Seeing new possibilities
By Col. Charles Foster, 176th Wing Vice Commander
/ Published April 14, 2008
KULIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Alaska -- If it looks as though each UTA brings new changes to the Wing, there's good reason for the feeling: It's true. While the wing is certainly not alone in these changing times, we are perhaps one of the most deeply affected units in the ANG.
This is my first UTA serving as Vice Commander for the Wing. Next month we'll hold a change of command to install a new Mission Support Group Commander. Some of us are still looking for the "circle U.S." insignia to bring our Service Dress uniforms into compliance. When we logged onto our computers this morning, we may have seen new
programs installed or updated. All this taking place so broadly, so deeply and so
quickly can be disorienting and upsetting.
People naturally resist changes instituted from the outside, especially when it's unexpected. This adds stress, and we certainly don't need more stress! So the happy news is that there are ways to respond to these changing times that will not only help us cope, but help us thrive.
The world itself thrives on change, which is why there's so much of it. I'm sure you've heard "The only constant in the universe is change." So true. But after we've mastered a
skill, or grown accustomed to a habit, it takes effort to master new skills, and changing a habit typically is harder than building one in the first place. Most of us like what we
like and we'd prefer to keep on liking it as long as we can. Change is an issue for us. For those of us disoriented and probably upset, I have some suggestions.
First, accept facts as facts. It is what it is. Wishing for the way it was works against us. We can't command ourselves to "like" the new thing, but we can command ourselves to recognize it. Accepting it intellectually allows us to perceive it as the reality it is. It's like this: Suppose I planned to go fishing but awoke the morning of my trip to discover the weather was absolutely foul. I don't "like" the change in the weather, but I can accept
it. It is what it is. This intellectual acceptance is the biggest step towards thriving in the new reality: a rainy day.
Acceptance lets us view the possibilities newly presented by the change. By seeing new
possibilities, we can shape our response. Imagine this: I had planned to use the step-test for my annual fitness testing, but the new policy says I should run. Taking my own advice, I allow myself to feel disappointment, but I accept that the policy is what it is and look for new possibilities. I decide that testing this month is no longer a good idea, and I begin a sensible aerobic training regimen that includes running. Regular conditioning is a new habit that requires discipline, focus and effort. But a few months later, I can expect to be in better shape than I am now -- and I can pass the fit test in accordance with the new policy. This would be success!
Change is a challenge, and everyone lives in a world that changes around them every day. It comes easier to some than to most, but those who decide to face changes by
seeing new possibilities will thrive. How can we do that?
There's a very good reason the Air Force emphasizes that every airman is a "wingman." Everyone needs someone else looking out for their best interests. A wingman can help clarify how one can best meet the new environment and keep focused while adapting. Since the earliest philosophers recorded their thoughts, we have recognized that "two are better than one." Remember your wingman.