Let me first start by warning you that this is a fairly long post. I suspect most people won’t make it to the end. However, if you are serious about being happy, I hope you can at least spend 5 mins reading what I have written.
It will change your life. I promise.
I have been an independent software contractor for several years, performing all sorts of IT development services for clients about town. The agency whom I have been representing at client sites is currently undergoing a major change – they have just been sold to a big consultancy.
As a result of the merger, lots of change is happening. Some folks are questioning where things are headed, what management have planned, how their lives will change etc. Most certainly, there will be job losses as the two companies consolidate things, in particular administrative positions.
With the chaos that’s been unfolding, I’ve thought a bit about “change” in general. What is it? Why do people resist it? Is it always a good thing? What should I do?
With some reflection, I realised that with all inspiration, creation, thought and progress, some form of change must be a precursor. Things just don’t happen on their own. You know the old scientific principle of “energy cannot be created, only transformed”? Well, I think it applies here with change too. These things need to come from somewhere – they’re not born out of the ether. Synapses fired, decisions made and actions taken before change occurs.
In my case, someone must have decided that selling the company is something worth pursuing and that things shouldn’t keep ticking along they way they have been.
So from this respect, change is a good thing, without which there is no action or result.
In my readings, I came across the Satir Change Process model, named after Virginia Satir, an American author and psychotherapist. Her model is best represented in the diagram below which describe Performance fluctuations as a result of change.
The diagram depicts several stages of accepting change. The first stage is known as Status Quo (Gray Zone), a state where everyone is generally comfortable with the way things are. The second stage is a point in time a Foreign Element, trigger or change agent is introduced. What follows is a period of Resistance and Chaos (Red Zone), personified as a result of people being scared of the uncertainties the change has brought about and how their lives will be impacted.
The level of performance generally drops off and fluctuates more greatly between the Gray and Red Zones. There are various reasons for this – people may reject the change to protect the status quo; are confused with the change and are unsure of what to do; or simply become less competent with the new tools and processes introduced.
This describes why people by nature resist change. They don’t want to become less useful than they already are.
I see this every day. In my line of work as a software engineer, I work with tools and technology which change often. You may start on a project using a best-of-breed library, but by the time the project ends, chances are there’s a new version out or even a completely alternate way of doing things. Unless you keep abreast with changes, your skills can lose their edge, even become obsolete.
As a would-be entrepreneur, I too see this everywhere. Many new startups are created each day, but few survive. In order to survive, the entrepreneurs have to develop a business model that meets the market demands and deliver an economic return. To do so, they have to change and adapt as they learn and as opportunities arise.
Most people know this, yet change is often resisted. Why? The reason is simple really. Once someone has become comfortable with the way things work (Status Quo), they naturally find it hard to embrace something different (Foreign Element). Doing so, would mean they instantly become less competent, effective and efficient.
In today’s world and globalised marketplace, being less is scary. It’s drilled into us as children. We must be better than our peers. Faster. Higher. Stronger. Only by being more than the guy in the next cubicle can we get ahead in life.
This is why change is always scary. Yet, it is the Secret to Success.
Embrace change. Override your first instinctive reaction to run the other way. Adopt an open mind. Look at the change not as a threat to your current situation, but as an opportunity to learn and grow.
If the change is justified, well thought out and has the best of intentions, eventually your performance will improve. In the Satir Change Process model, this is classfied in two subsequent stages. The first being Integration and Practice (Yellow Zone), which occur once the chaos subsides. The second being the New Status Quo (Green Zone) in which the change is fully embraced, new processes become second nature and the benefits realised.
Writing a personal development blog has put me in touch with a lot of folks who ask for help in the form of emails and comments. I also strike up more interesting conversations with people I meet, either raised as a result of someone reading my articles or simply because I have this frame of mind.
Regardless, whenever someone asks me for advice on how to improve their present situation, invariably I always say to them the following:
If you want to be happy or your life to improve in one way or another, don’t expect things to radically change, unless you do something about it. If you keep doing things in the same way you have been doing, expect the same result. If you continue to cruise along the same highway, expect it to lead you exactly where it has always done.
To change your life for the better, you have to introduce a Foreign Element, trigger or change agent. Shake things up. Do things differently. Adopt an improved mindset. Be a different person.
Your life depends on it.