On the recent NextGen online training, “Mastering Change in Government and Beyond,” Carolyn Mooney, Government Coach and Owner of Enough, LLC, started things off with a memorable and unexpected quote: “In government, change happens with some regularity.”
What that means is that while public servants can’t anticipate exactly what kind of changes the passage of time will bring, they can be confident that changes will happen.
This theme was consistent across the rest of the training, as Mooney explained how govies could process changes that have already occurred and prepare for the unpredictable.
The past year has been a tough one for almost everybody, with the pandemic forcing people to adjust to a new way of living that nobody saw coming. Mooney identified six key stressors that have come into people’s lives since the beginning of the year—the pandemic itself, and the resulting issues of working from home, financial concerns, a lack of socialization, stress and uncertainty.
While nearly everyone has been confronted by these problems, not everyone has responded the same way, and therein lies the key to understanding and preparing for change.
Mooney explained that a great deal of the fear and uncertainty around the pandemic came from the fact that we couldn’t control most of its effects—agencies decided which employees needed to work from home, living situations determined who we would be spending our quarantine with, and fear and misinformation caused panic and selfishness among many.
But, Mooney reassured the audience, even in a seemingly unmanageable situation, there are always things that we can control—namely, ourselves and our reactions to events.
What specifically can you control?
Be kind in the language you use when talking to people, Mooney suggested. By striving for a sense of normalcy and prioritizing the relationships and activities that can still bring us joy, we can make the best of a difficult time.
We feel a wide variety of emotions in response to traumatic events, and it is important to acknowledge and understand them. By processing them and identifying their causes, we can mitigate the bad ones and encourage the good ones.
Life is happening to us, Mooney said, and many people are struggling to accept that. While we’d like to believe that we’re in control of everything all the time, acknowledging that that is not the case is a necessary step towards developing the attitude needed to manage change.
Try thinking of it this way, Mooney suggested: You don’t have to go to work; you get to go to work. By shifting to think about the ways in which we are lucky, and what we are fortunate to have, we can put a positive spin on any difficult situation.
For many, the pandemic has meant mixing work and home in a way that can be stressful. Work on recognizing when you’re getting to your work limit before you get there, Mooney suggested. That way, you can avoid taking on tasks that will compound the stress you feel as you manage your job, your household and other responsibilities.
You can survive while parts of the world around you are falling apart, Mooney said, but you have to be in a good place in order to thrive. By focusing on what you can control while acknowledging that which you can’t, you are setting yourself up for success. You can, as Mooney put it, beat 2021 to the punch.
Map out possible concerns for the coming year, she suggested, and plan in advance how you would respond to them. While it’s hard to prepare for any specific change, by following this advice, you can be prepared for the inevitability of some change in 2021.