“Change is one of those things that is in everybody’s mouth, heart and soul (not in that sequence, so!), and despite this lip service, it doesn’t happen.
My own personal journey into change – organizational and personal – started of with Tom Peters, the American Management Guru.
Many people describe him as the father organizational developments and he wrote extensively about personal and organizational change.
He is known as the author of “In Search OF Excellence”, “A Passion for Excellence”, “The Pursuit of Wow”, or “Thriving on Chaos – Handbook for a Management Revolution.”
When I was still busy in the corporate world, I loved his books on “The Project 50”, “Re-Imagine”, and so on. I lived it, implemented his advises in many of my approaches to work.
And, to give him credit, he was one of the first management gurus, who often provided a To-Do-List in the end of the chapters. Because all too often, we read self-help books and while we can agree with their proposed advice we often don’t know how to implement their advices into our daily life – there normally are no to-do lists or clear instructions to follow through. In these case don’t we then often take the easy way out and put the book back into the shelf to never look at it again.
In embarking on change, companies and individuals often speak about their hope to become excellent in their endeavor. But in the early part of the book “Thriving on Chaos”, Tom Peters says that there aren’t any excellent companies, and he argued that:
“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.”
The book was written in 1991, but it still sounds very current.
In a recent conference, I spoke on “Helping People Embrace Change and How to Manage Resistance.”
I started by saying that there is not a single definition for change and that, if I were to ask the individual participants, I would get numerous and very different definitions. Everybody has a different understanding of change and what its meanings.
To me, change really is how we as individuals cope with change, manage to change, embrace or reject change and get started in our own personal journey of change.
If you have any experience in NLP, you already know the right questions to find out the willingness of your clients to embark on “personal change”. Some questions that I like to ask clients in the corporate environment, when I am invited to coach executives to embrace change are:
- “What’s your goal – where do you want to go?”
- “Where are you now, in relation to your goal?”
- “What needs to happen so you get started?”
- “How do you know you have changed?”
- “How do you know change is appropriate for you and your team?”
- “Have you ever changed before?”
- “How much have you changed before?”
And many more questions. You know the questions and I am sure, you can add many more questions to this short selection.
Often, coaches draw out an image of the goal from the client’s unconscious mind. We then assist the client to enhance the qualities of the image to make the goal more vivid.
Clients love the process! They feel much more motivated, really desire their goals and still, they often have a hard time to get started on their journey for change.
They just don’t want to move from their current situation, even if they know their goal, and can describe it in a very enticing manner of what they will see, hear and feel, when they have achieved their outcome.
Motivation is important to get started in the first place, especially, when you are able to embed the goal into the unconscious mind – but something is still missing.
You see, people cherish their comfort zone, and their stability. They appreciate certainty. And even if they don’t like or even hate their current situation, they still prefer it because it feels so nice and very familiar. It’s what their life is about and they struggled so hard to reach that certain level. Why change?
People fear the transition out of something that feels familiar and safe. In their normal, day-to-day life, they might have realized what they want or don’t want anymore. They wish for a better life. They might be able to describe their dreams, their vision, and their hopes. They might even get totally excited describing it.
So the big question really is – why don’t they move? Why don’t they embark on change if everything seems to be so much better on the other side?
I now want to invite you to consider that there are many, many people that know where they want to go and they are pretty certain that they don’t want to be in the current situation.
As a coach, we are well aware that it is the zone between their present state and their desired state – the no-men land– that freaks people out of their mind and holds them back from moving.
They see just too many possibilities for failure, setbacks, and rejections. They argue for their limitations. Aside of being able to describe their goals in vivid terms, they can totally describe this scary no-men-land. They describe it so dramatically, that it freaks me out sometimes (I am kidding!!).
They just don’t have roadmap that helps them to navigate that unknown territory. There are no signposts. The mental GPS doesn’t work in no-men-land.
The unconscious mind causes the fear because it’s highest function is to protect the body. This means, it creates comfort zones in any situation as fast as possible, so that we feel safe and don’t need to worry about surviving and don’t get hurt from our nasty and uncertain environment. And then it sticks to the newly found comfort, and fights tooth and nail to stay there.
So what does it take to change for the unconscious mind? First of all, I of course believe that we need to create outrageously big goals that require clients to move from their comfort zone – they need to know where to go. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any need to make those changes in the first place.
Aside of using the Keys to an Achievable Outcome here are some additional suggestions to consider when you work with your client.
- Identify what are the resources that are available to the client. Really draw out all the strength that the client has. And that includes tangible and intangible strength;
- Identify areas or contexts, where the client exhibits a similar behavior already. This can be pointed out to them and used as a template for change;
- Draft an easy actionplan to get them started into their journey. It is imperative that the client needs to succeed in the first few steps in their journey of change, so create the feeling of “I can do it!”;
- Since clients look for certainty, have them describe what will stay they same, during their journey through no-men land, and in their final outcome. This creates the feeling of familiarity and can help to reduce fear of change;
- Clients initially fight tooth and nail to prevent change. Use suggestive and hypnotic language patterns to invite them to get started in their journey;
- Point out that sooner or later, they have to change anyway, but that if they start later, it might become even harder to accomplish the journey.
I started this write-up with Tom Peters, so I think it is also appropriate to complete it with one more quote by him.
He was quoted as saying that
“Unless you are willing to walk out into the unknown, the chances of making a profound difference in your life are pretty slim.” – Tom Peters