How you React to Unexpected Change

How you Deal With Unexpected Change - People Development Network
How you Deal With Unexpected Change - People Development Network

How do you react to unexpected change?

This past Thursday morning, a little after 5 AM, I experienced a personal epiphany regarding the reason I resist what is probably the most common form of change.

Chances are my revelation could be yours too.

Weekdays I get up at 5 AM to exercise. No bragging intended; if I didn’t do it then it would never get done.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday, off to the gym for an hour or so, Tuesday, Thursday, a 10 mile bike ride.

Funny thing about that schedule; the day after the gym I prefer the bike with the reverse true after a bike day.

I know why; I’d rather not do either so one followed by the other makes both reasonably tolerable. However such was not to be last Thursday.

Pulling the bike out I immediately knew the rear tire was flat. No ride that day and now the question was, what if any exercise would take its place?

Keep in mind, it’s about 5:15 AM, still dark, a bit cold, and I’m up.

Staring at the flat as though that would fix it, I silently outlined in my head what were to me the only two options:

  1. Go back to bed, this is not your fault, you got up and were ready to ride.
  2. Go to the gym and do cardio for the time you would be riding.

Option 1 was enticing but I was up and dressed for something. I also knew if I didn’t exercise I’d be chastising myself later in the day. So option 2 seemed best.

“But jeez”, I whined silently, “I went to the gym yesterday and will again tomorrow. Three days of gym in a row? Ugh!”

Other than to say I ultimately did go, not all that enthusiastically, I’ll spare you the rest of my internal pity party. The important part was what it demonstrated to me about unexpected change and me.

Anything, just no change I don’t expect!

Having stirred myself to get up, get dressed, and outside at what is for most, me included, a ridiculously (too) early hour, what’s the difference between riding a bike for 10 miles or working out at the gym for an hour?

And then it hit me! Nothing other than it wasn’t what I expected.

I was auto piloting through my early morning routine and when I encountered an unforeseen circumstance, one requiring me to change, I resisted.

What was to be would now not be, and I, change book author, didn’t respond well to the need to change.

Change we anticipate, particularly that we want to initiate, is easier to take. Given sufficient time we can, if we’re smart, plan for whatever lays ahead.

But that which forces itself upon us, for example, my 5 AM flat tire, is worst of all.

We must quickly react and unless the new unexpected reality is something positive such as an unexpected promotion, financial windfall or new personal relationship, we instinctively resist.

No knowing the unknowable

Since we can’t anticipate all that can require a change in plans (which, by the way, is most all that will happen) what can we do?

Begin by assuming that change will be necessary more than it won’t. Expect it.

To help you do that do as Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones suggests, “Don’t listen to yourself, talk to yourself.”


You would advise most anyone undertaking change to make certain they are really ready for any eventuality, particularly those who tell you they are ready.

Most of us would do the same.

But when it comes to ourselves we don’t heed the advice we would give to others.

Instead we listen to our little internal voice telling us all is well until an unexpected circumstance is too obvious to continue to ignore.

Prepare for what may be and when you tell yourself you have, let that be the trigger that braces you for the unknowable.

Finally, don’t waste time mourning the need to change, silently or otherwise rhetorically thinking or saying, “Why did this have to happen?”

It did happen and now, whether or not you like, want, or are prepared to, you must navigate a new set of circumstances you hadn’t anticipated.

Things may get worse, they could get better, but there’s no sense doing as I did, whining about why they’re not what you expected.

They’re not so make a new plan for change and get on with it.

William Matthies
William Matthies founded Coyote Insight in 2000 to help start-ups as well as established companies and brands plan for profitable growth. In 1986 he founded what was to become the largest independent market research/database marketing company in the consumer electronics and high tech fields. By the time he sold The Verity Group in 1997, the company employed 400+ people at its California and Costa Rica offices. Today he serves on corporate advisory boards lecturing frequently at industry events around the world on managing change, strategic planning, and customer relations. William's spare time is spent seeking out experiences that change his perspective, while at the same time having great fun. A few years ago, he visited Russia for a Mach 2.5 flight in a MiG 25 supersonic aircraft flying to 80,000 feet, the edge of space. Want details? Contact him, he'll be happy to tell you about it!
William Matthies