Episode 124: How to Change When Change is Scary with Dr Claire Kaye
Whether you like it or not, change happens to everyone, all the time. Knowing how to change and what comes with it is a must for everyone, especially those of us in high-pressure jobs who often need to act quickly and decisively. You may not always choose to make a change, but you can choose how you accept and make it easier for both yourself and those around you.
Change can definitely be scary. However, it doesn’t always have to be a difficult experience. Dr Claire Kaye joins us in this episode to talk about how you can approach change proactively. Whether you dislike change or thrive on it, her insights and enlightening tips will help you make the most of the opportunities in your life.
Are you undergoing a difficult change right now? Learn more about how to change even when change is scary in this episode of You Are Not a Frog.
Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
Find out why your approach to change, whether you hate it or love it, can define your experiences.
- Discover opportunities and gifts from experiencing change.
- Learn how you can persevere through and embrace changes in your life, no matter how impossible it seems.
[06:00] How to Approach Change
[6:35] ‘The people that embrace change — the people that see change as an opportunity — and have a mindset where it’s really about growth and sort of taking on new challenges and that excitement of change actually have a fast, smoother path, even in really difficult change.’ – Click Here to Tweet This
[07:42] Enforced VS Created Change
[10:45] How to Face Barriers in Change
[13:45] ‘Fear can come in at different points. I think it really comes down to this sense of needing to know what it is you truly want. That’s the stumbling block that a lot of people struggle with, which is where coaching and self-coaching come in.’ – Click Here to Tweet This
[14:03] The Process of How to Change
[19:16] Going Through the Five Stages
The stages of change are similar to the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
- This is particularly helpful for those struggling with change.
- Claire also went through these stages. At the end of her journey, she found that the result wasn’t as bad as she expected it to be.
- Her grandmother used to say, ‘Anticipation of change is far worse than the change itself.’
[22:13] Leading Change
[22:57] ‘Understanding and listening, and creating a supportive environment as somebody that leads change, and being kind and transparent (…) that is so important in change.’ – Click Here to Tweet This
[26:04] ‘There’s always a gift in the adversity. If you’re someone that struggles with change, or has been labelled as struggling with change like I was, looking for the gift is really useful. – Click Here to Tweet This
[26:32] Coping With Change: Finding Opportunities
[27:11] ‘Once you start to realise that change is going to happen anyway, and the opportunity is in change, it just changes your mindset a little bit and makes it less scary.’ – Click Here to Tweet This
[28:50] The Consequences of Staying Still
[30:51] ‘That question about “What will happen if I do nothing?” is incredibly powerful, particularly with the environment at the moment, where so many professionals, particularly doctors, are burnt out. It’s not okay. We shouldn’t have to feel like that.’ – Click Here to Tweet This
[32:25] How to Change: The Starting Line
[47:13] Claire’s Top Tips on How to Change
[49:24] Making Space for Changes
- Change does not have to happen all at once. Take it slowly and space out both the big and small changes.
- Create space for change to happen. This space allows you to cope better and see the gifts and opportunities that come from change.
[50:29] ‘Create the space to allow [change] to happen, so that you can look after yourself and actually make it less painful and potentially help you to find the gift in it.’ – Click Here to Tweet This
Dr Claire Kaye is a former General Practitioner and is now an Executive Coach who knows what it means to undergo changes in her life. She specialises in career development and self-coaching. Claire is ILM-certified and is a member of the Association of Coaching.
Claire has explored and created opportunities throughout her career. She is also a keynote speaker and often guests on podcasts to share her experiences in coaching and clinical topics. She is also a lead GP Advisor for the British Medical Journal conferences and has held seminars and workshops on medical education.
If you want to learn more and her extensive experience in medicine and coaching, check out her website. You can also connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and email.
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The people that embrace change — the people that see change as an opportunity — and have a mindset where it’s really about growth and taking on new challenges and the excitement of change actually have a fast, smoother path, even in really difficult change.
Whereas those that actually kind of fight it and feel really angry and frustrated by it and, ‘Why is this happening? This isn’t fair. I’m not going to change. It was good as it was,’ type attitude. Actually, the change still generally happens, but they tend to have a much rockier path.
Rachel Morris: Do you feel stuck? Are there things in your life that you know need to change, but the thought of doing so is just too scary? Or perhaps you don’t have the time or headspace to even begin to think about how to start? Just like death and taxes, one thing’s for certain in this life: that change is constant. Now, this can be enforced change or changes that we’ve chosen, and both can be scary in their own way.
In a previous podcast, all about the regrets of the dying — do check out episode 123 if you haven’t already — we heard about how people’s biggest regret is often the thing that they didn’t do, or the thing that they didn’t change. But just how do you get unstuck when it feels like you’re out of options? And how do you get the courage to change things when the outcome is far from guaranteed?
This week, Dr Claire Kaye, former GP and careers coach, is back on the podcast to talk about how to embrace change rather than to fear it. We talk about the common mindsets that can help or hinder us and discuss some practical tips and tools you can use to get you started.
You Are Not a Frog is all about inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you will live and work and giving you some tools to help you beat burnout and work happier. But this is down to you. Remember, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
Deciding to make a change is the first step, so listen to this podcast to find out the real reasons why people fail to make the changes they need to, how understanding your ‘why’ can help you when the going gets tough in any change, and some simple tips to get you started.
Welcome to You Are Not A Frog podcast for doctors and busy professionals in healthcare and other high-stress jobs, if you want to beat burnout, and work happier.
I’m Dr. Rachel Morris, a former GP, now working as a coach, speaker, and specialist in resilience at work. Like frogs in a pan of slowly boiling water, many of us have found that exhaustion and stress are slowly becoming the norm. But you are not a frog; you don’t have to choose between burning out or getting out. In this podcast, I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues, and experts — all who have an interesting take on this — and inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you will live and work.
