Change is a crucial aspect of the very existence of life. It’s how we humans and everything around us has come to exist. A change, trillions of them, happened or was made.
We set out on new ventures, with confident steps and the warm sun on our face. Or with a more careful and measured approach. Every change can feel like learning to walk again. Setting us on a slightly new path, a new direction.
It happens constantly within the whole range from atomic to galactic. And somewhere on that scale, we humans are influenced by and experience changes in our selves, and those around us. And apart from most living beings – we have an opinion about it. And we seek to influence when and how changes happen.
Change is often happening along a pendular path. As we try out different approaches and change tack towards our dreams, and the outcomes we work hard to achieve.
Thus it very rarely happen in an instant. Events and actions can be sudden and short, and certainly be very noticeable and significant. But change – the accumulation of events and actions, takes time.
Especially the manifestation of actual sustained change. And paradoxically the awareness and will to change that which we worked so hard to sustain. And venture on yet another journey.
As change is constant, and happens in every aspect of our lives and surroundings. It doesn’t make sense focusing on, and evaluating every little thing we tweak and do in slightly new ways.
Changing milk brand next time you shop for groceries normally makes little difference. But shifting from full to skim, soy or almond milk – as part of a conscious health choice, is significant.
A slow but persistent groundswell of environmental conscience and animal welfare awareness. That has been slowly growing and growing for generations of consumer preferences and decisions. Is suddenly – relatively, giving rise to a shift in consumer behaviour. Re- and up-cycling fashion is on the rise, organic and non-animal materials in cars. Growing focus on eradicating plastic in packaging, electric cars, reducing food waste, etc.
It took for us humans to travel into space. Seeing our beautiful planet in the mirror of the vastness of the universe. To realise how precious and fragile it is. Arguably a more significant outcome of space travel, than setting foot on another celestial body. Triggering a shift in how we see ourselves and life itself. Not forgetting the dreams of distant travel and exploration it has fuelled ever since.
And hopefully – in a not too distant future. We humans will live together on this beautiful planet. In a naturally all inclusive world.
It has taken generations. We’re living with the residual consequences of past generations difficulties and reluctance. To make the right choices and change behaviour. And we learn, every day. That changing culture is complex, challenging, and should never be taking lightly or done rashly.
Same as there’s tremendous value in ex-formation and the knowledge going into all the things we’ve decided not to do. Finding out what changes and corrections we have made, that have caused us to get sidetracked or fall into unhealthy patterns. Are important and significant.
Whether planned or happening naturally. Change is significant when it help us move in new directions we wish to go. Help us ‘stay in place’ – to retain our culture and heritage while modern life pulls on us. And in other ways open up opportunities.
Natural and gradual change
We may not know we have changed, or notice that we are changing as it happens. Even a significant change over time can evade us. And our first awareness comes from others noticing and commenting on it.
Your intuition is likely to raise its hand when something new is happening. Both with yourself and your surroundings. But most often we don’t notice until later. Often much later, when we look back and realise the place we’re in. Was made possible by a previous change, we didn’t quite notice as it happened.
We are the sum of our own experiences and everyone around us. Of course those close to us, carries more weight. But every experience and influence moves and inspires us. And over time we may end up quite far from our “original selves”.
It can be equally a pleasant surprise. Realising how positive an influence our environment, surroundings and people have been for us. And sometimes we have strayed into uncomfortable habits, our mood and mannerisms turned us into someone we don’t recognise. Someone we don’t want to be known as or associated with.
It can seem like change mostly “just happen to us”, that we are not in control – or the world is moving as such pace that we can’t keep up. But you can condition yourself to make good everyday decisions, that support your overall ambitions and dreams.
Actively considering the world you’d like to live in, your role in and contributions to it. Your goals and objectives, the efforts it’ll take to get you there. And maintaining a proper task list, will prime your brain to make healthy decisions. Picking the best options among all the opportunities your surroundings serve up every day.
When change is initiated
The best thing you can do, is include others in your planned change.
In particular people close to you. Your partner, family and close friends. People you work with, people you rely on for advice and resources. So they’ll give you the room, time and support to achieve the goals and outcomes you’re aiming for.
There’s no need to involve everybody in every little change you make or plan. But more significant changes, that will impact how you are seen as a person and how you work. Things you think could impact your energy and mood. So people around you don’t add additional resistance as you go through tough moments.
It should be noted. That sometimes, we don’t feel like “making a big deal out of it”. Which is perfectly valid and perfectly ok. We don’t want it to be the center of conversations or the focus when we meet. We don’t need the added pressure of “being watched” by others. Especially in the beginning, until we’ve successfully taken the first couple of important steps. Or even changed our new habits into reasonably steady cores.
