Commentary by Lt. Col. Theresa Malasavage
50th Operations Support Squadron commander
Change is going on all around us in our work and personal lives. How do you respond and deal with change? Do you adapt and embrace change? Do you resist it?
In military life, one thing you can count on is change…the kind of change that people in other professions don’t typically face as frequently as we do. New assignments, new duty positions, new supervisors and commanders, and relocations are just a few of the military changes (never mind “life” changes) we face. How you respond to those changes is what will make or break you.
As a commander there are many challenges and opportunities I face each day. In fact, a lot of changes are going on all around us this summer, particularly when it comes to our leadership. The 50th Space Wing commander, vice commander and mission support group commander are all changing in the span of two months. Closer to home, the 50th Operations Group will be sporting three new squadron commanders and three new operations officers by midsummer. Right here in the 50th Operations Support Squadron, I have a new superintendent, a new operations officer and a new first sergeant. Changes like these can be daunting and exciting all at the same time!
I’m reminded of a very popular book, “Who Moved My Cheese?,” by Dr. Spencer Johnson, that tells a parable providing very powerful and enduring life lessons on how to deal with change. In the book there were two groups of characters. All lived very happily in a familiar routine (a maze). One day their cheese (a metaphor for happiness and success) was completely depleted. One group immediately picked up and moved on in search of new “cheese.” They searched and searched until they found another supply. Rather than moving on in search of a new supply, the second group just kept repeating their old routine with the hope that the cheese would return to them. One individual in the later group never changed and he was left behind forever.
The lesson of the story is to understand when to let go and move on to the next phase of your life, career, etc. Getting stuck repeating the same pattern, but somehow expecting different results is not productive. We each operate in a particular environment and we naturally seek out happiness and success. We need to find our way in the maze, whether that’s work, life, etc., and succeed in changing times. In changing times, this means the maze will be different today than yesterday. Rather than trying to fight the change, embrace it, recognize it and act on it. Those that act on change rather than struggle against it will ultimately find the “cheese” again and be more successful for it.
I can’t say that I routinely seek out change. I am a creature of habit and do find comfort in routine. However, I know that sometimes I will have to step outside my comfort zone to succeed personally and professionally. Let’s take for example, the situation where we will have a new batch of commanders this summer. We should be ready for building new relationships, dealing with new personalities, mentoring new commanders, starting a new history, expecting the unexpected, right? Sometimes that’s easier said than done. This is where the folks that have been around a while say, “Oh no! Not again!”
Look at the positive side, you may have an opportunity for a new start. You may get to form valuable working relationships that will likely turn into long term friendships. New faces can be a breath of fresh air. With new faces, often come new ideas and a renewed energy.
Change happens. Life moves on and so should we. Let go and trust what lies ahead.
So when your new supervisor, commander or superintendent asks you to do something outside of your comfort zone, are you going to venture out into the maze and seek out new cheese?
If you find that you are averse to change, find some source of stability in your life — physical, mental, spiritual — that you can draw on when you crave something constant. Don’t let change paralyze your life or your career. Sometimes fear is healthy as it can launch you into action. You must believe that change can be positive — embrace it.