In health and social care right now, you may be struggling with overwhelming demand, increasing patient expectations, and spiralling workloads. Throughout May and June, we’ve been releasing a brand new mini video series all about how to say no with confidence so that you can focus on the things that really matter. There’s still time to sign up for this free training by clicking on the link in the show notes.
If you’re a leader in health and social care, you may be wondering how you can help your team members do this, so we’re also offering a free webinar on how to help your team prioritise powerfully, say no with confidence, and handle pushback, where we’ll go through all the principles we teach in the mini series in much more depth and give you additional tools to use in one-to-one conversations with your teams.
There’ll also be some time for live Q&A with myself and Annie Hanekom. If you can’t make it to the live webinar, then do sign up anyway, and we’ll send you a link to the recording. Just click on the link in the show notes to sign up, and if it’s helpful, please do share this with your colleagues. It’s wonderful to have with me again back on the podcast one of our You Are Not A Frog favourites. Dr Claire Kaye. So Hi, Claire, welcome back.
Claire Kaye: Hi, thanks for having me.
Rachel: Your episodes always get lots and lots of downloads. They’ve been incredibly popular. Now, for those of you that have not encountered Claire before, Claire is an executive coach. She specialises in career development, and she’s a former portfolio GP, so she knows all about what it’s like to change your career when you’ve been on sort of one career path, one career track, and then change into something different.
Now, Claire, we’re going to be talking about change today because one thing is certain — is change is constant. Another thing is we’ve got huge amounts of change in general following the pandemic, with the way that everyone has had to change the way they’re working, whether they’re healthcare professionals on the front line, or whether they’re in offices, and they’re coping with virtual hybrid working, all these sorts of things.
But the reason why this is particularly timely is that very recently, we released the podcast with Georgina Scull, all about her book Regrets of the Dying. The thing that really struck me about that podcast and I found that podcast incredibly challenging and incredibly moving. If anyone wants to listen to something pretty, pretty challenging, go back and listen to that podcast.
But the real take home message for me from that podcast is people, at the end of their lives, regretted most what they didn’t do — the changes that they didn’t make — than the things that they did do. In your experience of life and people, and patients and coachees, would you agree with that, Claire?
Claire: I would. But I think it’s understandable why people are scared of change. It’s really interesting because, as a coach, I see people go through change in the coaching room. They bring change to discuss, and it’s really fascinating how different people approach change in different ways. There were the lovers and the haters. I think it’s actually very possible to go from being a hater to a lover and vice versa, actually, depending on your experience of change.
I think that’s really important. As an observer, watching people in the coaching room, the people that embrace change — the people that see change as an opportunity — and have a mindset where it’s really about growth and sort of taking on new challenges and that excitement of change actually have a fast, smoother path, even in really difficult change.
Whereas those that actually kind of fight it and feel really angry and frustrated by it and, ‘Why is this happening? This isn’t fair. I’m not going to change. It was good as it was,’ type attitude. Actually, the change still generally happens, but they tend to have a much rockier path. So I suppose that approach to change, I think, is really important, and this thing about accepting that change is always happening.
Like you’ve mentioned, lots of different things that have changed really recently. There are obviously big things, but change happens every single day. All the time, things are changing. We think we’ve got something in place, and it changes. It might just be a simple plan about collecting the kids or going to the theatre or something. But plans constantly change, and how you approach change actually really feeds into your wellbeing and your opportunity.
Rachel: Do you see a difference between people who have change forced on them and people who choose to make the change? Because as you were saying, talking about people that if it was self-imposed and they’ve chosen it, seemed to cope a lot better.
I mean, I can see that in myself. If I’ve chosen to do something, I’m all excited about it. If I’m forced to do something against my will or hadn’t planned it or whatever, I found it much harder. Is that universal?
Claire: Oh, definitely. I’ve coined a little phrase of my own, which is kind of to categorise those two exact things that you’ve mentioned. Enforced change naturally feels much harder but doesn’t have to be. I’m going to give you some tips about how it doesn’t have to be. Whereas created change, which is that thing that you do or we do as individuals to move forwards, actually feels much easier.
If you’re somebody that doesn’t like change, created change will be much easier to handle, even if you don’t change your mindset. But enforced change can be really difficult. I’ll give you an example. When I was a lot younger, my loved ones around, we get, ‘Oh, you’re not good with change.’ I always just go, ‘Alright, we change? It’s fine. I can deal with change.’ But actually, looking back, I probably wasn’t that good with change.
That came to a head when I was working in a GP practice as a salaried doctor, and a whole catalogue of things happen — nothing to do with me, but outside of my control. In the end, what happened was our practice was taken over, and we were TUPE’d to another local practice. That change was so enormous. I can’t explain to you, and it really, really unsettled me. It really, really unsettled the team, and it felt insurmountable.
It led to a whole other catalogue of things that happened that actually possibly didn’t need to happen, because we couldn’t cope very well with the change. But I think, as I have grown, as I’ve gone through coaching, and as I’ve talked to people more and as I’ve kind of taken on this comment from family and friends about, ‘Oh, you’re not good with change.’ Actually, I’ve managed to change my own mindset so that I can find enforced change more palatable and created change just so exciting.
So, I think that there is definitely these two categories, and it’s important, and we’ll talk about this towards the end. But one of my top tips actually is about labelling the change. So, you know in your head, right? ‘Is this my choice that I’ve decided to leave my job? I’ve decided to do something else. It feels scary. Oh, my goodness, this change is difficult. But actually, this is really what I want.’
Or is this actually enforced where, ‘You know what, ‘I don’t want to be changing jobs. I don’t want to be moving into something else. This is against my will. I don’t want to make this work.’ That feels very different.
