We have all probably heard the expression “old habits die hard” and most likely we have all experienced the reality of that saying. Just the other day I went to reach for the toaster to toast my morning bagel and it wasn’t there! It took me a moment to remember that we had changed the location of it several weeks ago because of space issues. Now this is not a major life change but it just went to confirm how strong habits are and that the power of habits is not to be underestimated.
From a very young age we learn quickly that patterns of behaviours are formed and we start to take comfort in those patterns. Most human beings seek what is known and what is comfortable. Although many of us may get bored with things and crave the idea of change we are also pulled towards another pole and that is the place of comfort and status quo.
I have even caught myself saying things like “ I want to make change, I just don’t want to have to go through the process of change!” Have you ever thought or said this to yourself? Because as human beings we are complex we are often pulled in polar opposite directions. Life is full of paradoxes and change is one of those. We crave it and we repel it all at the same time!
What do we do when we find ourselves conflicted by these two options? It would seem that most people choose the status quo for a variety of reasons. We don’t really like the unknown or having to feel very uncomfortable or anxiety prone. Therefore, it is normal that most people seek to stay with what is comfortable and safe. Yet, this is not the path to growth, personal development or overall life fulfillment. So how do we propel ourselves out of the comfort zone and into the unknown?
One way I have been able to equip myself is through knowledge. I find that knowledge really is power. For years now I have been working in the area of human, personal and organizational development and I have helped people and organizations instigate, prepare, plan and execute change. Through my travels I have read a lot on change and transition and have been able to understand the process of transition from a somewhat “logical” perspective. There are many theories of human motivation, transition and change and one that I find easy and simple is William Bridges model of Transition. In this model Bridges describes 3 phases to a transition process; the endings, the neutral zone and the new beginnings.
Each of these phases is marked by certain feelings, thoughts, actions and behaviours. In the endings phase we tend to be looking to still hang onto the past, we may be glorifying the virtues of the “old way”, or we may be finding every reason why the change is not good and we look for ways to hang onto the past. If this is what you find yourself doing or thinking then you are stuck in the endings phase. You will not be able to move to the neutral (or grey) zone if you are still living in the past.
The neutral zone is now marked by the fact that you have let go of the past but you are not yet fully confident with the future state and are feeling anxious and somewhat excited about the opportunities of the future. Although you have let go of the past you need to be able to manage within this zone to propel yourself forward; otherwise, the danger is that you fall back into the old state because there’s only so long that a person can feel like they are stuck between two places and since the future is still unknown it is easier to fall back into what was.
So, you will need to understand how to propel yourself into the future and into the new beginnings. There are a variety of things you can do and to name a few; take a few steps forward in defining the future state. Even if you don’t have all the pieces give yourself one or two things to do (accomplish) that will give you the sense of moving forward. Make a list of all the things that can be possible in the future state (new things you may learn, new people you may meet etc). In other words create excitement within yourself for the future!
In the new beginnings you now have a clear idea of what the future state looks like and you have a renewed sense of hope and energy. Once you are really comfortable with the new reality you may even start to wonder how you ever operated in the old state in the first place. Remember how we are creatures of habit? Well in the new reality you have to give yourself at least 15-21 days before you form a new habit….so don’t give up too soon!
Once I was able to map my own experiences against this model I was able to equip myself with the tools necessary to understand the process I was going through and to “normalize” how I was feeling. Knowing that what you are experiencing is normal and that with the right actions you will move through the process is very reassuring.
For more in-depth knowledge of how to manage and thrive through any process of change we invite you to join our course “Managing Through Change”
As a facilitator and agent of change, Caroline designs, develops and implements change strategies that are successful the first time around. Caroline believes that successful change in organizations is largely based on the ability to understand the human and organizational dynamics that encompass the organization. Being able to adapt and thrive in times of change is no longer an option but a key need in today’s world. Organizational Success is built on agility and the ability to stay ahead of the crowd. In order to be nimble organizations must embrace change and do so in proactive ways.
Caroline holds a BA in Psychology and a Master’s in Human Systems Intervention. She has been working in the field of community and organizational development since 1991. Her work has included large-scale change interventions, group facilitation, change management, strategic planning, group development, team building and evaluation process development. Caroline has worked in the Public, Para-public, Private and Community-based sectors. In 2002, Caroline started teaching part-time at ConcordiaUniversity in the Faculty of Applied Human Sciences.
Caroline has trained with Merrelyn Emery (Search Conferences), Edie Seashore (Use of self as an agent of change and Communication and Feedback), Gervase Busch (Appreciative Inquiry), Diana Whitney (Appreciative Inquiry), Kathy Dannemiller (Whole Scale change), among others.
Caroline has created a personal development course for anyone who is experiencing a change in the professional career or personal life. This course provides some basic tools to better understand change, how you may feel going through the change process, how you can deal with change and what you can do to make the experience better for you and those around you. The course is available on the UDEMY Website. Click on the icon to review the course material. This is a great course for anyone to have in their toolkit.