Nothing is permanent except change. Attributed to Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535BC - 475BC). The interesting perspective on the above quote is the era in which it was made. This was a period when change moved at a pace considerably slower than it does today. Change in technology, communities, organisations and your own personal environment is running at a phenomenal rate.  

The thing to consider though is that if change is so permanent, why do we constantly struggle when we encounter it. What is change? In its simplest form it is moving from the current state to a desired future state.

So what is so challenging about that? We are, or more specifically each of us individually are the challenge. Each and everyone one of us responds to change in a different way. In fact we will never respond to two different changes in the same way.

So if change is constant, and each of us will respond to it differently each time we encounter change, what could we possibly do about it? The reality of the situation is that there are a number of things that you can do to improve your ability to live with and even lead change into the future.

Firstly, as Silvia Damiano from the About my Brain Institute points out, "knowing yourself" is the first step towards succeeding in any kind of change. In particular being conscious of your own emotions and response to a varying number of situations will benefit you considerably.

On a personal level being able to recognise and better manage your emotions will enable you to more effectively and objectively respond to the change.

Having this improved level of self awareness of your response to change will enable you to better empathise with another person experiencing their own challenges.

This ability to identify and understand the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of this person will enable you to help them through the situation. As we all know being able to recognise and articulate a problem is the first step to solving it.

Second to the idea of "knowing yourself" is being conscious of the reasons people (including yourself) may resist change. The unfortunate thing is that these reasons can be very diverse, multifaceted and rarely stand alone. They most definitely change from situation to situation and person to person. Several common reasons for change resistance:

  • Fear of failure - often people will resist change due to fear of failing in the eyes of others or even themselves. In their current situation they are safe and sound. The perceived risk of failure is exceptionally low.
  • Fear of the unknown - again fear at work, even if the individual recognises the need for change they may not understand what the change involves therefore they consciously or subconsciously create road blocks.
  • Fear of personal impact - or WIIFM (What's in it for me?). Understanding the personal perspective of change, especially if it is not a change of a personal nature, people will want to know a range of things about the change, from:
    Will this affect me personally? through to: what is the impact on my family?
  • The need for change - people experiencing change often (predominantly) view the change from their own perspective. They may not see the bigger picture or positive objectives of a given initiative. Therefore failing to understand the need for a given change and it's positive benefits.
  • Loss of control - familiar and comfortable routines can give individuals a sense of control, change by it's nature often threatens routine and moves people out of their "comfort zone". It is the perception of control that can often cause individuals to respond negatively to change.
  • Closed mindedness - people for any number of reasons can and will form an opinion on a particular change without any real consideration beyond the title of the change, entering into conversations with their mind made up and closed.
  • Comfort - or is it convenience. Doing things in a predictable, repetitive or routine way is easier than change. The routine in itself could be ineffective yet we will resist change due to the fact it will take us out of a comfort zone requiring effort to move towards the proposed future state. Who wants discomfort?

Being aware of the affect change has on us personally, and on individuals in general provides some great insight when it comes to leading and managing change in your environment, be it personal, professional or in the broader community.

Also recognising the key point that change affects every individual differently is core to defining how you approach change into the future; that is you don't change communities, corporates or cultures, you lead change individual by individual.

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Written by Andrew Friar

Originally posted on: 10 November 2010
Last updated on: 18 February 2024

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