Rachel: As you’re saying that, I was also thinking enforced change feels harder. Created change feels easier. But then, if you hit barriers, if it’s an enforced change, you just get on with it, because you have to, because you’ve got no control. But if you’re creating change, you’ve created it yourself. If you hit barriers and it starts to get a little bit difficult, I think that’s when it then maybe seems really hard, because ‘Oh, hey, I chose to do this. I created this for myself.’ ‘Oh, no, I’ve made the wrong decision.’ Maybe that’s the bit that starts to feel hard.
Claire: Yeah, definitely. I’ve seen this with somebody that I was working with it. She decided to move roles. It was really clearly thought through, and she was very sure why she was moving.
She handed in her resignation, and then during the period that she was having to work the last few weeks of her time there, she suddenly had a complete emotional crisis, and was like, ‘Oh, my goodness. I made a completely wrong decision, I should just stay where I am.’ Better the devil I am; what the better the devil you know. What am I doing? Ah!’
She would have quite easily walked away from the change that she created because it felt scary, and that fear block is massive. But I suppose that’s where it comes to the point about looking about how you cope with change and almost having an advanced plan. If you’re creating your own change, knowing where you’re sticking crisis points, blocks, difficult bits are, and having a plan in place to cope with that bit, is actually crucial. Then, you can move past the change.
What she did at that point, interestingly, was that, ‘Okay, I always feel like this at this point in change. It’s okay. I need to remind myself of why I made the decision to do this in the first place. Those reasons are still valid. Okay, what do I need to do now? I need to sit in the change. I need to allow myself to feel the fear.’ Go, ‘Okay, I’m allowed to be scared. This is scary, but it’s the right decision for me. If it isn’t, I’ve got a backup plan, or get out once the change has been made — once I’ve sat in the change as opposed to before the change.’
Rachel: It’s fear that stops us, isn’t it? Not that the change is the wrong thing, but it’s the theory. Back to the podcast I recorded with Gina. She underwent some very difficult health problems, and then started on this,’What am I going to regret at the end of my life?’ She realised that she wanted to change that she needed to make was ending her relationship. That was really, really hard.
She said she cried for a year while it was happening; that she always knew it was the right thing to do. I think that’s probably what we get wrong, is we think that it’s if it’s the right thing to do, it’s going to go swimmingly. We’re always going to feel really, really happy about it. Then, when we hit those blocks and we hit those barriers, when it becomes hard and we start to fear, that’s when it becomes really tricky.
We may backtrack and not follow through with it. Then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s like, ‘Well, the changes didn’t work.’ No, of course it didn’t, because you didn’t persevere with it.
Claire: Absolutely. But also, the fear can even come in before that, because it’s interesting that, she, it sounds like — I haven’t listened to that podcast yet. Well, I look forward to — but it may have been that she’d actually been thinking about ending that relationship for some time. But the fear had stopped her at that point, too. So the fear can come in at different points. I think it really comes down to this sense of needing to know what it is you truly want.
I think that’s the stumbling block that a lot of people struggle with, which is where coaching and self-coaching come in. Yes, I am totally biased because— but I’ve seen them work. I think that the thing is that when you’re making a change, and you aren’t clear about why you want that change or why that change is helpful or why that change is an opportunity, then it can feel even more scary.
Whereas if you’re clear on that bit to begin with, actually, that helps you to initiate the change and follow through with the change.
Rachel: Is that the first thing you would suggest people do when they’re approaching this? You just actually identify what the reasons are, or that some steps you have to take before then?
Claire: I think the first thing even for that is because obviously we’re talking more about created change, but sometimes changes kind of happen and you don’t even notice, then you just know that you feel unsettled. I’d say that before that stage is just noticing that you are about to change or changing. That notice bit is really important. Then I go on to say, ‘Right. Okay, well, you’ve noticed that there is change happening or about to happen, now work out whether is it the forced change or the created change?’
Then the next bit is thinking about, ‘Okay, how do I feel about that change? How do I feel about this process?’ Because you might be like some people I’ve worked with, ‘Yes, I love change.’ No, they’re change agents. They’re change makers. They thrive off change. They need to change. Actually, change for them is actually the very sort of heartbeat of them, almost. It’s that bit that actually really gets them out of bed. It’s their purpose.
For them, that’s brilliant, feeling to be part of change. But for those that feel, ‘Actually I feel unsettled. I feel uncertain, I feel anxious.’ Then, that’s the point we need to start. ‘Okay, what can you do in this situation?’ I think one of the most useful things to do in that situation is to think about change that you’ve been through in the past, and think about what worked for you then. That’s the most personal thing to do.
Because I can give you lots of tips and tricks, but the tip that works for me, or for the whichever coach you’ve talked about this, might actually not be your tip. Looking back in your life and saying, ‘Okay, this was a major change.’ Maybe when you moved house or moved countries or got a partner or left a partner or moved roles or whatever the change, is thinking about, ‘What did I feel at that time? What helped me? What could I have done differently that could have helped me even more? Who helped me?’
There’s also this sense of needing to look after yourself in a change. If you’re one that loves change, and you thrive off it, it’s really important to ensure that you’ve got enough reserves to give all that energy to it. But if you’re somebody that finds change more difficult, it’s really important, the same, that you’ve got enough energy to support yourself during that.
That comes back to these basic things like making sure you’re sleeping, even when you’re feeling worried; making sure you’re eating, even though it feels like there’s too much to do and too much, ‘ I can’t cope,’ and all that; making sure that you are talking and communicating with people are going through a similar change to you or have been through this change before. All of those things help to manage the change and allow you to look after yourself better.
