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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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« What Are Today's Interesting Finds? - v1 | Four Seasons of Change »

Ask the Expert: Dr. Debbie Grove

The “Ask the Expert” interview series continues to connect you with dynamic industry thought leaders. Last month, author and minimalist, Joshua Becker, talked with us about fresh starts. This month I’m thrilled to have with us psychologist, Dr. Debbie Grove to share her unique perspective and thoughts about change.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Twitter? Through social media, one of my great joys has been connecting with amazing people like Debbie. Our paths have crossed in the virtual world where we’ve had the opportunity to get to know one another. Debbie is passionate about change, which the main focus of her therapy practice. She said, “Working on change is a rewarding experience.” My gratitude and thanks goes to Debbie for taking the time to join us. You’re going to love her ideas and practical strategies about change. Before we begin, here’s more about her.

Dr. Debbie Grove has been engaged in facilitating change for individuals, couples, and organizations for over 15 years in capacities such as manager, executive director, board of director member, and psychologist. Her career arenas have included not-for-profit organizations, municipal government, colleges and universities, employee assistance programs, and private practice. She is currently focusing on providing psychological services for depression, anxiety, relationships, marriage counseling, career transition, life coaching, health and well-being, midlife issues, self-esteem, communication, loss, and family of origin issues. Dr. Grove completed a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at the University of Calgary where she researched midlife depression, adult learning, and counseling processes. You can connect with Debbie on Twitter, LinkedIn or website.


Linda Samuels:  As a psychologist, one of your specialties is helping people navigate change. What enables us to successfully embrace change?

Dr. Debbie Grove:  The following represent my key tips for navigating change successfully:

  • Be clear about what you want to change and why.
  • Realize that change takes time, commitment, and effort.
  • Learn to be patient and kind with yourself.
  • Accept setbacks as a natural part of the change process; they are bound to happen and are not a sign of failure, rather an important part of the learning.
  • Establish specific action steps.  Achieving each step helps build momentum, confidence and a positive attitude about the change process.


Linda:  What are some common challenges we encounter when seeking the changes we desire?

Debbie:  I find that people tend to take on too much change all at once. In turn, this elevates stress and anxiety as the changes become unmanageable, difficult to prioritize and overwhelming. This sometimes indicates that sufficient time to reflect, brainstorm, and plan for change has not taken place. Given that change undoubtedly has to be incorporated into every day living, one goal at a time is best. Moreover, this facilitates the capacity to focus and to stay focused on the targeted area of change.


Linda:  Do you have any strategies for managing doubt, fear, and uncertainty that often accompany transitions and change?

Debbie:  Change often involves letting go of one aspect of life in order to gain another, making sacrifices, compromising, and incorporating life adjustments. At first, the mere idea of these adjustments can generate discomfort; after all, veering away from one’s comfort zone can be a distressing proposition.  In my work as a psychologist, here are some of my primary strategies for managing the psychological components of change:

  • Ongoing self-care (e.g., sleep, nutrition, exercise, social support), especially since life transitions and change tend to generate stress and deplete the immune system.
  • Maintain a positive outlook about change and effectively managing unhealthy thinking patterns (e.g., all-or-nothing thinking).
  • Remind yourself about the good outcomes that will result from the change process – balancing this future-orientation with staying grounded in the here-and-now. Sometimes I suggest visual cues such as a vision board that profiles images of outcomes and goals that one hopes to achieve as the result of change. Celebrate the small milestones along the way.
  • Seek out supports, resources and outlets to release stress, fear, and anxiety (e.g., going to the gym, venting with a friend, and journaling).


Linda:  What is your most surprising discovery about change?

Debbie:  One of the biggest myths about change relates to motivation. Avoiding the beginning stages of change waiting for motivation to kick in can prevent people from getting started. Understandably, change might be put off as a result of fear and uncertainty. Taking a first step, or behaving one’s way toward change, is a much more effective approach. The motivation will come a bit later once a person has begun to experience some forward movement toward their goal. Once the ball gets rolling, self-efficacy starts to set in – change is then perceived as more possible and achievable.


