How to make change happen

November 18, 2018
how to make change happen

In my professional life, I work in change communications. I help organisations move their employees through a change process often involving new ways of working. Yet, ironically when it comes to my personal life, a change agent I am not. I don’t like change and my tendency to overthink means I can struggle with indecision even when it comes to the smallest things. I worry about the outcomes and lose confidence in my own judgement. I’m convinced most people don’t like change, but it’s not something we readily like to admit to for fear of being seen as boring or stuck in our ways. However, it is something that needs to happen. We need to evolve and find new ways of doing things so that we can move forward in life. So how do we make change happen?

What is change?

Change is the process or act of doing something different. It broadly falls into two categories: change that we create for ourselves, and change that happens to us. Change we create for ourselves is thought to be the more positive version because we are in control. However, what if the thought of change causes us to stall? In some respects it can be easier to have change happen to us – we just need to react. However, in order to really feel happy and fulfilled, it’s important to take responsibility for our own lives and make change happen.

Why don’t we like change?

The reason why humans don’t like change seems to be in part down to the way our brains are wired. Scientists have shown we find a known negative outcome less stressful than dealing with uncertainty. We can also put huge investments of time, money and energy into our decision making. This makes it hard for our egos to walk away from a situation that no longer serves us. It’s why so many of us have stayed in relationships for longer than we should have done or overlooked opportunities in favour of the status quo.

There is also a school of thought that says unless change can offer twice as many gains as a loss, then people would rather stick with what they know. So our brains need to see something as being twice as positive in order to take action.

However, getting over the wrong decision is part of the human experience and something most people do very well. It offers us learning opportunities and helps us grow. This suggests that even when change doesn’t work, it’s still hugely beneficial.

Becoming more comfortable with change

In organisational change, we know that the process must be managed because people will not accept change overnight. It needs to be done slowly, communicated properly and thoughtfully.

There are principles within change management that can be applied to our own decision-making. We can carry out a pre-mortem exercise which is a technique where you think of all the reasons why something might fail. This helps identify areas to be aware of and put solutions in place before any activity begins.

We also need to be aware that so much of our decision making is based on past experiences and habit. This is one of the main reasons why organisations tend to invest huge sums of money into a change process and their employees go back to doing exactly the same thing they did before. It’s habit that forms our neural pathways and creates thinking patterns that mean we tend to do the same thing over and over again.

In order to really become comfortable with change, we need to create new neural pathways. We need to retrain our brains into new habits. So for the next month, try to do something a bit different every day. Rewire the brain to enjoy change.

5 ways to make change happen (and feel good about your decision making…)

  1. Recognise that change doesn’t have to be a right/wrong decision. You can change your job, house etc – and keep changing it until you find what’s right for you.
  2. Write a list of pros and cons so you’re really comfortable with your decision.
  3. Understand that not taking a course of action is actually a decision in itself. So by not doing one thing, you are making an active decision to stick with the status quo. There’s nothing wrong with that of course. It’s just helped me when I’ve felt in a comfort zone to recognise staying in it, is a decision too.
  4. Remember that change isn’t linear. We all go through ups and downs, and zig zag throughout life.
  5. We all change in our lives. The best thing we can do is understand life has a way of turning out for the best and ride the wave.

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