The Direction of Change

The aspect of change has been a big part of my personal growth. I have come to embrace change as a beautiful and enriching element; since change is inevitable, I want to be able to guide the direction it takes me. Understanding change and its implications in business has been key to my success. I learned early in my career at a sales effectiveness training about the pain of change versus pain of staying the same. When trying to get a customer to start buying our product or at least to evaluate it, I needed to determine what pain (performance, price, availability, etc.) the customer had with their current situation.  If there was no pain, there would be no change. There is always an element of discomfort in change – even when the change is for good. Recognize and manage it.

The saying “the only constant in life is change” comes from Heraclitus of Ephesus who lived 500 years before Christ. He made the assertion that “Life is Flux” (“Panta Rhei” in Greek), meaning all things change. This perspective on change isn’t new.

The key is your attitude towards change. Make it positive; about growth and moving forward. John Henry Newman said, “To live is to change, and to change often is to become more perfect.” This quote is sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill. However, Cardinal Newman was almost certainly Churchill’s source as Newman’s works would have been among those Churchill read as a young soldier. More recently Les Brown the motivational speaker said, “You cannot expect to achieve new goals or move beyond your present circumstances unless you change.” Then there is Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

I love the story of Rob Konrad, how changing his thought process not only changed his life but may have saved it. Rob was a fullback for the Miami Dolphins in the early 2000’s. In his rookie year in camp Head Coach Jimmy Johnson said, “if you catch a ball and go out of bounds one more time we are going to send you home.”  From that moment on, Rob choose to fight for more yards and dive to stay in bounds. Later in life, Rob was fishing in Boca Raton when he fell off his boat. The boat was on automatic pilot, so it kept going without him. He swam 9 miles and 16 hours to shore, he did not run out of bounds. What we think determines what happens to us, so if we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.

The company I worked for was acquired by a holding company and we knew that changes were afoot. So, in a meeting about the ‘new reality’, leadership addressed the concern head on and did a presentation around an acronym for Change. CHANGE – Can Have A New Growing Experience. That simple word exercise created a new, more open way for me to perceive change.

Jack Welch of GE fame said, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” I used that quote just a couple of years ago to refocus my team. We were selling ‘legacy’ products while the technology of our market was beginning to rapidly evolve. The marketplace had changed faster than we did, and we were playing catch up.  History is filled with companies who didn’t keep pace – Blockbuster, Kodak and just recently Toys R Us.

Keep in mind that we have no control over the rate of change on the outside. It will happen quicker than we think. However, we do have control over change on the inside. We will all have opportunities to create internal change, to create internal momentum to meet the rate of external change.

Successful football teams use halftime of games to adjust. A game plan is built during the week based on films and perceptions. At halftime coaches have real data on how fast or big their opponent is and what their strategy is. I have seen game plans completely rewritten to put the team in a better position to be successful. The entire sport is undergoing change because of head injuries.  As Dartmouth College’s Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens said, “Either we change the way we coach the game or we won’t have a game to coach.”

“Goals allow you to control the direction of change in your favor.” Is a quote from Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker and author. The rudder of a sailboat doesn’t control the sea, but it does make an enormous difference in where the boat goes. Goals are much the same. Without goals, one is rudder-less, blown about by the sea. But, with goals, one has a direction and a means of managing forward progress – a way to steer one’s ship. “You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.”- Jim Rohn

“People change for two reasons: either their minds have been opened or their hearts have been broken” is a quote from an unknown source. I’d like to add that their minds could be broken, and their hearts opened. Tony Robbins ties people changing to either inspiration or desperation, a similar concept. An open mind or open heart requires an individual to have self-awareness. Abraham Maslow said, “What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.”

Society has a resistance to change called cultural inertia. We are creatures of habit. To discard old ways and old values for new is not easy. Change can disrupt or even destroy cherished sentiments and values. We resist changing life-long habits and beliefs that are an engrained part of our personal and professional lives. We protect our vested interest and assets. We refuse to change on the inside while change is all around us. A deeper self-awareness to the changes in our environment can help us understand the reasons why and see our pain of not changing.

“The world would mold men by changing their environment.  Christ changes men, who change their environment.  The world shapes human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”- Ezra Taft Benson. The Bible is filled with stories of people who had to experience the pain associated with change to receive the blessings that positive change brought into their lives. Abraham had to leave his country and go live in a foreign land that he didn’t know. Today, Abraham is called the father of all those who have faith. Mary was asked to alter her plans and accept being the mother of the Son of God. Saul was changed from a fervent Christian prosecutor to Paul the writer and professor of Christian values that comprises about 30% of the New Testament.

A life adage is that where there is no pain, there is no gain. Seize the pain of change with an open mind and heart to grow with new experiences. Don’t run out of bounds; control the direction of your change to be upward and forward. “Let us become the change we seek in the world”- Mahatma Gandhi

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