We live in highly transformative times. The year 2020 will stand out as a year of rapid transformation and changes. Many of us may feel as though we are thrown straight into a tornado of changes. It can be changes related to our working life, private life or the greater conditions we are a part of.
We may struggle to find our way forward in what can seem chaotic, frightening or just hard to get our heads around.
But we can also find ourselves being the catalyst and driver for some of the changes. The times we live in, may have triggered a desire for changes into something new and better.
Managing changes well can be incredible hard, as changes take us out of a previous balance, out of our comfort zone or into the unknown.
But, if we handle change well, it can have a highly transformative impact on us. Dealing positively with changes can take us from a negative or neutral well-being state into a heightened state of thriving. Change can lead to significant growth and reconfiguration into something new, that is more in alignment with us and the conditions we are a part of.
Why is change so hard, and what can you do?
Change is hard for a number of reasons. Even the changes we seek out for ourselves with a great deal of passion and interest may fail. For the changes we seek to make, I here cover some of the common reasons why it’s so hard, and what we can do about it.
- Check for psychological resistance. Even a positive change, that we decide to embark on for our own benefit can contain a great deal of unconscious psychological resistance. It can be fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or fear of losing something of value, which we may not even know, that we value. Assessing potential resistance from as many angles as possible, can help to identify unconscious blockers for change.
- Motivate. As part of a change process, we often forget to check-in with our deeper motivation. What is really the driver behind the change we are about to make? The change can strictly speaking be intrinsically (inner) or extrinsically (external) motivated. There is a greater likelihood of success for intrinsically motivated changes, which are aligned with our values, core beliefs and assumptions in life. Via different techniques we can sometimes reframe an extrinsic motivation into an intrinsic motivation which will make the change process easier.
- Clarify. One of the most fundamental steps before embarking on a change process is to gain clarity of the outcome and end goal. But we often underestimate the time needed to succinctly define the end goal. If we don’t know what direction we are heading in, the chances of success are low. SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound) can work across topics, even for ‘softer topics’, where we challenge ourselves to look for quantifiable evidence. With a clear end goal, we can then chunk it down into bite sized sub-goals, that strike a balance of being challenging, motivating and continuously relevant for the current state.
- Visualise. Metaphorically speaking, change is a journey towards a new destination. Often what can slow our process is our lack of “felt” clarity regarding the new destination. This clarity should be understood broadly – it can be clarity at a visual level, emotional level, physical level, etc. A growing amount of scientific evidence, shows that various visualisation techniques can work as powerful tools to help our sub-conscious mind form new routes towards our end-goal and even help us identify opportunities for change as they emerge on a daily basis, that we would otherwise have failed to recognise.
- Prepare. Often, we can be so eager to start our change journey, that we jump straight into action, without doing the necessary preparation. But like going on a travel, we need sufficient preparation, resources and equipment for the journey. It can be new knowledge, skills, time, external support, structures in place, etc. that can help us along the way. So, a part of the preparation, we can ask ourselves, how we can reshuffle our current priorities, and what extra resources we need in place.
- Search-&-Replace. From a psychological perspective we are habitual creatures. Our brains are hardwired to prefer status quo, predictability, and stable routines, as this requires less cognitive resources of us. Change often throws us out of our habits, so we cannot rely on our autopilot. This is why many changes fail. A key feature of a successful habit change is therefore to think “search-&-replace”, as to identify all of the old habits and replace these with new habits, leaving no gaps overlooked.
- Accept failure. Most people tend to see change as a linear, upward sloping process. In reality, change is a bumpy road with ups and downs. When we meet a road block and have a setback, a normal psychological reaction is to become demotivated, and it is easy to slip back into our old behaviour or routines. We can help ourselves through the process by getting awareness and acceptance of setbacks as a natural part of the change process, and by keeping the big picture in mind. When we accept failure as part of the process, it is easier not to let small setbacks overshadow the successes. Preparing a contingency plan, can also be a good way to help us get back on track quicker without losing faith in the goal.
- Celebrate. Change takes time before it is anchored, manifested or turned into long-term habitual behaviour. The key is to keep up motivation. A part of that is to accept that change is requiring, exhausting and time-consuming. Celebrating successes, even the smallest wins, can be a powerful way to sustain our motivation, so we don’t fall into the trap of impatience, which can fuel a negative thinking pattern and halt our perseverance. Celebrating with other people can be extra empowering, as they can offer us support and put our change journey into perspective.
How I help with change
Whether you are facing personal changes or changes in the workplace, I may be able to help support the changes. This either from a 1:1 personal perspective, by working with your team or the greater organisation.
I work as a Positive Psychology Practitioner, Consultant, Coach and Speaker.
I help people and organisations enable changes and thrive. I believe that we are more resourceful than we think, and that we can consciously work with unproductive patterns to help us thrive and reach our full potential.
I graduated from Copenhagen Business School almost 10 years ago, and have a background in consulting (McKinsey & Co.) doing organisational changes.
I’m now specialising in psychology with a Master in Applied Positive Psychology & Coaching Psychology to help facilitate positive changes in the individuals, I work with.
If you want to know more about how I may be able to help you – either via coaching, consulting, seminars or talks – please do not hesitate to contact me at Karina@sustainablelead.com or +4560540901 for an informal chat.