Ryan Shortill, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member who is president-elect of the San Diego chapter, is founder and CEO of Positive Adventures, an experiential education company providing business consulting, team development, outdoor education, youth programming, and offsite corporate retreats across the country. We asked Ryan how company leaders can better embrace change, both personally and professionally. Here's what he shared:


Change happens whether we like it or not. Positive changes--a baby's first steps, opening a new location for your company, or achieving a professional milestone--are counterbalanced by less desirable changes such as a delayed flight, the sudden death of a loved one, or the failure of a startup.

Change is constant throughout life. Despite this, many of us grip tightly at a sense of security. While we can't control the economy, our industry's market, or a disgruntled staff member, we can control our reactions to the changes they bring. In my experience, entrepreneurs as a group would benefit from overhauling our responses to the inevitable changes that govern our lives. We have the capability to create business ideas that solve problems--and sometimes we must implement problem-solving strategies for ourselves.

Here are four positive ways to deal with change:

1. Be prepared--but stay flexible 

Try telling winter not to arrive. It doesn't work that way. It's coming whether you're ready or not. But most changes aren't as predictable.

If you adopt a mindset that is agile, nimble and always preparing for change, when it does arrive, you're more equipped to deal with it. Prior proper planning can prevent poor performance, but sometimes you have to shoot from the hip. You can have a great plan, but make sure you have an equally high-level backup plan. At the very least, lean into the unknown and allow life to take over so you can find out exactly where a new change can take you--if you are able to "just go with it," you might even enjoy the ride. 

2. Find your breath and focus on gratitude

Even as the leader of your business, you don't get to call all the shots. At times when you feel out of control, you can always find your breath. Breathe deeply, and review the things that you can still count on until you discover what you're going to learn from reaching the other side of uncertainty. In such moments, it's more important than ever to practice gratitude. Gratitude changes your brain chemistry in a positive way. Focus on appreciating the information, talent and resources that are working in your favor--it can provide the boost you may need.

3. Embrace the possibilities that change may bring

Another tool is reminding yourself that you are still here and capable of expanding. When a key employee leaves, you might feel as if the team will never recover, or when you lose a crucial client, you may not see how you could ever bounce back. But nature has encoded within us the will to carry on--just as the sprout breaks free of the seed coat. You can get through it.

In nature, bees are not attracted to a constricted rosebud, but rather the flower when it opens. Similarly, when you are open to possibility and your mind is not constricted, you're more likely to attract what you deeply desire beyond everyday material wants.

Make a list of past issues you faced that seemed insurmountable. Then, look back and recall what happened to resolve them and what you gained. Often, issues that caused significant concern lead to new ways of thinking that are a net positive in life and business.

Certain changes must happen in order for the best outcome to manifest: Getting pushed out of one office allowed you to find the perfect place for your business now, or when one key person quit, it made room for the rockstar you hired in their place. As soon as we stop being who we are, we make room for who we can become.

4. Adopt tools that help process change effectively

Kolb's experiential learning cycle states that when you have a concrete experience, you must employ active reflection--an often overlooked aspect of education that some argue is the most important. Through reflection, you draw conclusions about newfound knowledge. This leads to implementing the new concept through active experimentation, thus altering future experiences. It's a best practice to utilize Kolb's cycle over and over, extracting new avenues of thought, feelings and emotions. 

Here's a real-world example: Let's say you've historically hired salespeople who reach out to you directly (concrete experience). However, they never seem to close as they promise (active reflection), so you decide that head-hunting is a different approach that's been overlooked (conclusion). You then put out an open call for employment in your circle (active experimentation), because you now realize that putting trust in people who reach out to you directly hasn't worked successfully.

Many of us continue to do specific things, expecting a different result. Kolb's process helps to clearly outline and review past experiences, so a different--and hopefully, more positive result--can be the outcome.

Change is inevitable. Remain open to it and surrender to the flow!