#TipsFor2014 – “Change”

12.31.13 Change

by Silas Grant –

Change is a challenge. Most of us recognize the need for modification, but we are subjected to using only the things that we know and possess, to produce a result that we’ve never had before. How can you experience a better and different result, when you’ve never experienced it before? If you need a different approach on life, how can you provide your own answer to that problem? If I am to create a new me, how can the old me produce that change? These are all questions that need to be answered when creating change in your life. The first challenge of change is accepting that you alone cannot change you.

An outside element is the only resource that can change who you are. Take a flame of fire for example. A flame cannot be extinguished from within. The only thing that can stop a fire is an external element such as water. However a fire can grow from within. When elements such as wood, metal or other materials are put into a fire, those materials are consumed by the fire and the fire becomes larger. If you want to increase what you have, that comes from within. However, if you want to change, someone or something outside of you must be a contributing factor to that change.

There is a distinct difference between “doing better” and “changing”. The concept of “doing better” is to know that you are on the right path, but the intensity of your effort needs to be increased. Committing crimes on a regular basis but acknowledging that you are wrong is not an opportunity to “do better”; that is an opportunity for “change”. A criminal who is constantly under arrest for crimes can only “do better” by not getting caught. Ok, that was a joke however; the need for change is not a joke. The inability to distinguish “change” from “doing better” causes us to perform below expectations in life. Many of us need to focus on “changing” versus simply “doing better”.

As stated, change can only be accomplished with the assistance of someone or something outside of you. You must acknowledge that you have to allow someone else to take control to help you change. If you don’t accept that fact, you can never change. If you recognize the need for change, but you don’t act on it, you will live in agony forever.

Change needs a leader. If you need change in your life, don’t allow the entire world to attempt to assist you. Select a good person or a few good people to lead that change. Choose responsible people that you can rely on. Choose individuals who display the behavior and success in life that you desire to have.

Change can be planned or it can come on suddenly in an unplanned fashion. Planned change is when you recognize the need ahead of time. Unplanned is when an outside event or situation causes you to change. Planned change may be your understanding of the world being different and finding it necessary to respond to the differences. Maybe you realize now that an education is needed to attain the job that you want when once before, you didn’t realize that it was needed. There is a possibility that as you grow older, you need to gradually pay more attention to your health. These examples illustrate your ability to look down the line and predict that things will not be the same for you. Unexpected change comes at you all of a sudden. Maybe a speeding ticket causes you to drive slower. The death of a loved one may cause you to be forced to tend to a sibling or family member who was once taken care of by that deceased family member. Both planned and unplanned change can bring about good results. Most would think that planned change is the preferred method but neither way is “better” than the other. A common scenario for unplanned changed is parenthood. It has been stated by many people that the birth of children is an example of unplanned change that forces you to mature without preparation. It’s all in how you respond.

What pace do we use to change? There are two widely-recognized speeds at which we change: transformational change and incremental change. Transformational change is a sweeping or radical change that takes place immediately. An example would be having a heart attack and never eating fried foods, drinking liquor or smoking cigarettes again. Incremental change is a gradual build up of modifying your habits. Instead of waiting on the heart attack to change your diet and habits, taking note of health risks of food and substances earlier in life will allow you to slowly move away from those vices.

So how do we change? There are stages of change. In the 1950’s, Kurt Lewin developed a model for change that has been used by organizations for the last 5-6 decades. The model includes three stages:

– Unfreezing

– Changing

– Refreezing

As humans, we are often frozen in our ways/behavior. We often say “I’m stuck in my ways”. I wouldn’t say “stuck”. I would rather say “frozen”. We can be unfrozen but it takes someone else or another environment to unfreeze an individual. Think about change in the sense of a frozen food in the freezer. For example, you have several slabs of steak in one bag in the freezer. When you purchased them they were flat. In a rush you transferred them from the package that they were purchased in and put them in a freezer bag altogether. In that rushed time period, you laid them in an awkward part of the freezer and the steaks were bent. Instead of laying flat in the freezer, they know have an awkward shape. They are also frozen and the only way to change the shape, (without breaking them into pieces) is to unfreeze the steaks (in room temperature, warm water or microwave), reshape them once they are unfrozen and then place them back in the freezer in the proper way. This process is what needs to take place in order to change us as people. When we understand that we need change, we recognize that our life has taken the incorrect shape. The next step is to be pulled outside of our current environment to be remolded and then put back in the frozen state to never be changed again. That first step of unfreezing is essential. We must allow the change leader in our life to take us to a place that we aren’t used to and place an element of heat on us to wear the ice away. We can’t be changed unless we allow this process to take place. For many of us, unfamiliar places and territory can be scary but this is a must in order to be changed. Once that heat is applied the unfreezing process is happening. But that is not the change. The unfreezing process sets up the actual change. Once you are “unthawed”, then the reshaping (change) can occur. When you unfreeze, it’s easier to be reshaped. However, if you still have some of the freeze on you, the reshaping can be difficult. Once you are reshaped, then you are ready to be frozen again and you should never change back to the incorrect shape that you were in before.

A lot of this sounds simple but it’s a process. However, leadership guru Dr. John Kotter has developed eight steps of change (I’ve paraphrased them below):

1)    Establish urgency – act now

2)    Form your team for change – get the help that you need

3)    Create your vision with the help of the team – determine how success looks for you

4)    Communicate to everyone that you are changing – be accountable to others

5)    Give your team the power to continue to help your change – allow people to help

6)    Plan out the change & acknowledge even the smallest accomplishments – small steps

7)    Put those small accomplishments together to produce more change – build daily

8)    Bring on new approaches to life to keep that change in place – create a new normal

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