How to Deal with Change Better: This Simple Brain Hack

July 22, 2019

See this two-step brain hack that'll help you better deal with change at work.

One thing is sure in today’s workplace – change is accelerating. With AI transforming industries, organizations are restructuring and altering strategies faster than ever before.

I’m sure you’ve felt this yourself. And, if we are being honest, all of this change can be tough to deal with.

Well, Srini Pillay, a longtime neuroscientist at Harvard, wants to help. In his LinkedIn Learning course Leveraging Neuroscience in the Workplace, he gave a “brain hack” you can use to adapt quicker to change – which will give you a massive competitive advantage moving forward.

Former Harvard neuroscientist Srini Pillay explains a brain hack for better dealing with change in a video from his LinkedIn Learning course, "Leveraging Neuroscience in the Workplace."

A Two-Step “Brain Hack” for Dealing with Change

“Change throws the brain into a state of chaos called cognitive dissonance,” Pillay said. “Brain chaos activates the conflict detector in the brain so it's as if the brain has an alarm that will not go off. To manage this brain chaos, there are a few steps to talk through.”

Pillay said those steps are:

1. First, acknowledge there will be an emotional toll that comes with the change.

This is a bit counterintuitive. But the first step of being better at adapting to change is acknowledging the change will indeed come with an emotional cost, Pillay said.

Why? Because it does. If you don’t acknowledge there will be at least some emotional toll that comes with changing, then when the emotional toll inevitably comes as you start to change, you will resist it and fall back onto your old ways.

Instead, by acknowledging the emotional toll the change will have on yourself, you prepare yourself to adapt. 

“In the same way that you pay money to get a new laptop, you pay with emotions if you want successful change,” Pillay said. “It's the price you pay in the form of uncertainty, fear and unfamiliarity. When you tell yourself you're willing to pay this emotional price, your brain will realize that these are necessary though unpleasant emotions.”

2. Then, list out the benefits of the change, until you are convinced the emotional toll will be worth it.

Okay, so you've established that changing will come with an emotional toll. What will empower you to overcome that and keep you motivated throughout the change?

You need to convince your mind the change is worth it. And Pillay said the best way to convince your mind is to list out the cons of the change – and then list out the pros, until they far outweigh those cons.

You need to be authentic with the pros of the change, or else you won’t fully convince your mind. So keep at it until you legitimately have a list you believe in. 

“The more your brain grasps the differences between the (pros and cons), the more likely it is that the change will feel more manageable,” Pillay said. “The more your brain registers the differences or spread between the two, the more likely it will be able to push forward.”

That’s it. First, acknowledge that change will be difficult and then put together a pro-con chart to convince yourself it’s worth the difficulty.

Sounds easy – but it works. Do it for the changes in your life, and you’ll adapt to them much quicker. That’ll give you a huge edge in a world where constant adaption is necessary.

“Change can cause brain chaos and there is a price to pay," Pillay said. "But, if your brain recognizes that the price is worth it, change will be that much easier."

Want to learn more? Watch Srini Pillay’s full LinkedIn Learning course, Leveraging Neuroscience in the Workplace

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