Change Management Training Step 2: Adopt the Right Mindset

Do A Double-Take On The Hand You've Been Dealt

Here you are, staring at the cards life has handed you. And looking back is a “full house” of questions...a fistful of uncertainty.

At first glance maybe you figure this situation doesn’t offer you a half decent chance of winning. But life refuses to shuffle and re-deal. Nobody gets to discard and draw again. Finally, you’re not even allowed to fold—one way or another, this is your hand to play. 

Ok. So long as you’re here at the table, let’s study the cards a little more carefully.

It helps to know a few things about human nature. Let’s start with the fact that people have a highly predictable reaction to uncertainty: Our first scan is for danger. It’s a behavior pattern rooted deep in our survival instincts. We’re just wired that way as human beings. As playwright John Dryden put it, “Selfdefense is Nature’s oldest law.” And that’s what gets triggered when life stacks the deck with uncertainty.

What complicates things is that some people seem unable to get past this first reaction. Their first take is their only take—all they can see in the cards are bad things to come. Naturally, this mindset by itself can knock them out of the game. Nobody’s going to perform well if they think only in terms of losing. To bring out our best, and to lift the odds that things actually unfold in our favor, we must consider the potential upside.

So back to the cards for a second look.

This time, disregard the danger signs. The double-take is for refocusing. Move beyond the natural reflex that prompted you to see uncertainty from a negative slant. Think further, out past your first primal imaginings, where that instinctive wariness yields to a more openminded view of the situation. Use this second scan to search for more promising possibilities, for openings where you can help influence good outcomes.

Now frankly, your present frame of mind may be such that you actually resent this idea of a positive doubletake. And sometimes it proves almost impossible to pull off—especially when you feel angry, heartsick, afraid . . . even desperate. Danger, or the sense of loss, has a very strong magnetic pull on our attention and concentration. As the saying goes, “Bad news chases good news away.” The dark clouds capture our attention well before we’re inclined to go looking for silver linings. Uncertainty typically makes its threats prior to revealing its opportunities.

Just lean back for a bit. Study the situation. It might turn out that you’re sitting there holding one helluva hand. And it could be that it all comes down to how you play those cards.

Life often turns on such little things.

“If we can recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles, we can greet the future and the transformation we are undergoing with the understanding that we do not know enough to be pessimistic.” —Hazel Henderson, The Politics of the Solar Age