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Embracing change leads to growth, adventure

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- A day rarely passes without more news about budget cuts, force shaping and downsizing in our Air Force. It's hard to put on a "smiley face" and to continue to do your job when your co-worker's position is cut, services are reduced, responsibilities are reallocated and familiar faces no longer greet us every day.

Change is hard and I feel overwhelmed.

Yesterday, I noticed a card on my bulletin board titled, "The Handwriting on the Wall." It was a list of suggestions for coping in a changing workplace from a 1998 New York Times bestseller by Dr. Spencer Johnson called "Who Moved My Cheese?" It was given to me by a friend who retired from a job at Keesler and knew how difficult it can be for me when change challenges me.

This business allegory describes ways to deal with work and life through the eyes of two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two miniature humans, Hem and Haw, and their efforts to adapt their circumstances to "find the cheese." Critics fault the book as an attempt to portray unfavorable or unfair changes in an optimistic way, and some of those observations may be valid, but I find the "Handwriting on the Wall" guidelines as a realistic approach to change in the workplace.

* Change happens - they keep moving the cheese. This is true in today's military, as well as corporate America. Consolidations, reorganizations and downsizing are our new reality. Many government employees who felt sure they had "jobs for life" are having their professional lives turned upside down.

* Anticipate change - look for the cheese to move. Don't assume that the job you have now is the job you'll have until you retire. More budget shortfalls are coming, so keep your eyes open to see how the employment landscape is shifting.

* Monitor change - smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old. Try to sense how your career field and duties could be changing. Keep your skills current and look for opportunities to upgrade your talents.

* Adapt to change quickly - the quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese. This is the suggestion that challenges me the most. I'm comfortable with my current job and apprehensive about what lies ahead. Unfortunately, this can paralyze me and keep me from adapting to the new challenges in my life. I'm working on this and trying to accept my new role.

* Change - move with the cheese. Don't drag your feet and hang on to "the way things have always been." Don't let your comfort zone become a barrier to what might be an exciting future.

* Enjoy change - savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese. It's hard to imagine enjoying my new job as much as I've relished the challenges, contacts and camaraderie of the editor's job. But I'll be meeting new people, getting reacquainted with community leaders and even buying new clothes for social functions.

* Be ready to quickly change and enjoy it, again - Another friend once told me, "Change is mandatory - growth is optional." Who knows what job I'll be doing a year from now? What possibilities are waiting down the road? Hang on, my friends ... it's bound to be an interesting ride.