Linda:  What has been your biggest personal challenge around change?

Debbie:  When I decided to complete graduate school during my midlife years, it meant significant life changes, sacrifices, and re-establishing priorities. That period was very challenging. Being clear about my goals, facing and acting upon the needed changes, and developing realistic strategies to make the necessary life adjustments was all part of making a career dream a reality. Staying focused on the positive outcomes associated with change was very helpful for me!


Debbie, your no-nonsense approach to change is refreshing. Your emphasis on self-care, patience, singular focus, acknowledgement of “setbacks,” good support system, and positive outlook, especially resonated with me. Thank you for sharing your practical approach for embracing positive, successful change.

Please join Debbie and me as we continue the conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts about navigating change. What resonates with you?

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Reader Comments (22)

There is so much wisdom here! We see this all the time as organizers, right? Putting off starting until the motivation kicks in? I always say "nothing is as motivating as progress"! Wonderful, informative, actionable interview!

February 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

I have very clear that every time I try to change something that never happen if I wait for motivation, but if I take the first step is more likely that the change happen.

Waiting for things to happen is never as effective than make things happen, so if we want a change, we need to take more actions and less thinking

Thank you Debbie and Linda

February 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

Lovely to "hear" your voices!

@Seana- "…so much wisdom" is right! Change begets change, doesn't it? We often fear that first step into the unknown or outside our comfort zone. But it's amazing the energy and motivation we derive, when we just leap anyway.

@Nacho- Action vs. waiting for that right moment. There's a place for both, however, at a point if we want to move ahead, we have to dive in.

February 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Great wisdom, and I'm pleased to "meet" a fellow Canuck!

I always say, the first step is the hardest one.

February 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Debbie's strategies are all the same principles that we tap into as Professional Organizers working with our clients. We too, are the facilitators of change. Far and away the best nugget that resonates with me is "Accept setbacks as a natural part of the change process; they are bound to happen and are not a sign of failure, rather an important part of the learning." This is a very powerful acknowledgement for both myself and my client. This mindset replaces a seemingly negative energy (like disappointment) with a positive one.

Great interview, Linda!

February 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Borg

great interview Linda. Love her thoughts on motivation. Totally resonated with me. Sometimes we just have to get started and the motivation will come. Great!

February 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Josel

So many great nuggets in here. I love the advice that change should be slow and that you should be patient and kind to yourself as part of the process of creating change. Thanks for sharing this, Linda and Debbie!

February 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJanine Adams

Always great to "hear" from you wonderful people!

@Janet- Never heard that term, "Canuck." Love it!

@Nancy- Reframing is a powerful strategy, isn't it?

@Leslie- I remember you talking about similar ideas in your interview on motivation. Great minds think alike!

@Janine- Patience is a biggie. Even if change is instant, how we adjust to it isn't.

February 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thank you, Linda for this wonderful interview. It is packed full of wonderful advice to remember. A few things stood out to me: remembering to be clear about your reasons for change and that to make a change in one aspect of your life will necessitate change or compromise in other aspects of your life. I'm reminded of the saying: nothing changes if nothing changes.

February 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

Diane- So glad you joined the conversation! Agree with you that this interview is "packed full" of great advice. Thanks for adding your saying to the mix. Love it - "nothing changes if nothing changes." And how true that is. Being clear about the change you seek is a good first step.

February 26, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Debbie's words about motivation resonated with me. I've found this to be very true, for me as well as for my clients. Motivation can be triggered by various factors but it can take time for it to kick in. Often we can use the absence of it as an excuse to not begin the journey.
Sometimes I urge myself forward by remembering to . . . "fake it until you make it."

