A search under change at Amazon.com brings up over half a million listings!! We are fascinated with change…and we find it extremely difficult. Even when the change is a positive one, we still resist. Why? It’s because as humans, we resist leaving the familiar…from that very first cry at having to leave the womb, to the challenges of changing homes, changes within our organizations or changes in our life status.
Making a change means moving away from the understandable and familiar parts of our identity, behaviors or environment and jumping into the unknown. Talk about huge discomfort.
We are already grappling with change on a huge scale in how we deal with the seemingly increasing natural disasters and terrorism, in technology, and in the world. So it’s only natural that we cling to the comfortable existence and identities we have created for ourselves, rather than risk more discomfort. The status quo is easy and seductive, even when it’s not desirable.
In his book Deep Change, Robert E. Quinn suggests that we have only two choices—”deep change” or “slow death”:
“We live in a tumultuous time. Change is everywhere, and we are surrounded by circumstances that seem to demand more than we can deliver. We are all regularly lured into playing the role of the powerless victim or the passive observer. In such roles, we become detached, and our sense of meaning decays. We look at everything in a superficial way. We see little potential and have little reverence. To choose to play either of theses roles is to choose meaninglessness or the slow death of the self. We have always been embedded in a dilemma. We have always had to agonize over the choice between making deep change or accepting slow death.”
When the “pain” of the status quo becomes too great, or the desire for something better makes it worth overlooking the fear of change, it’s time to take the leap.
So how do we make change more manageable in ourselves or in others? As I said, that’s the topic of over 500,000 books alone. However here are the basic five steps I use with my clients:
It seems obvious, but before you can make a change, you need to be aware of where you are, and where you want to go.
2. Tap into a strong desire
The “where you want to go” has to be fueled by a strong desire. If there’s not passion or a strong, compelling reason (Napoleon Hill called it obsession) for the change, it won’t happen.
3. Bring the negative beliefs and fears out into the sunlight
If you don’t take a look at the “gremlins” they will create huge obstacles.
4. Devise strategies and support systems to cope with the discomfort of change.
Change is not something to go through alone.
5. Change needs to be consistent
Whether change is behavioral or situational, you need to be consistent about practicing it or diving in to the new situation. Eventually it will become the new norm, and as comfortable as the one you resisted changing from.