Then the big, big one for me, which I think is universal, actually, is this thing. I know we talk a lot about this, but it’s about control. So, where does the control lie within this change? If we think about in the NHS being deployed to another role during the pandemic, obviously, there was no control in that. There was nothing that people could do to say, ‘I don’t. I’m not doing that role.’
But there was plenty that they could do to actually find where they could influence things. That might be that they spent some time educating themselves about their new role, talking to people who are already doing that role, and debriefing after they done shift, so that they could then talk about how they’re feeling about it.
There’s where the control sits. They couldn’t change it. They had to do it. But there were things that they could do, so every situation has elements of control. Every change has elements of control. It’s just trying to—
Rachel: To stay in your, I call it your zone of power. So yes, where you’re in control of that it’s just such good advice in any situation that you’re in where you’re feeling a bit stuck, or a bit anxious. Where are you in control? What can you do? And what choices do you have?
Okay, as you were talking about people’s emotions that they’re feeling, and when they get frightened, when it becomes hard, when they feel anxious and stressed. I was just thinking, well, that is just what happens to you during change.
In the training, we talk about the change curve and the different stages of change, which I think can be really helpful to people to understand that it’s actually normal to feel some of those emotions. It doesn’t mean that the change is wrong or, that you’re a weak person or that you can’t cope. But it’s completely normal. And I know that a lot of the work around change was based on some of the work around grief as well. So the change curve is very similar to the sort of Kübler-Ross grief cycle, isn’t it?
Claire: Yeah. I mean, there are pieces of work that actually describe the stages of change. And as you say, they’re very similar to grief. I think this applies more to people who find it difficult to cope with change, and more, again, to the enforced side of it. Because if you are somebody that just loves change, I don’t necessarily think this really fits.
But the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. If I just think about, you know, my own example that I was talking about when we were TUPE’d and moved over to this other practice — who were lovely by the way, but just, it was just a big change. First was like, ‘This can’t be happening. I didn’t say I wanted to move practice.’ Then I was just cross, really cross. ‘Why is this happening to me? This isn’t okay.’ Then I went into bargaining stage of, ‘Okay, well, let me see what I can do. Maybe they could let me do this. Or maybe I could do that.’ All of that obviously didn’t work because the change was happening, then I was just sad. I mean, not clinically depressed, but I just felt ‘This is really sad,’ and upset.
Then I got to acceptance. I was like, ‘Well, I’m just going to get on with it.’ And you know what, actually, the end result was nowhere near as bad as actually I thought it was going to be. That kind of leads into a phrase that my grandma always used to say, ‘Anticipation of change is far worse than the change itself.’ She wasn’t a particularly wise woman — she was an amazing woman — but that was her one wise phrase. It’s so true that, actually, the anticipation of what it’s going to feel like for us to have to go through change is often far worse than the change is itself.
Rachel: I totally agree. I always talk about being more living in the moment because we spend a lot of our life pre-living stuff that hasn’t even happened. One of my favourite quotes is Mark Twain. ‘I’m an old man, I’ve known many troubles, most of them haven’t happened.’ We’re always scanning for the tiger around the corner or the shark in the water, because that’s what keeps us safe.
Our amygdalas wouldn’t be serving us well if they would go, ‘Why don’t you just jump off that bridge and see what happens? You know, why don’t you just do that? Why don’t you just do this’. The amygdala is there to keep you safe. So it does predict bad stuff. Because if you’re trying to avoid bad stuff, you’re gonna survive. You might not be thriving, though. So you might not be very happy.
People that I’ve worked with, particularly workshops and things around change, it’s quite useful to recognise that change cycle and even where some of your colleagues might be in that too, because if you are someone who’s like ‘Yeah, I love this change,’ and your colleagues are stuck in anger, or denial or bargaining, then you can see them as being really awkward and difficult. Actually, they’re just being normal human beings. So it sort of works both ways, doesn’t it?
Claire: I think it does. I think you’ve raised a really important point that if you are the leader of change, which lots of people listening will be, it’s really important to behave in certain ways, which we’ll talk about in a moment, maybe, but to the biggest thing for me, is to understand other people’s paradigms. What I mean by that is their stories that relate to change. So it, they may be in the anger or the bargaining or the depression, or whichever bit of the stage of the change. But actually, they may have had a very negative experience of change in the past. They may have actually experienced not necessarily the change itself, but how that change was managed by somebody. That could have been very, very negative or traumatic for them.
So understanding and listening, and creating a supportive environment as somebody that leads change, and being kind and transparent so people aren’t second guessing what the change might be, and having to worry about it even more. And being compassionate, and being inspiring and motivating, are all really important — difficult, but really important skills — as a leader of change. It’s that bit about really understanding people’s stories, that is so important in change.
Because once you do that, once you really listen, once you put people in their narrative, and they understand your narrative, suddenly this sort of loggerheads bashing, you know, bashing heads, if you like, starts to dissipate. People start to really hear each other and understand the rationale.
That then helps to change the mindset from feeling really frustrated and angry and difficult to be more like, ‘Okay, where’s the growth?’ And I suppose that leads me into this concept, which is, I think, really interesting. It’s by — the concept’s around PQ intelligence, that’s the name of it. It’s by a guy called Shirzad Chamine, and he’s a really interesting man. He was a graduate from Stanford; I think he was a professor there as well, actually.
He’s created this whole programme, if you like, called PQ intelligence. One of his biggest things is that through adversity, there is always a gift. Always a gift. So it’s a bit like that sort of silver lining theory, silver lining in every cloud theory, but it’s a bit more complex. But ideally, what he’s essentially saying is that, even when you think it’s the worst situation in the world — as in this change is the worst situation in the world — look for the gift.
