Accepting change


What if?

What if you had survived a massive heart attack, undergone cardiac surgery and been advised that you remained at a high risk of dying unless you addressed those lifestyle issues such as stopping smoking, losing weight and doing some exercise, you would do it wouldn't you?

Given the choice between life and a high probability of dying, the obvious path  would be to choose to live and do what ever it took to achieve that.

Wouldn't you?

The statistics tell us otherwise.

Alan Deutschman in his book "Change or Die" reveals that in these circumstances where we have the most to lose, i.e. run the risk of dying, only one in nine of us will actually make the necessary changes.


Because as human beings we are programmed to resist change, even if our lives depend on it! We might manage to make a few adjustments for a few weeks but then we quietly go back to the old and the familiar. Change induces the threat response in our brain, and so we resist.

So what can we do to help not only initiate the changes required, but keep them going as well?

The first thing is that many of us are resistant to is being told to do something! I have yet to meet someone who likes being told what to do, even if we know it is with our best interests at heart.
We need to be persuaded that it is we who make the choice for change, by taking ownership of the decision, it is much more motivating to take those necessary steps for action.

Telling your teenage son he needs to tidy his room because it is a pigsty and smells will have little if any effect, because it doesn't matter to him. He may sense your frustration or irritation, but that alone is not sufficient to induce long-lasting behaviour change.

He has to be the one that desires the new behaviour because it is relevant to his own needs and has meaning or purpose to his own life. Keeping Mum happy isn't enough (sigh).

In the same way when a new policy or procedure has to be introduced in the workplace, it has a far greater chance of acceptance if all those who will be affected by the change, are involved at some level in the decision making process Having your voice heard, even if it has no real clout, will provide a smoother pathway for the acceptance and introduction of the new policy. The following outline the key strategies that can be useful to adopt for effective change whether it is for the home environment or the boardroom.

1. Have those who are affected by the desired change acknowledged and included in the process. If it going to impact your ability to get home on time, having that fact acknowledged, whilst not making the change more palatable, at least makes you feel as if you are being treated as a fellow human being, not an automaton.

2. Ensure there is clarity around the proposed change. Look for understanding of why the policy is being introduced and the reasoning behind it is vital. Lack of transparency around the message can lead to mistrust. Our brain likes certainty.

3. Allow sufficient time for discussion of the proposal. This also assists with clarification and understanding and can smooth out misunderstandings or negative reaction earlier rather than allowing discontent to fester and grow. Feeling rushed or pushed into change can lead to heels being more firmly dug in!

4. Permit all voices, big and small to be heard in the discussion. By expanding the dialogue, some extra useful insights can often be added which could be of benefit to everyone.

5. Check that the change suggested is considered fair. You don't have to love the proposed change, but if you can see the longer-term benefit, even if it is more for others than yourself, the change feels more acceptable.

Next time you face making a change, why not see if tackling it this way makes it easier to adopt.

Your life just might depend on it.