Sometimes, we acknowledge that we need to make some changes in our professional or personal lives. The biggest obstacle seems to be our general, but normal, dislike for change. The big question is, why do we find it so hard to change? Among the many reasons that we don’t like change is that it makes us uncomfortable even if we clearly realize that we must change. We find it difficult to diverge from the patterns and processes that we have established. This triggers the desire to postpone making changes as long as possible. But, overall we are adaptable and are fairly adept at making the necessary changes that are in keeping with our own best interests.
However, it is helpful to periodically examine some of the key reasons that making changes are difficult and develop a few techniques to make it more understandable, if not easier.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Fear of failure – If we try something new, there is the chance that we may not be successful. Certainly, the first time we try something new, we may not be as good as we would like to be. There is a learning curve to almost every new skill that we develop. The resolution to this fear is to take small steps rather than plunging into the deep end. When you are approaching a new skill or process, take small steps. In a professional setting, this could mean that we allow a transition period for changing from the old methods to the new methods. This allows sufficient time to revisit certain steps and make corrections before completely transitioning to the next step in the process. In other words, building on your successes is an easier way to change.
- Historical factors – Our lives, to this point, has been shaped by thousands of small and imperceptible impulses, stimuli, training, skill building and even changes. Most of us feel that we have been successful and are skilled at the things that we do. However, some of the skills that we have developed need to be updated simply because there are more efficient and effective methods. In my opinion, if I need to cut down a tree, I would not get a better and sharper ax, I would get a chain saw. This does not demean my ax wielding skills. A chain saw is simply a better tool or skill for the job. Don’t be reluctant to investigate and invest in some new skills that may benefit you in the future.
- Incremental steps – I am not certain of the attribution for this quote, but “fail fast, and fail cheap” translates to taking small steps so that you can recover as quickly as possible without major mistakes. Most of us would agree that if we make a small mistake, it is not too difficult to recover at a smaller cost. It is important to avoid committing significant resources before we are certain that we are on the right track. If we have invested significant time and resources, it is more difficult to accept starting over from scratch. We must fight the impulse to keep trying to salvage a failing effort.
- Pressure – A new idea or process may be considered by some to be unworkable or unnecessary. Your team may feel that it is simply a bad idea. You may be able to avoid some of this pressure by asking for some feedback on your new plan or idea. You may actually get some constructive feedback that addresses a better method or changes to the implementation of a new process. If the feedback is constructive, the team members may be able to help design tests before live implementation.
- Self esteem – We want to maintain our pride and reputation, because our culture does not look kindly upon mistakes. We have all failed, particularly in the early stage, of a new effort or skill. However, we had the fortitude to continue, even after multiple failures. But, the desire to acquire and perfect the new skill exceeded the discomfort of temporary setbacks. We realized that once we perfected the new skill, we could enjoy the benefits for a lifetime. The same rationale holds now. You must invest in new skills, even in the face of perceived lower self esteem, to enjoy the lasting benefits of acquiring the new skill.
None of us want to lose the respect of our colleagues and team members. However we must not be afraid to maintain our convictions if we believe that certain changes will contribute to increased efficiency and effectiveness. Sometimes, we have to believe we’re right even if everyone disagrees with us. The foundational concept that we must accept is that, change is inevitably. So, dealing with and successfully managing change is a critical skill for all professionals.
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