What’s the gift? What could you learn from this situation that will enable opportunity because that’s what change is, and I think that’s so important to get across. We’re talking about the negatives of change, but actually, firstly, we can’t get through life without change. Number one, there’s change happening all the time. It’s going to happen whether you like it or not. So we need to think about ways to make it more palatable. Secondly, people are the root of the change, because if people don’t change, then change is harder. So that’s another point to think about.
But he says that in the change, there is opportunity. Change brings huge amounts of opportunity. So if each person listening took a moment and looked at a difficult change in their life just for a second, and then thought, ‘Okay, what happened as a result of that change that perhaps wouldn’t have happened otherwise, that maybe at the time, I found it difficult, maybe change for me is more challenging. But actually, because that thing happened, X has happened, which has been really positive. Or I learned P, and that’s been really great. Or next time I encounter that situation, I’ve got much, much more tools in my tool belt, so I can actually cope better with it.’
So there’s always a gift in the adversity. So if you’re someone that struggles with change, or has been labelled as struggling with change like I was, looking for the gift is really useful.
Rachel: I love that it’s very much the same as failure isn’t it? You learn so much more through failure than you do through success. And you learn so much more about yourself through change than you do through just, well, staying stuck in here.
Same thing. Was it you that quoted this to me? Someone said recently, you know, that they feel that they failed their way to success. So I’m thinking about that.
Claire: That was Thomas Edison, it was me. And that is true, isn’t it? Because well, he expected failure. And that was part of his success, right. So if you expect change, and know how you feel about change, and putting things to safety net, those emotions and recognise change, actually, it’s just what it is. It’s just not as big. All the fear and all the blocks that we’re talking about, they’re still there a little bit, but they dissipate.
Once you start to realise that change is going to happen anyway, and the opportunity is in change, it just changes I think your mindset a little bit, and it makes it less scary, I think. As long as we’re creating helpful environments for ourselves to change, that’s great. That’s what we need. Those helpful environments can be whatever they need to be, and I’ve alluded to a few ideas, but it can be whatever you need it to be.
So I think it’s just about acceptance, really, and just go, ‘Yeah, great’, just like Thomas Edison does, ‘I’m going to fail my way to success, I’m going to change myself to opportunity.’ And that’s what it is. I think it’s also really important, too, if you are somebody that loves change, if you are a change agent, that you initiate change, you thrive off change, that actually, you are mindful of those that find it difficult, but also not to be put off when other people tell you not to change, because lots of people will. I think that’s really important that if you are somebody that has that in you, we all need people like you.
I’m trying to be more of a change agent. I’m good at it in my career; I’m less good at it in my home life. I like things just to stay as they are in my home life, whereas in my career, constantly changing, moving forwards. It’s interesting how you can be both. And some people need that split. They need utter stability — which obviously isn’t true, but you can pretend — utter stability in one part of their life, and then lots of change is more palatable in the other part of their lives. So I think that’s just an interesting way to look at it as well, and helps me put to bed what my close family and friends have said about me not coping with change.
Rachel: I think the other thing that I find helpful when you think about change, thinking, ‘Oh, maybe I shouldn’t,’ is that question: ‘What will happen if things don’t change?’ We don’t consider that enough, you know, if things stay the same. I’m sure you’ve coached lots of doctors like this, I’ve coached lots of doctors like this. They are utterly broken, and they say, ‘Oh, but I just need to carry on, I’m not sure I got the energy to make the change.’ So it’s like, so what will happen if you carry on like this? Have you got the energy to carry on like this? Have you?
Claire: Yeah, do you know and that’s one of the commonest things that I see is people come to see me feeling really stuck, terrified of change, not sure what direction to go in, don’t know how to make the first steps and wouldn’t want to make them even if they could, because they wouldn’t know if they were right. So they just stay doing what they’re doing.
I think, you know what, there’s probably a lot of us that have done that. Because when I think back in my career, I would say that I’m very lucky 75, 80% of my career has been amazing. But there have been bits where I’ve been stuck in a position where I’ve just thought, ‘You know what, I’m gonna get up and then we go to work. I’m gonna keep my head down and I’m going to carry on.’ And gradually getting more and more affected by me not being able to make that change. Sometimes, again, when I look back, there have been things that have happened that have enforced me to make change.
So from outside influences or structures changing within the place that I was working, and at the time, I’d be like, ‘What, how’s that happening? That’s not okay.’ Then I thought, ‘Ah, this is my kick up the bum. And this is where I need to be pushed, I got to be pushed to be able to make that change.’
I think if you can get to that point of noticing when you’re stuck but too scared to make the change, that’s the point when the change thought process needs to start, thinking it’s not happening, we’re going ‘Well, what is it that I need to do that will be palatable, that will be effortless to take this further forwards?’ And as you say, that question about ‘What will happen if I do nothing?’ is incredibly powerful, particularly with the environment at the moment where so many professionals, particularly doctors, are burnt out. It’s not okay. We shouldn’t have to feel like that.
It’s not something that is just down to you. Often, it’s mainly down to the environment, the systems, the companies, the NHS., that we’re working in. It’s the systems that are the problem, not you. So we have to always stand up for ourselves, that actually, I do deserve better. I do deserve the change.
That’s when you kind of have to summon your own change maker, your own change agent and say, ‘Right, come on, what do I need to put in place to make this less scary? What did I change before? What did I do? How can I make my environment in which I’m going to do this safer? When are we going to put myself to make this change? When am I going to feel most scared? Right, I’m going to be more scared at the beginning and at the end just before I do it. How do I remind myself that this is okay?’ And all those things will help to make it feel more manageable and, dare I say, potentially quite exciting and joyful.
