Blocks to Change
“You must be the change you wish to be in the world.”
Even though change is a natural part of life, we are often blocked for a number of reasons. Sometimes these blocks are subtle, yet we can also be very aware of them. The first block to change is fear. Brendan Burchard in “The Charge” shares that there are three aspects of fear as it relates to blocking change. First is our fear of loss. Many authors refer to this as opportunity costs. When we believe that the cost of making a change outweighs the potential success of the change, we pull back avoiding making the change. We are concerned that we are going to lose something more valuable than what we gain with the change. Often when working with clients, I ask them to write down the costs of making the change along with the benefits of making a change. Frequently, my clients prefer to focus on the costs, which constrain them from embracing change. The truth is that we will lose something when we change however the opposite is also true. We will gain something with the change. The challenge is to determine if the perceived loss is greater than the perceived gain. Since we do not know for sure what the gain will be we often err in overstating the loss.
A second aspect related to the fear of change is the fear of the process. Whenever we go through change there is a new
process to engage in. It might mean moving to a new location, getting to know new co-workers or even something as simple as eating new foods. We can imagine the process to be so daunting that we choose to not engage. Thirdly, we can fear the outcome. Without being able to predict the outcome, we may imagine it to be much worse than it truly is. In this situation we have to be able to envision the end state and work towards controlling what is controllable with a change. From that perspective, what is controllable is our mindset. If we go into change with anticipation that the process will be painful, then we very well may experience pain. However, if we go into the process with the expectation that there will be positive and negative aspects to the process we may be able to work through the process more effectively.
The next block to change is bias. Bias takes on many colors. We can engage in confirmation bias in which we look for ideas and to others for support of what we want to believe while rejecting anything that would suggest differently. When we are engaging in confirmation bias we eliminate any information that could cause us to think differently about our decision. Chip and Dan Heath in “Decisive” revealed that researchers have found this to be true over and over again. When given the chance to collect information from the world, people are more likely to select information that supports their preexisting beliefs. Another form of bias is anchoring. When we engage in anchoring bias we tend to move quickly to a conclusion-sometimes based on assumptions-once again deleting relevant and important data from our decision making process around change. Overcoming our biases in making change can lead to huge opportunities for successes in our lives-possibly even ones we never thought possible.
Our beliefs become blocks to change. What we believe about ourselves and our world can limit our desire for change. Here’s a real world example. In the sixties we did not believe it was possible to run a four minute mile, yet Roger Bannister broke that record in 1954 and it has been broken many times since then. In fact, it is considered the standard for male middle distance runners. Our beliefs are the foundation for behaviors, attitudes and actions. Wayne Dyer in his book “You Will See It When You Believe It” confirms this phenomenon in sharing the statement “every man-made creation starts with a thought, an idea, a vision or a mental image”. Our beliefs are very powerful in taking us into or away from change and we have the responsibility to ensure that our beliefs are leading us into our best selves.
Finally, a huge block to change is comfort. Once comfortable we have to overcome inertia in order to embrace and make change. Marshall Goldsmith in “MOJO” suggests that the best predictor of what you will do tomorrow is what you are doing today. This is reinforced in the literature on habits. 95% of what we do is based upon habit leaving 5% available for doing something differently. If we want to overcome this block, we have to consistently focus on the new behavior in order to create new habits.
As you think about the changes you would like to make in your life that will take you into your best self and even greater success, think about these four blocks to change and how you might minimize the impact they play in your life.
To Your Success!