I find the same to be true with inspiration. I've had many a stop-and-go moments with my writing. Somehow I hold on to the belief that I have to be inspired in order to write. Yet, I know that when I just sit down to write and, put pen to paper, if I stick with it, ideas will begin to flow.

Is it possible that the 80/20 rules applies here? Success / results / change are about 80 percent work . . . putting one foot in front of the other . . .and 20% inspiration / motivation?

Thank you Linda and Debbie. Wonderful conversation!

February 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterYota Schneider

Yota- You always make me smile, bringing your unique take to the conversation. You've got me thinking about the 80/20 rule in relation to motivation and inspiration. Whatever the percentages are, I'm guessing that what's most essential is the idea you brought up about moving forward anyway, no matter how motivated or inspired we're feeling. Beginning gets things to flow. Action builds excitement and success…even if the success is the act of taking that one baby step forward.

February 26, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Hi all ! Debbie, I can imagine what an anchor you can be for clients wrestling with change. You provided us with two, clear playbooks for navigating change and managing it. What I most want to mention is your advice to focus on the positive outcomes. It's so easy to lose our way in the midst of change. And positive, sought after changes produce stress, so keeping that balance of now/future, as you say, is a source of hope as we move through all of this. A bit of advice I plan to reiterate to a client I'm coaching with this week.

February 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSue West

Sue- Describing Debbie as a positive "anchor" for her clients in the midst of change brings front and center the need for support during transitions. Love your description for navigating and managing change as "playbooks." And hope…keeping it front and center. Wonderful that you'll be using something from this conversation to be your client's "anchor" this week. Lucky client.

February 27, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Hi Sue, Balancing the now and future orientations are so key aren't they, as you point out. This approach helps with navigating change. Keeping a positive eye on the future or the goals one is striving for helps fuel the engine - change takes energy! Great comments and feedback - thanks Sue! All the best, Debbie

February 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie Grove

Hi Yota, Moving forward, taking a step, doing something 'anyway' is so critical! It's rather like getting adrenaline going once on the treadmill, but getting to the gym can be challenging. Once the movement starts to happen, we tend to begin to cognitively and physically experience some motivation. Wonderful insight Yota. Take care, Debbie

February 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie Grove

Hi Seana, Nacho, Janet, and Leslie -- Your common theme of less thinking and more doing is so true! Overthinking during change processes can really generate barriers to change. Preplanning how one will go about change is necessary, but then action needs to take over. Terrific comments all, have a great rest of the week! Debbie

February 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie Grove

Thank you Debbie! It's all about building momentum, like you mention at another part of this interview. So often, we look at those who have accomplished the changes we desire and focus on the end result. We don't see how much determination and effort went into making a journey seem effortless. I also love the point you made about not seeing a setback as a failure but rather as a learning curve. Thanks again for stopping by to continue this conversation.

February 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterYota Schneider

Debbie- Love how you've added more to the conversation! So many highlights coming forward: keeping change as a positive focus, having confidence that action creates momentum, and not over thinking during transitions. All important ideas to consider about change.

Thank you again, Debbie for being here with us. We all experience change. Being able to talk about and have useful tools to navigate makes such a difference.

March 1, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Yota- Words to remember: momentum, focus, determination, effort. learning. All essential parts of the change process. Most grateful that you brought them in front and center.

March 1, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

There is a lot of concentrated wisdom and guidance in this post. As Nancy said, as organizers and coaches we are change agents for our clients. Two of Dr. Grove's points leap out for me: do not wait for motivation to kick in to initiate change and keep focused on the positive. Acknowledge the ambivalence and take a step forward anyway. I love vision boards! I find they are so helpful for the people I work with. For the more verbal folks we create a mantra to sum up the the goal in a positive way. Thank you Dr. Grove and Linda for this post.

March 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDenise Lee

Denise- Wonderful to have you with us for the "change" conversation! Great word choices - "concentrated wisdom, acknowledge the ambivalence, and vision boards." Love the positive creativity you bring.

March 4, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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