“Change begins at the end of your comfort zone”.
This inspirational quote by Roy T. Bennett, in his book The Light in the Heart, invites us to explore what it may take to “embrace” change.
Changes have the potential to bring amazing and rewarding experiences to our lives.
When we open ourselves up to the unknown, we may discover a wonderful world out there yet to explore.
But, to welcome changes, we would often need to leave the comfort of what we know, to embark on an unfamiliar journey.
According to the dictionary, a “change” is an “act” or “process” through which something, or someone, becomes “different”.
Changes can be small or major, planned or unexpected, and they may impact both our personal lives and professional careers.
To open up to changes, personal motivation would often play a key role.
In general, we “embrace” change when we feel motivated to invest time and effort in developing ourselves. For example, we may decide to learn new skills, change jobs, transform our habits, or try out new things. After all, what motivates us to change, could result in exciting opportunities.
The opposite of “change” would be the so-called “status quo” - a Latin phrase that means the “existing state of affairs”, that is, “the way things are now”.
When we maintain the “status quo”, we decide to keep our current conditions unchanged.
Sometimes, it is in our best interest to maintain the “status quo” depending on the situation we are in.
For example, in times of great economic uncertainty, we may decide to maintain the status quo, and postpone embarking on initiatives that would require a significant financial investment. In this case, keeping things the way they are may be in our best interest so as not to get into debt.
Other times, we may simply feel content with our current circumstances, and we may see no immediate need to change.
This is because when we are in our “comfort zone”, we feel in control and at ease with our current conditions. There is a sense of "normality" in our lives, and that is perfectly fine.
However, as the saying goes, “the dose makes the poison”. If we stay too long in our “comfort zone”, it may be detrimental to our personal and professional growth.
Although we all need “normality” in our lives, we also need to continue developing ourselves so that we do not become stagnant.
Even if our current circumstances are great, we should acknowledge that they could change at any time.
After all, changes are inevitable - technology evolves, societies develop, people change.
In fact, changes are a part of life.
From the moment we are born, we experience constant changes.
Parents of young kids may relate to how much, and how quickly, their children change from birth, especially during the first years of their lives.
Some parents may even notice how their newborns change week by week: making new movements, learning new skills, and looking different as they grow.
Growing can be painful and challenging at times. But, it can certainly be very exciting, too.
To learn to walk, for example, babies leave the comfort and safety of their parents’ arms to start taking steps by themselves.
Once babies start to walk, albeit a few falls and bumps, they reach an exciting milestone in their lives, and they are able to explore the world in a way they were not capable of before.
Adapting to change is what helps us “survive”, “grow”, “create”, and “innovate”.
To “embrace” change, and to welcome the often uncomfortable transition from one state to another, we would need to view change as a “positive” development in our lives.
To do so, however, we would first need to understand our human behaviour towards “change”.
This is because a common first reaction to “change” is to reject the change itself. This very first reaction happens unconsciously before our brain can start to process why we should change.
It is a natural reaction to the new, and to the unknown.
This reaction protects us from a potential threat. And, it is part of our “fight or flight” response, our survival instinct.
After all, changes can cause disruption in unexpected ways.
There are changes we can foresee and plan for.
Take the example of a career change. In this case, there is a “desire” to change, and a specific objective ahead. To change careers, we may plan to enrol in a new course of studies, and then look for a job related to our new field of expertise. It would not be easy to start new, though. There would be risks, challenges, and probably a transition period until we could move from one profession to another. But, with some planning and a considerable amount of effort, we could work towards achieving our “desired” goal.
There are other types of changes, however, that can be unexpected, even traumatic: an accident, a job loss, a pandemic (which we have all become quite familiar with recently), to name a few.
Like with all changes, expected or unexpected ones, there would likely be an impact on our lives, and a transition period to navigate through.
This is true for organisations, too.
If you work in an organisation, you may have come across the term “Organisational Change Management”.
Organisational Change Management (OCM) is a framework that supports organisations through changes such as the introduction of new business processes, new market strategies, restructuring, among others.
Most organisations will go through changes in order to stay relevant and viable. They may refresh their brand, launch new products, operate in new markets, to name a few.
In general, for an organisation to “embrace” change and embed changes within, a key aspect to consider would be the “people side of change”.
Two decades ago, Prosci founder Jeff Hiatt developed a model called ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement) after studying the change patterns of more than 700 organisations.
Jeff Hiatt highlights that organisational changes require changes at the "individual" level.
Today, the ADKAR Model is used by thousands of change leaders around the world to support their teams through change, and embed “change” within their organisations.
Let us take, for example, the case of an organisation that would like to introduce a new flexible way of working.
In this scenario, the plan would be to launch new hot desking facilities in various office locations, and to allow employees to work from home some days of the week.
To do so, a project would be put in place, with a planned start and end date, to prepare for and deliver this change across departments.
To introduce this change successfully, there would also be a strategy in place to help impacted staff through this process, even after the project has ended.
In this scenario, the ADKAR Model would be part of that strategy.
First, everyone impacted would be made “Aware” of what would be changing.
It would be important to explain the reason behind such changes, and the benefits they would bring to both the employees and the organisation. Doing so, would help create a “Desire” to change.
Communicating the changes, sharing plans, and providing training where needed, would be essential tools to help everyone impacted be ready for this change - “Knowledge” and “Ability”.
And last but not least, it would be important to “Reinforce” this change by monitoring and fine-tuning this new way of working until it has been successfully embedded within the organisation.
At a personal level, we could also make use of a “strategy” to manage changes in our lives. We could, for example, become friends with “change”, and think of “change” as A-PAL (Accept, Plan, Act, Let Go): “Accept” change, “Plan” for it, “Act” to make it happen, and “Let Go” of the past to welcome new opportunities.
Dealing with “change” can sometimes be uncomfortable, even painful, and may take a lot of effort to accept and adapt to new circumstances.
But, if we step out of our comfort zone with a positive attitude, we will be more likely to turn fear into excitement, loss into hope, and challenges into opportunities.
Finally, those who “embrace” change, are generally more open to new ideas, and welcome new experiences despite the challenges.
They are often dreamers, too.
After all, "the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." - Steve Jobs.