In “place of” a trusted friend to tell about your change plans. Your notes or check list is a good alternative. Hopefully you’re good at organising yourself around your outcomes, efforts and tasks. And use them effectively to help you move forwards.
Note the word ‘initiated’. It’s important to remember and be aware, that change very rarely happens in an instant. Actual change takes time to manifest itself in our lives.
Ask for advice, support and help
Change in any form, is often the hardest thing we do. It’s always good to involve others and ask for input, advice and support.
They may not agree with you, which is fine. It doesn’t mean you should stop moving toward your goal – but carefully listen to what everybody has to offer. People with other perspectives will help you think 360 round the subject.
There’s always something to learn, something to pay attention to we didn’t think about. Hidden consequences we can’t foresee, are exactly what we need to uncover to increase our success rate.
This is a great time to speak with people who who’s been through a similar change. Or are more senior in years, and have been through a broad spectrum of challenges. Theirs will never be exactly the same, because it’s individual. But it’ll all add to your knowledge and calm.
And in the nature of change. We often need to find people outside our existing tribes. As kind and willing as people we know are, they may not have knowledge or experience in the new area we’re exploring.
Going first or following ?
Deciding to change, starting the process, is rarely straight forward. Time, timing and resources need to be aligned. And we need to be aware and considerate, of how it will impact ourselves and others. Aware of – not stifled by it.
In relationships, teams, departments, … It’s not always doable, practical or economically possible. For everybody, or the two of you, to both go through a significant change process at the same time.
If it’s a mid to longterm change process. Could be one of you going back to school, having a child together. Or a company without the financial means, for everyone to have access to the expensive training everybody wants.
You may well have to make some agreements between you. That there’s a long road ahead together, and your time will come. But there must be trust and commitment, and a realistic sense that sometimes things don’t go as planned. All parties involved must understand. That there can be severe emotional, trust and economical, etc. consequences. If those who give room for others, never see their own plans and dreams materialise.
A clear recommendation, is to put it in writing. Also in relationships. It must not be about wether you trust each other. But in mutual realisation that the world is complex, and many things can and will happen in the meantime. Don’t see it as a binding contract to be followed to the letter, so don’t write it as such. But having it in writing settles it in the mind. Put it in a drawer, only to be pulled out if absolutely needed.
In the meantime, you can do smaller, more available things. That can prepare you for your big change effort, or do something else that is available or possible with the time and resources available. And feel good about being able to help lifting others. Elevating others is not an obligation for managers and leaders alone – it goes for all of us.
Yet. Sometimes the right choice is to insist on lifting yourself, so you can lift others. Your batteries need charging too. And creating time for yourself to do so is important.
Support will increase
Hopefully you have good people around you, who readily encourage and support your efforts. And customers who love your products and services. But – it’s not a given.
Some will be watching from a distance. They might even tease you a bit or “doubt you”, all to test you. But once you show resolve, they’ll be there.
With these people, don’t see their ‘lack of involvement’ as just that. They may be giving you space to explore on your own. Ready to step in, if they see you steering towards a cliff edge. A good parent approach. Or they’re waiting for an invitation. Either directly, or by your involvement or new product being ready and inviting.
You can even end up in a situation, where you just been through a major change in life, and you need a breather. But suddenly you are on the radar, and the push to continue begins.
And support can and will come from people and places you didn’t expect. People you hardly knew pays attention to who you are, and what you do. Remember, change brings you to new people and places.
Other times it’ll take a while for people to notice, or for you to “break into” the new tribe you’re entering. It can feel like you made a mistake. Maybe nobody cares you’re there? You need to give it time, raise your hand – and let them know you’re ready to do your part.
Be prepared for changed perceptions
Change is healthy. As long as we do it with a purpose, of moving in the direction of a life we would like to live, and the way we’d like to run our businesses.
And significant changes will of course be noticed. By everyone affected or otherwise impacted by it. But also those who have opinions and feelings about it, on their own and on the behalf of others.
You don’t have to make excuses or hide changes – current or planned. It is a courageous and hard thing to do. It takes dedication no matter how small it may seem.
Still, if you are prepared for possible questions and reactions. You have a better chance of having good answers. That won’t make it sound like “just some thing” you are trying out, or “it’s nothing really”.
It will decrease the chance they’ill understand and support your change effort. And the process of thinking through these questions and reactions. Will help you think deeper about the reasons, and the deeper real reasons, for the change.