Rachel: Totally agree. I think there’ll be also some listeners who are thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m really stuck. I need to change. I haven’t got the time even to go make myself a cup of tea, let alone think this through.’ How would you recommend that people approach this? If people know there’s something that needs to change?Actually, I don’t know anyone that doesn’t have anything that they don’t want to, you know. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t have something that they want to change. So, what would you suggest to people?
Claire: Okay, so that’s a mammoth question with lots of different answers. But I suppose you can start by listening to one of the episodes that you and I did before on self-coaching, which teaches you to ask yourself questions in a really simple way. That takes five minutes and makes it more effortless.
But essentially, if you haven’t got time to listen to that, what I would say is just make it simple. Look at what the main priority for you is. It might be, I don’t know, I need to be able to go for a run, or do some exercise at some point in my week because that will help me. It might be just something as simple as that and you’d like, ‘But I haven’t got time to do it. So I won’t do it. So I’m just going to stay feeling unhealthy and not enjoying that. So I just won’t do it.’ But it might just be, ‘Okay, well, maybe what I need to do to make that change is to say, rather than oh, no, it’s raining, I’m not going for that run. Just this is a time for me to actually have some alone time. This is a time for me to get healthy.’
Look at what motivates you to do this. Why is it you want to go for that run? Is it because you’re supposed to be healthy? Well, that’s not very motivating. Or is it actually because you really just need some headspace? Suddenly, when your motivators are aligned with actually your values, and your purpose and your kind of excite you, then you think actually that change is quite good.
I will go for that run, even if it’s raining, because it gives me my alone time. It gives me 30 minutes twice a week where I just get to reboot. And what if I walk it, if I don’t do very well, if I haven’t done it, it’s my first time — it doesn’t matter because I’ve still got my alone time, and I’ve done something towards it. And that’s really good. So that’s a teeny tiny change, which is not all about your life or your whole career or whatever. But just looking at your motivators behind the change can be really useful and can help you to then make the change.
Rachel: So you work out what motivates you, what’s really important to you. And then how do you start?
Claire: I think it depends on what the change is. I think the first step is just to look at what would be the easiest, most effortless, most simple thing that you could do that will probably take you five minutes just to start. It might be a plan of the change, it might be an email to somebody to ask the question, if you don’t know about what it is that you need in place. It might be a conversation with a friend that has been through something similar.
But it’s just, pick something that you feel really comfortable doing, that’s really accessible, that you could do within a few days or a week, and just start. Because once you start, it’s much easier then to take the next steps. As I said to my daughter this morning, actually, I would rather you took teeny tiny fairy steps, one at a time, rather than trying trying to take one big leap because you’ll get to the same place probably quicker than if you try and take the leap, because you just won’t take the leap because it’s too scary.
So it’s just about taking the simplest step that you possibly can. If you say, ‘My next step is going to be speaking to 10 people’, even that is too big. Make it one. And then when you’ve done that, you say, ‘Well, I’m going to speak to one more.’ Or it might be, ‘I don’t know how to approach this change. I don’t know what this change means to me.’ So maybe you need to information gather and research things first. It might just be your first step is to Google search something. None of these things have to be as terrifying.
I remember when I was asked to set up a frailty service in my GP practice, and they said, ‘Go and set up a frailty service.’ I looked at them and I kind of laughed-cried because I was really excited. Because I was like, ‘Yeah, change. Brilliant. Let’s do it.’ And then I was like, ‘No idea how to do this. Where on earth would I start?’ I just didn’t— couldn’t even, so I thought, ‘Okay, well, I could start in a million places. But what if I start in the wrong place? And then I’m gonna derail the whole thing, and then the fear comes in.’ And then I thought: no, actually, I’m going to have one conversation with somebody that is perhaps more knowledgeable than myself in this area and get their advice and opinion, and then I can make a decision about what to do.
I had that conversation, which probably lasted about five minutes. This GP said to me, ‘Right, I think you should start with this. Or maybe you could start with this group of people or whatever.’ I thought about that. I thought, ‘Yeah, it’s a really good place to start.’ And I just started really small, and I built on it, built on it, and built on it, and suddenly became this massive thing.
So there was this great quote — obviously, one of the many — from Nelson Mandela, he says, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ I think that’s really true with change, that it feels impossible to make a change. But when you look back there, ‘Oh, that was okay.’ Or, ‘Gosh, that was a bit of a rocky road, but I’m here. I’m fine. It’s okay.’ Or, ‘Gosh, that was a rocky road. Didn’t enjoy that, but I’ve learned a lot. And actually, I can use that. There’s a gift in each one of those scenarios.’
So I think, trying to stay in the moment, like we talked about earlier. Look at your motivators for the change, if you’re initiating it; thinking about how you’re going to react; and then, safety net, really simple things that you can do; and then finish those thought processes off by making it a teeny, tiny step in the right direction, whatever feels most comfortable. Suddenly this big, scary, horrible change, that either you’re instigating or is being forced upon you, actually is less scary.
Particularly with the enforced change. You know, people might say, ‘Well, I don’t know what my motivators are because I don’t want to do it.’ But actually, there could be motivators in there. Because you might say, ‘Okay, I’m being asked to do something that’s completely out of my comfort zone that I don’t want to do or that I don’t understand about.’ But actually, where’s the growth? Where’s the learning?
Maybe it’s good that I’m being put in that situation that I know nothing about, I would never have put myself in. Where’s the gift? What can I learn from this situation? What do I need to learn in order to feel less uncomfortable?
Rachel: That’s really good advice. I think, and you’ve alluded to this already, when you went and you talk to that person about how do I do the frailty stuff, just that one conversation — there is something about finding someone else who’s done it before you and copying them. I was listening to a podcast this morning, and they were talking about Tony Robbins talking about modelling and finding someone who’s done it and knows how to do it and just copying them.
