Change Neon Sign
Photo Credit: by Ross Findon

I recently made the tough decision to change my place of employment; a decision almost purely driven by professional development goals. Change is always difficult, and I think in a lot of ways more difficult when the change is self-imposed.

Regardless of the change we often experience anxiety, stress, fear, hesitation, and all the other feelings stem from simply not knowing something about what’s yet to come. Some people can fly by the seat of their pants and just take it day by day; live in the moment. I, on the other hand, am quite incapable of not knowing what’s going on. So much so that if someone unwisely lets slip that they have a “surprise” for me, I will go to the ends of the earth to figure out what that surprise is, effectively ruining it. That is all to say I feel like I can speak to how hard it can be, but also equally as qualified to potentially help everyone out in that department.

So here’s how I work though new situations.

Regain Perspective

Perspective is important when dealing with change. We often live in the center of our own universe, but we need to remember that we are not alone, as cliché as that might sound. When thinking about a change with you at the center, you might forget that change is not only happening to you but happening as a result of you.

The change applies forces on me in a variety of ways, but it also applies an equal force on the people being affected by my exploration into the unknown. You’re quite literally never experiencing any force of change alone. Remember that.

Set Realistic Expectations

When starting something new it’s important to set realistic expectations for yourself and the others involved. Realistic is very important since you know yourself best, and what you can an can’t accomplish. Communication is important in that respect. It’s easy to make assumptions about how much you should know or don’t know. The important thing is that, because you’re not alone, you ask questions, communicate your needs and along with those expectations that you’ll set, also set up measures of success.

Reality Comic From

Setting measures of success both in the short and long term can provide a path that makes navigating the unknown a little easier. Knowing that you are starting at point A and need to get to point D, you can ask questions along the way to make sure you’re on track toward this new goal. Setting a measure of success not only provides a path but also sets acceptance criteria for your new goals which make asking questions and seeking out information quicker and more pointed. I find this even more helpful when starting something that I have absolutely no prior knowledge of.

Let me share an example. When chose to pick up a camera and “become a photographer” I couldn’t tell you the first thing about how film worked, how the camera worked, what RAW digital files were. It was all Greek to me. So I did some reading about photography and Googled things like “what makes a great photographer?” and “how does a camera work?”. I took time before ever picking up a camera to determine my path and set some goals. After picking up a used DSLR off eBay, that looked a little something like this:

  1. Learn about aperture and shutter speed and how those work together.
  2. Learn about ISO, and how they’re used.
  3. Understand how your camera works. Read the manual.

I wanted to understand the basic fundamentals of photography, so I set three basic areas of knowledge to absorb. This essentially creates my first measure of success and provides three areas in which to concentrate. Being able to take a properly-exposed photo with the DSLR that I purchased is the first step to becoming a “professional” and helped me in forums and Reddit threads to feel more comfortable and know a little bit more about what questions I needed answered, and how to ask those questions, rather than asking questions like “what makes a photographer great”, which is just so abstract.


Breathe In & Breathe Out GIF

No matter how overwhelmed you might feel, it’s never as bad as you think. Breathe, take a step back from your work, and take a walk, or find something to do for an easy win. Change can be exhausting, but it’s important to take time for self-care and reflect on everything that you’re learning. Nothing is worth it if you’re sacrificing your mental and physical health to get there. Nothing.