I wanted to introduce you to this simple formula to help you understand why change does or doesn’t happen:
Okay, when written like this, not so simple, so let me break it down.
Change (C) will happen if:
The dissatisfaction you have with your current situation (A)
How desirable the change end state is (B)
How practical the change is to implement (D)
Is greater than
The perceived cost of the change (X)
Understanding the factors of change
This is powerful to understand because once you get what it means you can influence how change works in your life!
From a personal level – you can be self-aware why some things you’ve wanted to change worked and others just reverted to old ways.
From trying to help others – you’ll realise who genuinely wants to change and who expects you to do everything for them.
Knowing this, you can focus on the goals you actually care about and prioritise your time with the people who appreciate it!
And when you break down change into this formula, you can identify ways to manipulate these steps for a greater chance of success.
You can start by asking “What happens if things don’t change?”
Paint a picture
A lot of self-improvement content focuses on painting a picture of the future – the law of attraction, what you think about you will become.
Think positive, good things happen.
Think negative, bad things happen.
Positive thinking does have its merits, but I would argue sometimes it does get trapped in the realm of fantasy.
“I want to become the all fucking, Armani wearing, Lambo driving, passive income earning, ripped freak.”
That’s all great, but do these dreams actually encourage the small steps to get the tiny, insignificant wins towards this aspiration tomorrow?
The art of change management takes a different approach, it recognises the merit of having a vision of where you want to be, but first it asks you to paint this picture:
“If things don’t change, what will happen?”
From a corporate perspective this is pure scare mongering at its best to manipulate staff to accept the changes going on around them:
“If we don’t change, we’ll no longer be competitive, profits will drop, we’ll have to cut back and you’ll probably lose your job”
We used this method when I worked in Child Protection to terrify parents into making changes.
Brutal but effective.
Going back to the formula you can see how elements become more or less greater – when framed in this image suddenly all the effort involved in implementing a change doesn’t seem so bad if it means keeping your job or your kids.
The same approach can be applied on a personal level as powerful motivator, something I have used myself.
It all started about eight years ago…
I came back home to live with my parents after trying and failing to start a career in another part of the country.
Jobless, in debt and reeling after a painful breakup, I’d never felt so lonely.
As an eighteen-year-old this was not the visual of my situation when approaching my thirties.
I realised things had to change, I’d tried hard to be someone in my twenties, but it just hadn’t worked; I felt broken, demotivated and ready to quit fighting.
But then I asked myself this question:
“What will my life look like in ten years if I don’t change?”
The picture my mind painted was as a man approaching his forties, wearing tattered clothes, penniless, no particularly great social skills, at a dinner party avoiding answering questions of “what do you do” and trying to charm a young woman back to my place, trying to ignore the anxiety in my head that ‘my place’ was back at my parents’ house!
The vision of shame and embarrassment drove me to set goals where I wanted to be and I have to say dread is a pretty amazing motivator – within two years I was back on my feet, debt free, decent job, independent and in a relationship.
Think long-term, not short
Approaching change benefits a person who can see the bigger picture.
The short-term thinker may think things are fine as they are, but oblivious of the iceberg they are destined to hit if they don’t change course.
The change formula exposes the obvious fact – change isn’t easy, it takes a lot of effort.
That is why it’s recommendable to keep taking small, concentrated effort on yourself every day, so eventually the perceived cost of change suddenly doesn’t seem so bad and before you know it the desired change happens.
Remember, wherever you are in life – not changing is worse than taking action and failing!
James M. Lane is the writer for Perfect Manifesto a blog about fatherhood, health and self-improvement, based on the idea that everyone has the potential to be better than yesterday.
You can also find James on Twitter.
The Effective Change Manger’s Handbook, The APM Group (2014), page 292, Beckhard and Harris, 1987, Change Formula