Change Habits

The Bob Dylan lyric “The times they are a changing” is a reality, or at least a likelihood, for most of us. So, what's your strategy for change?

People create individual processing strategies to deal with most aspects of life. Sadly, we do not always check whether our habitual strategy is actually delivering the best results.

It is highly likely that you have a repeatable “dealing with change” strategy. Now seems like a good time to review whether it’s the best strategy and, if not, how you could update it.

I am reminded of an interesting exercise change consultants run with groups of people learning about change. The group are asked to pair up and take a few minutes to notice everything they can about their partner's appearance. Everybody then turns their back on their partner and is asked to make 10 changes in their appearance. The pairs then face each other again and try to notice what has changed about their partner.

Most people can do this part of the exercise reasonably successfully. The interesting bit is when everyone is asked to repeat this once or twice more - making a second and third round of five or ten changes. This is when rebellion sets in as people struggle to come up with more things to change about their appearance. Wise consultants stop there and ask people about their change strategies.

There is a surprising predictability about the answers. Firstly, about 80% of people do not confer with other players to find out if they could help each other.  They could, for example, agree swap some article of jewellery or clothing. The majority of us tend to assume we are “on our own with it”  when asked to change. We forget to look for opportunities through working or collaborating with others.

Secondly, most people continue on a relatively linear change path. So, if they achieved the first 10 appearance changes through removing some items of clothing, they continue to think removing items is what they are being asked to do in the second and third round of change. If you think you are going to end up naked it could explain the rebellion!

Thirdly, in the absence of a clear objective or even context for a change, people make up "the rules" for themselves. Our assumed rules often reflect the past and constrict our thinking about the situation/context we are in now.  

I invite you to review your own change strategy. What is your, conscious or unconscious, habitual way of dealing with change? You can get very big clues by reviewing your response in the past or your instinctive response to small, everyday changes. While making this review you may want to consider - what do I assume about the resources available to me? - how well do I consider all the options and how often? - what have I assumed from past experience that has no relevance in my current context?

Enjoy breaking the mold.

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