In simplistic terms, the left side the spectrum states: If one is happy with what he/she has accomplished, if they’re happy with where they’re going, if they’re content with everything about their situation, their work life & family life – then they certainly don’t have to change!
The right side of the spectrum states: If one would like to accomplish more, or something different, if they’d like to continually make progress, if they’re anxious to explore new horizons, if they’d prefer improvement in all areas of their life - then they have to be willing to change.
Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” So clearly if you are among those who prefer the right side of the spectrum then it would be insane for you to continue the do the same things, in the same ways, over and over again, if you are somehow expecting improvement, different results, and a better outcome.
What is there in human nature that causes us to dislike, disdain, and almost loath change? Why are we so resistant to change when it is so commonplace and necessary? ‘Everyone loves progress but nobody likes change’ or so the fortune cookie says. It seems that we have a love/hate relationship with change – we want things to remain the same, yet concurrently get better - and that’s not going to happen because it is truly impossible. Let’s explore a few reasons why we seem to be resistant to change, so that we can positively look forward to embracing it instead. As a result, we can rationally expect constant improvement in accomplishing our ever increasing goals and aspirations.
It’s human nature for us to be complacent, to be lazy (for example, the TV isn’t called ‘The Plug In Drug’ as a marketing pitch, and the excuse to watch one program - that leads to hours of TV - is the real intention). This lazy complacency leads to our own established and familiar comfort zones. Someone once said that the difference between a comfort zone (your personal rut) and a grave is the depth of the hole! (A rut is a grave with both ends kicked out.) It takes real effort to get out of the comfort zone, that rut we often find ourselves confined to. But it can be done with consistent dedicated effort, and whatever the required effort, it beats the insanity alternative that is commonplace in Einstein’s aforementioned quote.
I recall hearing Dr. Stephen R. Covey describe how the book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” came into existence. He had spent years studying the self-help, success literature of the previous 200 years or so, and during this lengthy process he observed that for the first aproximately 150 years the entire focus was on principles: the character building aspect, on truly becoming better from the inside out. Since then, the focus has changed, due to market pressures, to concentrate on the personality or technique building aspect – superficially appearing to be, rather than actually becoming. He stated that this was disturbing because this personality / technique focus lacks the power to create enduring effectiveness. You see, without being ‘principles’ focused, there will not be enduring effectiveness because this method lacks the power for deep to-the-core conversion. Picture an iceberg, with personality being what is obvious above the surface. However without what is hidden (the character of the individual) we cannot comprehend the complete picture. Herein is the enduring power of this process: programs change, practices change, company initiatives change, focus can change prematurely with initiative overload, customer demands are always in flux, as are demands from management or leaders – but the eternal truth of the matter is that principles do not change!
It was his in-depth research and discovery that resulted in this fantastic book being written. You know by now that I’m a self-professed Covey disciple, and I believe that the book is enduringly significant enough to be canonized – it could/should almost be scripture.
Dr. Stephen R. Covey said that there were three constants in life: change, choice, and principles. Now with a grain of salt we could add to these three. Death & taxes come to mind, as do disappointment & discouragement, and dealing with happenings in life that are perceived to be totally unfair, unreasonable, and undeserved. However, these three (change, choice, and principles) are the core of matter - because if we have the proper understanding and outlook from these three - all else are superficial subsets.
No matter what happens - no matter where one lives, what one does, whatever one is involved with - change will be a constant! Even the very seasons are in constant flux – we’re moving from winter to spring, from spring to summer, from summer to fall and so forth. Everything in nature is in constant change and as a result we don’t have to worry about becoming complacent with the seasons or the weather. We must learn how to adapt and face change eye ball to eye ball and conquer it day in and day out. Covey’s second constant, choice, is a wonderful gift we all enjoy. We can choose how we will respond to the changes we face.
Viktor Frankl, the author of “Man’s Search for Meaning” was a brilliant Viennese Psychiatrist. Circumstances beyond his control found him at the wrong time and in the wrong place - Hitler’s Germany during WWII. His entire family ended up in German prison camps. He was physically transformed from a healthy man to a frail 96 pound skeleton compared to what he was pre-war. But he was lucky, and was the only survivor of his entire family. He learned profound truths going through the horrible experiences of war and the inhumane treatment of Auschwitz and Dachau. He survived the typical outcome and lived to tell the story.
