Discomfort of Change: 8 Strategies to Manage the Process Successfully

2020 has been a year of significant change to our personal, business, and financial lives, our mental state, family dynamics and more. It is human nature to resist or avoid change. Most of us only make a change when the pain is too much, and it outweighs the benefits of the status quo.

In an effort to navigate my own discomfort with change this year I have been reading many books on the topic of change and thriving through uncertainty.  What I am learning is that highly successful people feel the discomfort as we all do but how they react to it is different.

So how can we learn to look for discomfort and see it as a signal that we are on the right track? How can discomfort provide an opportunity to search for a new solution; to analyze our feelings to gauge the threat we are intuitively reacting to and see the situation for what it is?

Why do some people drive change and others are blindsided by it? Why are some people able to adapt and thrive? How can we learn to make change easier?

In the book The Beauty of Discomfort – How What We Avoid Is What We Need, by Amanda Lang she walks us through a series of strategies to navigate discomfort and how we can use it to grow, thrive and chart a path forward. The following strategies are a combination of Amanda’s and my own from years of coaching clients.

1 – Look for the Benefits of Discomfort

It isn’t companies or industries that decide to change or innovate.  People do. Asking “Why” is a powerful agent of change since it challenges us to look at things differently. Also, “What if….” allows us to imagine alternative outcomes and sparks our creativity to come up with a different solution. Starting a property management business can be scary and exciting at the same time but the benefits far outweigh the discomfort. The new skills gained and feeling of achievement are the rewards to facing the discomfort and moving through it. Another example might be negative feedback from existing clients or tenants. Yeah, it hurts but if looked at objectively the feedback is a gold mine of opportunity to improve your business. 

2 – Reframing Discomfort

Why is it that elite athletes seem to have higher tolerances for pain and discomfort? They are trained to reframe how they perceive the discomfort on a scale of 1-10. They also realize that at times discomfort is the signal that they are on the right path and are growing stronger mentally and physically. Reframing is stepping back and analyzing what is really happening and putting it into perspective.  This gives us the feeling of control. Reframing is really the mind-over-matter mantra. It is why elite athletes can perform at such high levels.

This year many of us have been reframing our lives…working from home while trying to home school and keep the kids occupied has been a challenge but for many it has also been an opportunity to connect with our kids, eat dinner together, play games and get to know each other again. 

Many people are keeping a gratitude journal or list. I’ve seen polls on Facebook asking people to list what they are grateful for since the Covid-19 lockdown.  Some examples are saving money by eating at home, not commuting, learning a new hobby such as starting a veggie garden, organizing closets and the list goes on. Looking for the good in the situation or the silver lining helps us to lower stress and manage all the moving parts. 

2 – Mindset Affects Discomfort

Mindset is everything and if used to navigate discomfort we will succeed where others say we will fail.  When I was getting my teaching credential there was a story that had a huge impact on how I saw my students – children and adults alike.  The story goes like this… a middle school teacher got her roster of students for the coming year and was thrilled that after 10 years of teaching she finally had the gifted students instead of the below average students.  The school year was wonderful, and the class won awards and excelled as they should have since they were the best and brightest in the school. At the end of the school year the teacher asked the principal how is it she got the best that school year?  What she found out was that the test scores she received at the start of the year were in fact the student’s locker numbers!  These students were the same students she had had for 10 years but her mindset was different, and she saw them as the best and taught to that expectation. You get to choose your mindset of success or failure. Where you focus is where you will go. The beauty is you get to choose.

The property management industry has gone through significant changes this year from conferences being canceled and everything going online to working remotely. The industry has been moving slowing toward remote work environments through VA’s but with zoom and software in the cloud many property managers are deciding they don’t need a physical office, and their employees are more productive working remotely and not commuting. The restructuring of how we do business through this forced change has provided financial savings and increased profitability and ultimately challenged us to rethink the old way of operating a property management business. 

Change happens whether you make a decision or not.  Personally, I would rather be in charge of how I respond to the change instead of letting it happen to me.  

4 – Rejecting Discomfort

Discomfort can be used as a tool to help us change for the better or overcome an obstacle but what if the mind you are trying to change isn’t your own? Let’s say people are rooting for you to fail. Discomfort that comes as an external force emanating from others can be one of the most difficult types to deal with. How do you win them over? You depersonalize the criticism; you deny it and don’t allow yourself to experience it on an emotional level. 

