-pretending everything is fine, but their emotions surface in less-obvious ways.

No matter what your initial reaction to the change, you can control your attitude toward your new reality. Psychologist Albert Ellis, founder of cognitive behavior therapy, described how people react to change using an ABC mnemonic: A is the Activating event (the change); B is your thoughts or Belief about the event-how you regard it; and C becomes the Consequence of your belief, such as reaction, feeling, and behaviors. If you alter your belief by finding something positive in the situation-or by deciding that life is too short to get too distressed-your feelings can vastly improve.

Here's what to do if change is forced upon you:

Focus on the positive. Look for something good about the situation even if you need a microscope to find it. If you're forced to see more patients, you may find ways to become more efficient; if the group hires a new associate who's now competing with you, you might explore ways to improve your people skills. You don't need to pretend that the negative doesn't exist, but try to view the change objectively. Inventory the gains and losses, which can help balance your emotions.