This goes for personal change like sleeping more, eating better, calling your Grandma more often. Just as much as making major changes for a group of businesses.
Remember. People resist that which they don’t understand the most. If you can help them understand, they may not agree – but there’s a much bigger change they’ll accept it. And continue to engage in an open dialogue with you.
When others change
. . . and you stay, or remain the same.
Among friends and colleagues who knows you well. And you’d normally go with new ideas and try things out same as they have – but you decide not to. Caused by your experience, fatigue from constant changes, or simply because you’re comfortable with where you are.
With social media, and the constant influx of new trends, meme’s, news and hype. If you decide to tune out, or it simply become background noise. And people around you continue to jump on the next, and the next new hot topic.
Market changes. Compelling the majority of companies, to adopt new business models, reorganise or pivot to whole new segments. While others will hold back, watch and learn. Or possibly believe the change will be short lived, unprofitable or too big a risk.
If you decide to stay, hold back or move at a slower pace. You might very well be seen as the one who’s changing.
It’s always relative to where you are on your own path, and how rooted you are on the topic. People close to us and large scale changes in society and business has gravity. Naturally pulling you towards and with them.
Wether you should follow, being inspired by and learning from them, is of course up to you and careful consideration. You have noticed and can’t un-know it.
It’s always worth learning from others, seeing what’s behind the change. What inspired them, the journey they travelled, what they learned.
Fashions fade, style is eternal.Yves Saint Laurent
Remain true to what serves you and yours best.
Some will try to change you back
Keeping in mind we are considering significant changes. You might get some comments about the milk brand from those you share it with. Or the bold font in your presentation. But you shouldn’t face an intervention for it.
It could be you didn’t involve them from the beginning. A natural reaction for many is to “want to be heard”, so they make strong points.
A major part can be your lack of, or challenge explaining why you’ve changed – what it’ll lead to. That there’s thought and purpose to it.
There can be several reasons and explanations in the realms of . . .
They want you to be safe and well, and genuine care about your future.
Family expectations can weigh heavily on us. Traditions, culture, hopes and dreams for what spouses and children should do and achieve.
Jealousy from peers, colleagues and friends. Who may not “agree” with your success. Can cause you to pause, slow down and even abandon new ideas and ventures.
Society at large, and especially people close to us. Are more comfortable if we do things that are expected – and in a way they recognise. Unless of course it’s entertaining, or in other ways something they can point fingers at.
They want you to be like them. And feel left behind, as you venture on. Doing and experiencing things they only dream to do. And hopefully you will notice and bring them with you.
What you set out to do is controversial – in their eyes or beliefs. Which hopefully spurs everybody on to explore the space between them. Learn from each other, and come together in a respectful and inclusive world.
All of these are central to our sense of belonging, being part of our family and several tribes, and keeping them together. Hence they’re frequent topics and story lines in stories, plays and songs going back millennia.
The oldest stories and tales are about change. It’s the heroes journey and the fall of empires.
The important aspect is to listen to everybody, and learn from them.
As a business
As a business, we’re certainly focused on creating value for our customers. But also revolving round them. Some businesses focus on creating needs and serving existing demands. Others more on looking ahead for the customer and innovate.
Regardless of company size, industry or how it’s organised. You’re faced with evaluating market changes, customers, competition, cash flow needs, trends. Change in every aspect of a business is the constant. This wether you’re a 500 year old health spa or a tech startup.
Every dynamic and mechanic we experience. As individuals and groups of people in our private lives. Also works on and for us, in our work and as businesses. And seeing a business as an organism, interacting with and extended to vendors, partners, and not least customers. Is the healthiest way to view and understand it, and how it interacts with them all.
Regardless of how changes in life are playing out for you. Wether you’re met with support or resistance. There’re very few things that are final and can’t be moderated. By changing them – interestingly :).
This is worth remembering when you set out. And should help take some of the edge off, and reduce stress.
You know where you came from, and can find your way back. There’s no shame in going a couple of steps back towards your old ways. It’s much worse, and often plain foolish, to continue on a new path you’re not comfortable with. Or can see is not going to pan out as planned, once you’re into it.
With the caveat that, now that you have changed, and lived your life differently for a while. Same as your surroundings have changed, it will not be a return to exactly the same as it was. Entropy is always part of the equation.
The important thing is to look ahead. Knowing that you will meet great people on your path. Your job and business will develop in a positive direction. When you act with intent and purpose towards your objectives and outcomes.
To create the world we want to live in. We need to change, and move outside what we are doing now – our norm. Some times, that’ll lead us into the great beautiful unknown.
Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas