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The Chemistry of Change



Brexit, the US Presidential Race, Big Collaboration, Technology, ongoing economic shifts…the list goes on and on…


Regardless of where we live or what we do, we are living in the midst of change and uncertainty. While change can be uncomfortable at best and intimidating or unnerving at worst, it is unavoidable – the one constant in business and in life. Ultimately, when faced with change, we have three options. Let’s look at each…


Stand Up and Oppose the Change: Strong emotions are designed to tell us that action is required. If we don’t believe in the proposed change, when appropriate, it is healthy to stand our ground and constructively oppose the change – for example, mounting a new initiative to move toward something we believe will be even more beneficial. (That is precisely why change is endless.) When we oppose change, it is important to focus the energy of our emotions. The chemistry of such opposition is typically high testosterone, high dopamine, high adrenalin, high cortisol and high oxytocin. We bond with each other under duress and form opposing groups of like–minded people. Focus is the operative word here because we need to maintain focus in order to be constructive. Where protest becomes destructive the chemicals cortisol and adrenalin rise too high and we lose control. To create the arguments and action required to effectively oppose change we require a clear head and clear vision of what it is we DO want, not only what we DON’T want. There is one simple technique that offers the best way to keep cortisol at a balanced level – paced breathing. It is well researched that paced-breathing brings emotions under control and enables us to maintained cognitive function under pressure. In highly charged situations, paced breathing is your saviour!


Become a Victim of the Change: In the business context, too often people resist change – deciding to sit change out – because they believe that it is the flavour of the day. Why invest time in embracing change today, when there will no doubt be a different change initiative tomorrow? That resistance to change is often seen as fear of change. In fact, human beings like change if they think it will bring rewards, but what they really fear is loss. The sense of loss leads to disempowerment, the chemistry of which is high cortisol and low testosterone, high oxytocin. That chemical cocktail creates a sense of being a victim, which can become chronic disempowerment. Boosting testosterone using good posture techniques, and using a re-framing technique, such as the one in our curriculum, the Chemistry of Optimism is the way out of such disempowerment.


Embrace the Change and Move Forward: Every team member in an organization and every member of the community can be engaged in identifying the positive opportunities that come with change. We can all play a role in increasing the rate of and receptivity to change. A significant step in embracing change is letting go of the past – marking transition moments, reaching out, learning lessons and moving forward. The Chemicals/neurotransmitters and hormones that we need in order to do this are:

Testosterone = Confidence to move into new Territory

Oxytocin = Social bonding – building bridges

Serotonin = Status and well-being

Dopamine = Motivation towards goals


Here are some simple strategies for creating the chemistry for effectively embracing change:


To get your T E S T O S T E R O N E U P: Face up squarely to what has happened and reflect this in your posture and body stance. Make your stance strong and grounded, shoulders wide and square.. Yes, women and men both need testosterone during times of change.


To get your O X Y T O C I N U P: Reach out to others in your industry or community, and share experiences, feelings and thoughts. This will boost your own oxytocin levels and theirs. The quality of your relationships, the trust, will enable you to be resilient.


To bring S E R O T O N I N U P: Learn Lessons and generate a healthier self-regard, sense of status and well-being. Be agile in your thinking and acknowledge strong emotions. What will you take forward, and what do you want to leave behind? What are you proud of, what are your regrets?


To bring D O P A M I N E U P: Visualise a new long term future and sense what it will feel like, what you want it to be. Close your eyes and imagine what that future will be. This may be challenging. Visualising a future that we desire releases dopamine and dopamine is the great motivator. Only then can we can articulate it rationally, and take action. Add some milestones along the way, and you are ready to move forward.


The bottom line is that in the face of any change, we need to find our own way to move forward – positively – whether in support of or in opposition to the change – conceiving of a new reality and taking decisive and constructive action with a focus on positive impact and innovation.


#managingchange #stressmanagement #uncertainty #changemanagement

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