An example of this might be you just took over the family property management business but came to it from another career path. How do you gain the respect of the employees who feel you only got the job because you are family? Reject the criticism and focus on the task at hand to prove your worth will silence the critics.  

5 – The Comfort of Control

Sometimes we are blindsided by fate and change isn’t a choice such as, being laid off from your job, being hit with forced shut downs due to Covid-19, or your spouse seemingly out of the blue asks for a divorce. Sometimes the discomfort of change can’t be reframed or repackaged with gratitude or redirected with denial. However, believing we have control over our thoughts helps us to bear the change and discomfort. Why does this matter? Because then we don’t see ourselves as a victim of the situation. Research shows that believing you are going through something tough to achieve a desired outcome reduces discomfort. Sometimes just having information about the change such as when a new law will go into effect or the process for following the law with tenant notifications can provide the belief, we have control even if the events are beyond us. 

Change is always happening but for most of us we prefer comfort over change.  What do we do when the change is significant, beyond our control, or maybe it is something we want but we are too scared to take the next step? The human mind will always go to the worst-case scenario. It is how we prepare ourselves for the hurt to come. However, usually the worst-case never happens.

People tend to see things as black and white, but the reality is, we live in the gray. 

6 – Eat an Elephant

As the old saying goes “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

When we are going through a lot of change and feel stuck, anxious, depressed, overwhelmed the easiest way to get unstuck is to take ACTION.  Do something. Get ruthless with your priorities and To-Do list.  Start crossing off what isn’t a priority and can be done later or get really honest and decide if it needs to be done at all. Break tasks down into smaller bits and tackle them.

7 – Run Your Own Race

I have a coaching client that was feeling overwhelmed with COVID-19, shutdowns, home schooling, running the business, and life.  We went through her list of “I have to do…or I should do…” items and crossed off most of them.  Instantly she felt more energized and relieved that she didn’t have to do those things now.  She said, “now I can focus on my number one priority.” Which was “to write my mission statement.”  As a coach and a long-time business owner I am not a fan of mission statements that go on the wall or in fancy brochures and no one ever looks at again or employees can’t recite. I started asking clarifying questions such as “How many doors do you manage?” “How long have you been in business?” She was successful and she did it all without having a mission statement.  She was listening to other’s say that she wasn’t running a real business unless she had a “mission statement.” In her mind she wasn’t successful until she had this in place. Once I reminded her that she has been very successful without the prerequisite mission statement she was relieved.  She just freed up a ton of time and energy by NOT doing what the experts said she must do to be successful. Listen to your own voice. Run your own race.

8 – You Have A Choice

When faced with difficult decisions or feelings of anxiety about change that is coming, or we are already experiencing, always keep in mind that we get to choose how we respond. We can believe we have control; we can reframe the situation; we can have a positive mindset and we can see the benefits that will come from the change.  As business owners we face a myriad of decision daily and when we are on information overload or feeling exhausted and stuck I would like to ask you to think back to another time or situation where you were challenged and remember how you got through that situation and how you were better off once things settled down.  Remind yourself that you know the answer and you have been through this before or tougher situations and you can navigate the discomfort of change. The fact you own a business or manage a portfolio or team or head up a maintenance department means you have proven time again that you are capable and successful. 

I have confidence in you that you can and will successfully find your own way to move through the discomfort of change and come out thriving and energized. I hope some of these strategies will find their way into your tool kit to manage current and future change. Property Managers are all about finding solutions to problems for our clients and we can do it for ourselves. Be the Change.


Kathleen Richards, is the owner of PM Made Easy and The Property Management Coach. With her 13 years as a broker/owner of a property management company she speaks from experience. Kathleen authored, Property Management A-Z and teaches regularly at community colleges and conferences on property management topics. She is active in her field and holds professional designations as Master Property Manager (MPM®) and Residential Management Professional (RMP®) and her company held the coveted, Certified Residential Management Company (CRMC®) designation from NARPM®. She is currently a National Instructor for NARPM® and is honored to be sharing best practices with other NARPM® professionals. Kathleen has served at the local and state level on the boards for NARPM® (National Association of Residential Property Managers)