The great thing about this day and age is that there’s communities, there’s courses, there’s stuff on everything that you want. You want to get fit and healthy and lose three stone? You can join a coaching collective that will help you do that. You want to transition from this career to that career? There will for sure be a community, that will help you do that. There’ll be someone that’s done it before. Even with enforced changes, like maybe relationship breakdown, or you go through a divorce. There’s people that have done that, and there are communities that can support you and show you how to do that in a way that’s not going to destroy you. Things like that.
There are so many things out there that you can find that could just help you and not stay stuck because I guess you can bet your bottom dollar, but if you’re facing any change or any difficult situation, you won’t be the first person to be facing that. Someone else would have been through it, and then they’ve probably done an online course and created a Facebook group or something about it. Right?
Claire: Yeah, it’s so true. And I think, again, it depends what the situation is because there are some changes that you need support. There’s groups that are brilliant, but others and other times you just need a bit of technical help, which again, things like YouTube. If you just want to know how to do something go on YouTube. There’s always an answer. Might not be the right answer, but there’s always an answer. So, you know, there’s the support side of it. But also, if you’re thinking in the change, ‘Well, I don’t know how to use that computer system.’ That makes it really difficult.
Just, again, thinking of my own experiences when I was locuming, and I go to the different practices, you know, I was a perfectly good doctor, but the change of going into the practice every single time unsettled me. I put in place this process that helped me cope with the change. I realised that the biggest thing for me was the computer systems. It wasn’t being a doctor, but I was just scared of pressing the wrong button on the computer. Actually, what I did was learned how to use the computer system.
So I would go in and work on my own time. Learn — I’m not saying that everybody needs to do this because you can do it on YouTube now — learn how to use the computer systems, learn what their referral processes were, or read their locum pact before I went in, so that bit of the change for me was possible, which meant that I could, then, locum in lots of different practices without it being an issue.
Then by modifying the thing that was most difficult for me and saying, ‘Well, actually it’s better for me to work in three or four practices, not ten practices,’ because that’s less of a diverse, you know, lots of change and lots of different diverse practices. That’s better. So I just modified the situation to fit with the bit that was most uncomfortable to make it easier.
Rachel: Yeah, that’s it. You can learn so much just from Googling it and from YouTube. We were talking earlier, we want to put more You Are Not A Frog stuff on Instagram. I have no idea how to use it. You’re an Instagram queen, Claire, and you’re like, ‘Well, YouTube it.’
Claire: You know what? That’s another beautiful example. So two years ago, I could not use Instagram at all. I honestly didn’t know which buttons to press at all. So I YouTubed it — every single thing — and I’ve taught myself. That change of having to get into Instagram and get savvy with, it was terrifying. Because I— how am I supposed to do— I’m not a young thing. How am I going to do that? Rubbish. I just thought, right, ‘Okay, that’s ridiculous. You’re putting a fear in there, which is nonsense.’
I made the environment feel safe myself. And I’ve just had a go. Then I talked to people. I YouTubed it and asked questions and just think, ‘Well, just start, just have a go. What’s the worst that can happen?’ Very little. Yeah.
Rachel: I think there’s that thing about just make a start. Because you can’t learn unless you’re actually doing it. I came across a very helpful thing with this, and we teach this in our time management productivity sessions. It’s called the 15 Minute Rule. And I love this. It’s a book; it’s a whole book on the 15 Minute Rule. It basically says if you’ve got something you need to do, but it just feels a bit tricky or a bit difficult to start — like for me, it’s how do I tell the difference between stories and posts and this and that; it feels too difficult — set a timer for 15 minutes and say, ‘Well, I’m just going to look this up to 15 minutes, or investigate it for 15 minutes. And then when the timer goes off, I’m going to stop.’
It sort of tricks your brain into going, I only got to do this for 15 minutes, and it’s gonna be difficult. I’m gonna stop.’ That’s nine times out of ten, when you’ve made that start, you’ve got over that hump of actually just starting, like having that conversation or looking something up. For me it was pension forms, like where do I find them? Where do I submit? Goodness. After 15 minutes, the timer went off. I was like, ‘Oh, in five minutes time, I’ve literally will have finished this task.’ So it’s a really good way to stop procrastinating. Use the 15 Minute Rule, set a timer.
Claire: That’s brilliant, and I think the other thing within that is to think about how best you learn in that time period. So there’s no point if you’re— if you find it really difficult to— if it’s a difficult topic for you, and you find reading really difficult, difficult to absorb the information, don’t read it, watch a video on it. Talk to somebody about it. If you’re somebody that hates initiating conversation, don’t talk to somebody about it, read about it. So just make it more palatable for yourself, fit it in with your personality and your strengths. And it just becomes easy, and you go ‘Oh, I could,’ as you say, ‘spend 40 minutes on that.’
Rachel: That goes back to your zone of power, doesn’t it? Because what’s in my zone of power? What are my choices here? Well, I could get you to show me how to do it. I could look at YouTube. I could look up some articles. I could go and speak to someone else I know who’s really good at Instagram. I’ve suddenly got all these different choices. I can go, ‘Okay, well, I’ll do that one first. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll do this one.’
Claire: I think another really important area that will be really great for us to just touch on is changing the NHS. And I think this is really important, because a lot of change happens in the NHS all the time. You’re right, as we’ve talked about before, the zone of power and what you can do and what you can’t do, and where your influence lies is really important.
I think a lot of people who work in the NHS feel that actually, that goes almost equally, you kind of don’t know where your control could be, because everything’s changing all the time. And that feels very unsettling for a lot of people.
So I suppose thinking about that is really important, and embracing change, whether you like it or not, because it’s in your workplace constantly is important. It’s a bit like uncertainty. We have to deal with uncertainty. We don’t necessarily like uncertainty, but you have to deal with it.
