Change is not an event. It’s a psychological experience.
That’s why it’s so difficult.
In your head change is single action that’s happening to you - you get promoted, lose a team member or move house. Or it’s something you need to make happen - improve your diet, implement a process or get the kids to tidy their rooms. A simple case of taking action. Action = reaction, right? Change done.
Except it’s never that easy is it?
Motivation is an issue. People get angry. We resist. We argue - with others and with ourselves. It’s hard.
Our challenge with change is not because we’re obstinate or misguided or difficult. It’s because we’re human and we need to adapt to change, even the changes we’re making ourselves.
If you’re making changes and want to make the path a little smoother, consider the following reasons why humans hate change:
It’s a shock and we’re not ready. If a change is big and unexpected our first reaction is shock, then denial. It’s the emotional equivalent of singing ‘la la la la la’ with our fingers in our ears. We carry on as we always have, telling ourselves that nothing has changed, denying that we’ve been told anything about a change and making excuses for non-participation. Even if, deep down, you knew this change was coming, you might still linger in denial for a while until you’ve worked through some fear and discomfort and wrapped your head around what’s happening.
Change brings feelings and feelings are uncomfortable. As humans we’re happy and safe in our comfort zone. Push us near the edge and we get anxious. Push us over the edge and we can fall apart completely. Even when we complain about not being happy with the status quo, it doesn’t mean we’re ready to launch into something different. Not yet.
As we grapple with new ideas, new prospects and new ways of operating all our feelings come to the fore. We get angry, frustrated, argumentative and sad. We might welcome the change one day and resist it with all our might the next. It helps, when we’re feeling all the feelings, to look around and see and know that this is normal and others struggle too.
3. We don’t know what the future looks like and that’s scary. This is important if you’re helping others to change.
Change is an emotional road we must travel in order to get from where we are now to where we want to be. The road is winding and steep and it’s a daunting one to travel if you don’t know the destination. If we trust our guide and know we’ll arrive at a safe place - even if we don’t know that looks like yet - we’ll brave the unknown with tentative steps.
Next time you’re faced with making a change, get curious. Ask yourself,
What am I seeing here?
What am I doing?
How am I feeling?
Where am I (or others) on the road to change?
Are we ready?
Are we scared?
Are we making progress?
Am I leading us carefully along the path?
Above all, be patient. Change is a human process not an event and some processes just can’t be rushed.