Battling Change and Sameness
Nothing new happens without change yet people are often slaves to sameness, and even after embracing change, they will revert to their old patterns of behaviour and thinking. Why is this?
According to scientists, the reason we resist change is because our brains are hardwired to detect life threatening changes and engage in fight or flight behaviour. When we experience dramatic changes from an external source, we are naturally programmed to first feel fear and then to go on high alert and make a quick lifesaving decision. Our resistance to sudden change is an innate reaction to our environment. But what about when we choose to make changes in our lives? Why do we embrace those changes and fear change brought to us from an external source?
We embrace change more easily when it is our idea and when it doesn’t negatively affect our well-being. Humans seek out stability. For example, change in employment is perceived to be an exciting opportunity when it’s a promotion with better pay, but tragic when we are fired.
We are moved forward by positive outcomes and deterred by negative outcomes, so our perception of the outcome must be more comfortable than the place we are in. Divorce is a great example of how humans perceive change. When we are miserable at home, and our stability is negatively affected, we get up and leave, but only if we believe there is something better waiting for us on the other side. Many people will stay miserably married because the prospect of risking their financial stability, upsetting family members and being single for the rest of their life is unappealing. People who imagine they would in some way be better off after divorce, are more likely to make that change and will do it quite happily. Change, in this case, is much harder for the spouse who didn’t want the divorce.
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift - Bob Dylan
The hidden message in the above quote is that if you are in a position where you must force change upon others, then make sure in advance that the perception of continued stability remains untainted. Business consultants and change managers have a way of inadvertently instilling fear among employees. They put together a long list of things that must change and make rapid and sweeping improvements that scare the heck out of everybody, disrupt the flow of business and cause people to quit, call in sick, and spread discontent around the office. Consider using the Japanese business philosophy of Kaizen to create change while maintaining stability. With Kaizen, you can have a large positive impact simply by committing to continuous improvement and making small steady changes over a longer period of time. Kaizen makes employees feel empowered and less intimidated by the process of continuous improvement. It allows them to become active contributors, thereby making it easier to embrace changes. You can also use this philosophy to make small, yet powerful changes in your personal life as well.
So why do we fall back into old patterns? Sometimes it is because we take comfort in repeating behaviours that we know. Some studies suggest our tendency to revert to old patterns stems from overestimating our own ability to resist temptation. That makes good sense to me. If you are watching your weight for example, you will be setting yourself up for failure if you continue to keep unhealthy foods in the house, or if you think that having just one cupcake won’t be a problem. For most people, that kind of thing is always a problem, because they will gradually end up indulging at more frequent intervals and then, without even being aware of what happened, end up back where they started. Think of the alcoholic who believes he can have just one drink. It never happens.
Anything that changes your values changes your behavior. - George A. Sheehan
Changing behaviour also requires making a change in the way you think about the behaviour, not just removing the temptation. By adjusting your rationale and embracing new values, you will be more likely to keep yourself from wanting to return to your old way of doing things.
A great example of this can be found when people change their religion. They go from eating and drinking certain foods and indulging in behaviours they never really questioned, to leaving it all behind in the name of God. When you change your belief system and your values, you create an uncomfortable environment for those old habits to thrive in. If you can remain steadfast in your commitment to those values, you will have little problem with self-discipline. Be religious about your commitment to change. It will keep you on track.
In business, rewriting your company values to reflect the changes you want to make in your business is a good place to start. Once you have done that, it is important to continually communicate those values in everything you do. Incorporate your company’s values into all decision making processes, meetings, objectives and policies. When you do that, you will be more likely to successfully implement workplace change and not fall into the statistic of being among the 70% of businesses who fail at executing change.
The battle between change and sameness is part of the human condition but it is only a problem when we let it become one. Below are a few more resources for you to check out.
My beBee post, Work the Plan: Secrets to Successful Business Execution provides ideas to help you execute change in your organization.
My post, Are you integrated? Nine tactics to facilitate workplace change may also be helpful.
You can view all my beBee blogs here.
Need to discuss changes in your company? I'd be happy to have a chat with you.
Renée Cormier is no ordinary public relations & communications specialist. Add published author, employee engagement specialist, sales and marketing strategist, entrepreneur and educator to her list of accomplishments. Renée brings a wide range of experience and talent to her work. Her passion for business and her natural talent for business strategy and communications makes her an important resource for her clients.
We work with companies in transition to generate positive bottom line results! Contact Renée through her website: www.reneecormier.com
It is hard to find PR people with the business acumen and the valuable varied experience that I have. If you are serious about growing your business and raising your public profile, then you should talk to me.