Among the lessons of this profound book is the basis of Covey’s 2nd constant – choice. In was during Frankl’s experience in Auschwitz and Dachau that he learned the remarkable truth that choice is up to you. He realized that even in these inhumane, dark and dreary prisons, where everyone had been reduced from the status of a valued human being to a mere number, when faced with a stimulus - one had the right to decide the response! Between the S/R, the stimulus and the response, lies the freedom of choice. You see, the lesson is profoundly simple but it is definitely not easy. No matter what happens to you – YOU DECIDE how you will respond to the stimulus. Frankl realized in the hell hole and brutality - in the darkest, most vile environment of man’s inhumanity to man – that he actually had more freedom than his German captors! He had the freedom to choose his response to whatever situation he faced.
It seems to be somewhat of a human, natural-man tendency, to have a PLOM party. This is defined by Zig Ziglar as a poor, little, old, me party. Ziglar also says the problem with this party is that you’re the only one invited and nobody brings the refreshments! Anyway, it’s normal to sometimes feel a bit depressed, and one definite cure for me is to dive into Frankl’s book, and it only takes a page or two to illustrate clearly that I’m blessed and I’ve got it easy. So why should I choose to be sad, when I have the power and can choose my attitude?
Choice is enormously significant, it is profoundly important, it is vitally substantial, it is weighty almost beyond our abilities to perceive or conceive. The ability to choose is our most important responsibility, and yet we take it for granted. The right to choose is the right to become whatever we want! Whether we brighten a room with our entrance or our exit depends upon what our choices have been up to that point. We can be like a rising tide and lift all ships, or we can choose to be a miserable wretch – it is merely a choice, and yet the culmination of choices is our very life. We must remember that while we are free to choose our actions we are not free to choose the consequences of those actions, so the patience to choose correctly is supreme. So often doing things in haste causes extreme and sometimes irreparable regret. Think about the last ‘road rage’ incident that made your news… Why react without thought if a few moments will change the situation? Choose wisely.
Where change is concerned, the choices we make will soon be evident to all. We can choose to make the best of every circumstance, or fight it at every front - but this battle will never be won to fruition – because change is constant. We must remember that change may be difficult, but not changing is fatal. Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
When faced with change, we naturally feel some fear, no one likes uncertainty or the potential of failure. Remind yourself constantly that "fear" is nothing more than "false evidence appearing real"! Another brilliant Coveyism, “I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a ‘transformer’ in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.”
Clearly getting out of one’s rut, one’s comfort zone is not easy – but this is a map, a proven pathway, that safely leads one out of his hole in the ground no matter its depth or length. Also, this same process will lead any team, be it at work in the office, or shop floor, or church, or politics, through the challenge of change. Permit a couple of sailing illustrations. The first, a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. It’s in the challenge, the heat of the battle, that we’re tried and tested. We never accomplish anything by worrying about it – make the best of the scenario and move on to the next challenge. It was R.L. Stevenson who said, “Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well.” The second sailing illustration, you can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust the sails to reach your destination.
One final thought on change, then we’ll briefly address the impact of principles on the three constants. Gandhi once threw out a tremendously powerful challenge, he encouraged his followers to “be the change you want to see in the world!”
Clearly he knew that a small nucleus of united people could start a momentum that could change the world.
Ernest Holmes, in The Science of Mind wrote, “Realization without application is hallucination.” As you consider your own personal realization, the application required to change, and the choices necessary in that process – recognize that if you are guided by principles your approach will have lasting, enduring value. Principled traits are integrity, fidelity, courage, contribution, compassion, responsibility, and justice to mention a few. These principles define your character, and therefore guide you with a genuine mentality towards a lasting enduring legacy. We’ve all had experiences where we’ve been conned. Where something that looked good, and smelled good, and pretended to be good was in fact rotten to the core. The reverse is also true, we’ve dealt with people that we knew in our heart of hearts that they could be trusted because of their prior trustworthiness and character. What we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do. In most cases, regretfully, things are seldom as they seem. But if we become the change we want to see in the world and are genuine and trustworthy, we can be "the real McCoy".
Let us work from this moment on to be less resistant to change, to approach it with the correct choices, and be grounded in the sure foundation of correct principles. If we steadily progress down this path, our futures will be bright indeed, and we’ll enjoy the journey of our lives with purpose and excitement.