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The Number One Reason You (and the People You Lead) Don't Change

The number one reason you don't change

Most of us say we love change.  In fact, what we sometimes mean is that we love to see other people change.

Now I know change-agents don’t think they resist change, but you do.  So do I.  And as frustrated as you might get with the lack of change in other people, the truth is the reason for our resistance is often the same as theirs.

Consider this: if you’re like most of us, there are have been a few nagging things you haven’t changed in your life, despite acknowledging that you need to change them.  Let’s say, for example,  you haven’t changed those slightly worn tires on your car because you’ve been too busy and you’ll get to it next month (hopefully).  You’ve also been working hard, and like many people,  your attempts to get to bed an hour earlier have failed. And finally, just to make you feel good about yourself,  you haven’t lost that last ten pounds you were planning to lose, have you?

See…as much as you hate to admit it, you’re resisting change. Yet you’re frustrated when people on your team won’t buy in to what you’re proposing.  What gives?

It’s simple: you’re both struggling with the same reality.  As a rule, people resist change.  Deeply.  And here’s why:

People change when the pain associated with the status quo is greater than the pain associated with change.

Unless the pain associated with the status quo is greater than the pain associated with change, people generally don’t change. Take that set of tires:  the tires are hard to change because they cost money and will probably cost you a few hours of down time shuttling the car to and from the garage.  The pain associated with the status quo (bad tires) is not greater than pain associated with change (extra cost and lost time).

But let’s say on the way home from work, it begins to rain.  The car in front of you slams on his brakes in a surprise move.  You slam on yours, and realize you’re going to rear-end him.  You swerve onto the shoulder, narrowly missing the guardrail and other traffic until you come (thankfully) to a stop.  An accident is avoided, but it takes you 30 seconds to catch your breath before you start again, and your heart pounds all the way home.  Question: where are you going tomorrow morning?  Exactly….to the garage. See what happened?  The pain associated with the status quo (your now almost deadly tires) just got greater than the pain associate with change (the costly trip to the garage).

If you can understand why you don’t change, then you can understand why others don’t either.  Later this week, we’ll look how to overcome the inertia that the status quo creates in people and organizations.

But before we get there…let’s go here.  Now that you know why you resist change, what are you going to do about it?

Perhaps one of the best things you can do is to become disciplined.  While there’s not an obvious connection between discipline and change, think about it:  the noble few who overcome the status quo before it becomes intolerable tend to be people who are deeply disciplined.  They’re the ones who work out and eat better before the doctor tells them they are candidates for a heart attack.  They’re the ones who tend to replace their tires before an accident looms.  And they get to bed on time more successfully than undisciplined people.  They take action before the crisis.  They decide to avoid the slide into danger before it begins.

Self-disciplined people tend to lead self-disciplined teams and…here’s the link…they also tend to lead self-disciplined organizations. The more self-disciplined your organization is, the more likely it is to proactively seek change.

And since leadership starts with you…what changes can you make this week before the pain associated with the status quo forces you to change?  If you can master that, you may have just cracked a big part of the code on change for your organization too.

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  • I was thinking, “Hey, I’m not change averse” until you pointed out the bald tires on my car and those extra pounds. Self-discipline is crucial, and learning how to harness my change impulses to a disciplined regime is central. I’ve put reminders in my calendar each week and month to push on key objectives. Thanks.

  • Carey,
    Once again one of your posts is refreshing and timely. The Lord’s been hammering me lately on change and this has brought some new perspective to that in my life. I appreciate your posts so much. Thank you and keep posting!

    • Carey

      Thanks for the encouragement Charlie. I’ll be blogging alot about change in the next few months. So glad you’re part of our tribe here at the blog. 🙂

  • Tanya Mullings

    Very well-written Carey. .self-discipline is the answer to a lot of my questions lately.
    thanks…very timely.

    • Carey

      Thanks Tanya. Self-discipline is the answer to a lot of my questions too. It’s also a fruit of the Holy Spirit (self-control).

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