Who really likes change?

Andy Warhol. A rather renowned artist, yes, but he also had some interesting things to say with respect to change. I came across the below quote of his when touring the Australia Zoo’s veterinary clinic last year (hence the artwork used above).

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

That same month I read the below article, and have been meaning to share it. It is by Jim Bright, who is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU and owns Bright and Associates. Enjoy.

“Change is paradoxical, we often try hard to resist it, but at the same time nobody likes to be short-changed. Change makes us feel vulnerable because it lays bare the disconnect between the rational and the emotional. Too often our reactions to change are driven exclusively by either emotion or logic and less commonly by both in unison.

Change is emotional and changing is threatening (especially in communal dressing rooms). Changing involves giving up, saying goodbye, acknowledging the past is in the past, acknowledging we can do better or that there is a better way. It might involve acknowledging defeat, or the limitations of our control or knowledge. Even when the change is welcome, it is frequently accompanied by some anticipatory anxiety that reflects our acknowledgement that change means uncertainty.

Change is not always flagged well in advance or offered up for consideration and embrace. Change can pounce and invade us, leaving us with no option but to deal with the new facts. Sometimes we do not change until much later, in the meantime, we merely cope.

Change can provoke self doubt, anger, insecurity, loss of confidence, loss of place, a sense of threat and a loss of agency. It also demands new thinking and problem-solving in the place of unthinking assumptions and routines. It requires effort. Rather than make the effort, it is often easier to submit to these powerful negative emotional states that reflect our desire for stability, predictability, control and ease of thinking. It is not difficult to see why changing can be so hard.

Logic dictates that we change but logic is a heartless master. We age, we die. All logic points to the fact that change is inevitable (except from a vending machine). Sometimes there can be a compelling logical case to change but we still do not change or cannot change. Habit and addiction offer such powerful short-term certainties, whether it is the next high or the tried and trusted method of marketing widgets, that even though the routine is killing you or your product, it can seem to be next to impossible to change.

We can pile up the evidence to make a case for change, but if we don’t want to hear it, we challenge the evidence, or search selectively for dubious counter evidence. We seek out doubt and then elevate it to the status of reasonable doubt to ensure the case for change is thrown out of court. Nothing will change voluntarily unless emotionally, we want it.

Conversely, we avoid logic getting between a person and their passionate desire for change. More likely than not the change will happen regardless. The logic will follow in time to provide triumphant justification or to explain the sorry mess.

The key to successful change is to keep the twin horses of emotion and logic in harness, if not in harmony. Paradoxically, the best way to change may be to hold your horses.”

Brilliantly put. I work in an industry that creates change in many guises. It is always worth remembering that it is never easy, but it is always an opportunity.

Thanks for reading.

Kai

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