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5 Tips for Navigating Change Confidently & Successfully

kayaker navigating change in the rapids

Picture a kayaker heading towards the rapids. This kayaker will confidently and successfully be able to take the rapids because navigating change is part of their training. Just as facing rapids without the proper training is scary for a kayaker navigating change in your life can be scary, too. But with the proper tools at your disposal you, too, can successfully and confidently navigate change.

Of course, since I am a professional organizer, I am talking about changes people make which require them to alter the way they are organized. Change can be difficult and stressful. The results are not guaranteed and making any sort of lasting change means hard work. The person making the change will have to mindfully practice the new behaviors.

Here are some examples of difficult changes that people decide to make which involve organizing:

  1. Moving – across town, to a different state, to another country
  2. Habits & routines – creating new habits and routines requires that you organize differently.
  3. New organizing systems – reorganizing the pantry, the cupboards, the closets etc.
  4. New filing system (paper & digital)
  5. Time management – organizing a daily plan.

All of the above examples require that the person or people in the home change the way they are currently organizing themselves or their things. How will they do this?

I am about to make a significant change in the way I have been living for decades. If I were to tell you that I was not at all apprehensive, I would be lying through my teeth. You see, I have 2 dogs and I am moving from a house with a yard to a townhome with no yard. Moving is stressful enough, changing the type of home is an additional stressor because I will have to remember to walk the dogs more than I do now. And I won’t be able to go out all day and just leave the backdoor open for them. These are big changes in the way I live my life.

Navigating change is difficult but not impossible.

Here are the 5 tips I have come up with to help myself navigate a big change. Read them and see if you think they will help you, too.

1. Be specific about what you are changing and understand why you are making this change.

It’s always easier to work toward changing something when you are clear about what you want to change and your reasons why. As I have already told you I am changing my home from a house with a yard to a townhome. I love the place I am going. It is in a community that has swimming, fitness, beautifully landscaped walkways, and a 12-acre nature walk in the woods. I am trading convenience for less maintenance and activities I don’t currently have at my house.

2. Create a plan to make the change happen.

Think about what you need to do or not do to open the door for change. Which behaviors can you modify to make navigating change easier? What can you practice?

In my case, I am practicing walking my dogs in the early morning, at noon, and at night to get all 3 of us in the routine. It’s not easy as it’s so much more convenient to open the door and tell the dogs to go out.

3. Think about your desired result.

Our thoughts are powerful influencers. I believe that when we put out positive energy and believe in ourselves, positive results follow. However, do not simply rely on positive energy. Ask yourself what steps you can take to achieve the results you desire. Schedule those steps sequentially into your calendar.

4. Work your plan.

Keep track of the details. You can use a small notebook or keep notes in your phone about the things you need to follow up on. Another suggestion is to use an accountability partner so that you maintain the momentum as you create the changes you seek.

5. Accept that lasting change is a process.

There is no overnight magic potion to create change. You can not snap your fingers or wriggle your nose to make change happen. It is hard work. Mindfully practice the habits or behaviors you want to change. You may find that you slip back into your old habits unless you are determined as you practice new behaviors or routines. Be patient with yourself. Forgive yourself and renew the practicing if you happen to backslide.

Whether you are changing the way in which you organize the clothes in your closet or changing the way you organize your time, change is challenging. It is always easier to stay in your comfort zone and do things the same old way. But you cannot do the same thing and expect a different result. Use the 5 tips above to help as you are navigating change you want to make.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane specializes in residential and home-office organizing and working with people affected by ADD, hoarding challenges, and chronic disorganization. Contact Diane for a free 30-minute phone consultation. 

18 Comments

  • I am excited for this change in your life – it sounds like a beautiful place! I love the idea of practicing the behavior before it is even required. We lived temporarily in a townhome while we were renovating our home, and I had to walk my dog every day instead of just letting her out. I fond that this was a bit limiting, but also became a positive time of the day. It got me outside, and was mandatory “down time” for me. When you have a reason why, especially when it is something positive that you are choosing to move toward, that can really light a fire inside to push through whatever adjustments are necessary.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Seana. I’m a big believer in practicing new behaviors. This will be a big but wonderful change for us!

  • It’s so exciting that you’ll be moving soon. It sounds like a wonderful place, especially the 12-acre nature walk. I love how you are working on minimizing the stress of change and help you navigate better. The kyack is such a great analogy here. It’s impressive how you are getting you and your pups used to a different “going out” routine. Establishing that now will make your transition from house to condo that much smoother. When is the big day?

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Linda. My house sold so quickly that we have to move into a furnished apartment for a couple of months before the townhome is available. My four-footed pals and I move in 10 days! It’s coming up quickly.

  • Diane, great article. I love that you point out that change is a process. Some people are so afraid of change but change can be modified and worked as you progress.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Jonda. I think people are sometimes afraid of change because it is the unknown. If you can take the change a little at a time it is easier to swallow!

  • Lucy Kelly says:

    Diane, even in the face of this huge change, I hear your trademark calm and strategic mind finding ways to make this change doable. Establishing new routines ahead of time, with the dog walking, is such a smart way to make the new a little bit familiar before everything becomes new. It feels like it’ll be a great anchor in the days and weeks to come.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Lucy. Thinking strategically helps me to remain calm. Finding strategies and ways to practice in advance also help me realize that different will be good and become the norm.

  • I found that thinking about the result and visualizing the outcome works the best to motivate me to get the task completed. Thanks for sharing these useful and action-driven tips on navigating change.

  • I’ve come to a point in my life where I realize most everything is a trade off. As you’ve explained, you will have experiences in your new environmen that you don’t have now. As stressful as the change may be, in it’s own way, it will make your life richer.
    I love how you thought this through so carefully and made a plan of action. Moving is definitely challenging and your life dynamics will be different. Still, I have a strong feeling you’re going to be just fine and you’ll probably love your new life. (Even a kayaker can ride rough waters.)
    I think I mentioned in the last post that sometimes the things that we dread turn out to be the best change of all. But we only know that looking back.
    I’m excited for you!

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you so much, Ronni. I completely agree. When my children were much younger and testing me, my mother would tell me to pick my battles and give ground on the small things – a trade off. Looking back, I can honestly say that I wish I had paid closer attention to those words of wisdom. Because, as you say, so many things in life are a trade off. What are you willing to give ground on to have something you value more… I think there’s a blog post here.

  • I’m excited for your new home. Change can be exciting and scary at the same time. Practicing change before it’s needed is a great practice. Very well written, great job.

  • Change is difficult, but if you plan for it, as you have, you’ll have more chance of success. With your focus on the change in your routine, practicing the 3-a-day walks, I’m sure you and your dogs will have a successful move into your new place.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Janet. I agree. Understanding the changes you are making and then planning how to implement them makes the change that much more palatable.

  • This is a post that I’d recognize as yours even if someone had handed it to me to read in plain text. Your authorial voice exudes calm and logic. I am terrible at embracing change, whether it’s a move or a different cell phone company, and following your steps might be the only way someone who is change-averse can develop the skills to thrive in an environment where change is necessary (or even wanted). I hope you love the new place, and at least the dogs will make sure you get lots of heart-healthy exercise in fresh air!