I think that almost like with change is happening all the time, particularly in our workplace, get on with it. And not ‘get on with it’ like ignore the things that we talked about, but use your toolbox — have all these things that we’ve mentioned there, use them, understand it’s difficult, but accept that it’s there. Because we can’t change that the NHS changes. Just like we can’t change that life changes. And I think that change bit and understanding that the environment that we work in is constantly changing, it is challenging.
Rachel: Part of the thing is just accepting that, isn’t it? Going, okay, don’t get really upset every time a change comes along. Because otherwise you’re gonna spend your whole life stressed and upset. That’s one of those things that is outside your zone of power, which just need some acceptance. But it’s easy to accept if you know that you’ve got a bit of a toolbox of things that you can do to help, like you said, that you had when they asked you about that frailty thing.
So I know we’re nearing the end of the podcast as well. Could you share some of those sort of top tips that you would give someone to have in their toolbox?
Claire: Yeah, I mean, I think the first thing is noticing the change. That’s the very first thing to actually notice. Are you in change? Or you’re about to go and change? Just notice, and label it as being, ‘Okay, have I created this change? Or is this an enforced change?’
Then label the emotion that goes with it. ‘So I’m feeling really excited. This is a really dynamic opportunity. This is fantastic.’ Or, ‘Actually, I’m feeling unsettled, uncertain, scared.’ And then start to think, ‘Okay, when have I felt like this before in change? What did I put in place that would that helped me then?’ Because you’ve got evidence that it works for you. And then say, ‘Right, how can I instigate those tools in this situation?’
Then I would say, look at where the control lies, where you have control and where you don’t. The stuff that you can’t control — just let it wash over you. The stuff that you do have control over — really dive into and think about what else you could do and where else your control might be. Because at first, you’ll probably think in the change, that there is no control. That’s never true.
Then the last and probably the most important part of change, whether you are a change maker or a change hater, is to look after yourself. Because you need to fill up that tank. In order to create change or cope with enforced change, you need to be looking after yourself. And that, as we always do, it shouldn’t be at the bottom line, really, should it? It should be right at the very front because that’s the most important one. That’s when you have even more control and more able to cope. And you never know, you might actually really fall in love with change, which I’ve seen people do — go from change haters to change lovers.
Rachel: Wouldn’t that be amazing if we could all be that? I think that final point about looking after yourself is a really important one. I think, particularly, as professionals in very high stress jobs, we are used to thinking, ‘Well, I can just carry on. Yes, there’s a big change going, I can keep going with everything that I’m doing in my normal life.’ Actually. Sometimes you have to slow down, take a bit off your plate.
Even if it’s an exciting change, like moving house or something like that. I mean, we all know that it’s a big effort to move house and it’s quite emotional and stuff and you probably have to take some time off work. But if there’s other stuff going on that you’re changing, you might also need to give yourself a bit of a break and take some time off or stop with some of the social activities for a little bit just to give yourself some headspace and breathing space and be kind to yourself.
Claire: And also, I think you’ve just, again, raised another really interesting point about you don’t have to do all the changes at the same time. It’s better to be a tortoise rather than a hare. So, you know, if you’ve got changes that are happening, you know, you’re moving houses, but maybe try not to, if possible, change your job at the same time or get married, or whatever. Just try and space things out a little bit, if possible. Obviously, that’s not always the case.
If there’s lots of change happening, like you’re saying, all at the same time, or a big change happening, create the space. Create the space to allow it to happen, so that you can look after yourself and actually make it less painful and potentially help you to find the gift in it.
Rachel: Wise words as always, Claire. And I think I would point listeners, if they want some resources towards the self-coaching exercise that we did last time, actually, because that’s a good way and place to start, isn’t it? So we’ll make that available in the show notes link. So that’s a PDF toolkit with an audio of Claire talking you through some very powerful questions, you can start to ask yourself. What other resources are out there, Claire, that can be helpful?
Claire: Well, there’s lots of resources. But I mean, I’m always putting things on Instagram. I’m a bit of, as we mentioned, a bit obsessed with Instagram. So people can follow me for self-coaching, tips and tricks and lots of free resources on @drclairekaye_executivecoaching. So they’re welcome to follow me on there. As always, people are welcome to DM me as well. There’s lots of books that you can read, as in if you’ve got any books that you wanted to recommend.
Rachel: Gosh, I mean, there are lots of very useful books around change in organisations. You know, the Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter, that is the sort of management change thing, but it’s got lots of very useful stuff around managing change with your team, but also managing change personally. I guess any of the stuff around how to work well, how to live well. I always recommend Essentialism, which it doesn’t talk about changein itself. But I think it’s got lots of stuff in there that you will want to change to be like… It’s very helpful.
Claire: But I mean, I suppose that’s where the sort of effortless easy bit comes from. So you know, it is a useful book, isn’t it?
Rachel: Yeah. And actually, interestingly, the follow up to Essentialism is called Effortless. So those two books are both very, very useful. Good. Great. So, Claire, thank you for coming on. As usual, we’ll love to have you back again.
Clare: I’d love to come back.
Rachel: Brilliant. So we’ll get you back. Again, if anyone’s got any particular questions or things they’d like us to talk about, just email us at, youarenotafrog.com. You can also follow us on all the usual social channels, and I am now on Instagram under, I think. I’m @drrachelmorris. And if you follow me, I will try and work out how to use it, and Claire, yeah, is gonna show me, so you’ll get some more stuff there. And there’s also links with Claire as well, so you can find her on Instagram. So we’ll put the stuff in the show notes for people to download, and we’ll get Claire back very soon. So thank you so much for being here, Claire.
Claire: Thanks for having me.
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