“The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.” This phrase has been borrowed from that old Roman, Marcus Aurelius. We like to think that the subject of “change” is something “new” or at least too familiar to our lives today. But, as you can see, the human mind has been trying to grasp “change” for a very long time.
How we deal with change has a lot to do with what we believe about change. Do you think of change as being a negative situation you need to cope with, put up with, or attempt to deny, fighting it tooth and nail? Or do you see change as a natural part of life, providing opportunities to learn and grow into someone better, stronger, or happier?
Sometimes, we just need to put change into perspective. On a cosmic lever, stars are born every day, explode every day – we just aren’t able to see them. Our own Sun makes an incredible change every day, when it expels massive amounts of radiation, causing some pretty spectacular auroras around the world. The Sun has been doing this for eons, but in a recent change for humankind, we are able to see it actually happen because of advances in space technology.
On a smaller scale. our children grow and change every day, as they learn to draw and read and play with each other. We rejoice with them as they discover the world around them, and we encourage them to discover and learn – changing them forever. In fact, most of our own cells die and are replaced by new cells all the time – we just cal it “aging.”
For some of us, “change” is a pretty scary word. Because of the way our minds, work, human beings like to feel comfortable, and because that picture of being comfortable is so strong within us, we are naturally drawn to where we feel comfortable, at ease, and where we can perform our best, most naturally.
Consistency becomes a comfort zone. Finding work, a place and people that are consistent in our lives, gives us the opportunity to relax and be happy, or at least content. How many of us can’t wait to get home after a long day at work? We visualize being home, and if the traffic around Seattle is any indication, we get very creative to find our way around obstacles to get home. “Home” is a comfort zone, whether it is a house, an apartment, or the local watering hole where we meet friends after work. The question becomes, do our comfort zones keep us from becoming more than we are today? Very often, the answer is “yes.”
If we perceive change as a threat to our comfort zones, we also get very creative at pushing back against the change – especially if we feel it is being forced on us from the outside. It’s like telling a teenager to wash the dinner dishes. It takes an hour to do a 10-minute job, and the teen doesn’t wash the knives and forks, and leaves the pots and pans untouched. Translate that to your organization, and your customer service becomes like the pots and pans – untouched. Your customers get unhappy in a hurry, and excellence in performance doesn’t stand a chance.
The challenge for leaders (and for each of us) is to discover the attitudes behind the push-back, and define the current comfort zones that are keeping the organization from moving forward. Once these attitudes are uncovered, then we can move toward the next step – painting the value of change.