Everything that I read about change says that it’s hard, scary, sad, something to shy away from, etc. In other words, change is negative and something to be avoided.
REALLY? I’ll give you this—unexpected, hurtful, loss inducing change is all of those things: scary, fearful, sad and, yes, hard to deal with. On the other hand, change can be wonderful, life-changing in a good way, impactful and even empowering.
Because we are living beings we continue to grow and change on a daily, even minute by minute basis. Much of this is passive change. Try as hard as we do we can’t prevent aging. Every once in a while something traumatic happens and we have to change as a response to the trauma. This is reactive change. This is the kind of change that so frequently elicits those negative emotions.
Proactive change is neither. It’s the kind of change that comes from making a choice. When the time is right, will you be ready to make a proactive change? Or, better yet, without waiting for the right time, can you prepare yourself in advance and catalyze proactive change?
Let’s explore change readiness and see how it might help you to create a better, more fulfilling life. Regardless of what the change is that you need/want to make, there are some common steps to seeing it through.
First, let’s look at steps to change from a passive to proactive situation. This is a difficult change situation to enter into because you need to go from “life is OK” to “life could be much better if I …..”. Changing what isn’t necessarily broken is difficult so you need to pay special attention to steps 1-3:
Step 1: Create a vision of what could be. If you follow me you know that I have 3 rules for visioning:
A good vision of what could be at this point is necessary to point the way to a change possibility. It needs to be detailed so that you can envision possibility when its reality is still a ways off. Notice that I said “write it”. You have to. It just doesn’t work to think about it or discuss it. Now, POST IT! This is where a vision board with pictures that remind you of your overall, detailed vision can be very helpful.
Step 2: Inventory “what matters”. Be comprehensive. Make a long list of what truly matters to you and to those you care about. This is not, “state your purpose” work. What matters will include elements of your purpose but will be much more encompassing. Again, POST IT! Remind yourself daily or more of why you’re making a change.
Step 3: Define your motivation. This step is absolutely critical. Making a real, impactful change from a passive position is reliant on an extra-strong motivation. Since you’re not reacting to a crisis, motivation is more difficult to sustain. Simply, it’s easier to keep things the way they are. Motivation will only grow out of a detailed vision and a good understanding of what really matters.
Step 4: Develop an accountability plan. Self-accountability is difficult for the most accountable of us. Find a partner! I act as an accountability partner to my clients but you don’t have to hire a coach. Your spouse may not be the best option though. Look for someone that you can listen to, is not afraid to question you, is supportive, has good ideas and most of all, has your best interest in mind.
Here’s an example of how this worked for one of my clients. “Bill” was still working at the time we met. Things at work weren’t going well but they weren’t bad enough to quit immediately. Bill had a family, a mortgage, an elderly mother that needed his help, as well as other commitments. He had owned a business several years prior and missed the independence. He also knew the difficulties. Bill and I started to explore his options. We looked at numerous business models that he was suited for. His background made him well suited to entrepreneurship. He had experience in finance, marketing, sales and management-a dream combination!
There was one thing missing at the time-motivation. Bill’s job was too comfortable at the time and he chose to stay put. Fast forward about 6 months. Bill called me again. He was virtually certain that he was going to be let go in a reorganization of the company. It was now time. Bill was ready to make a decision and proactively move into change-a major change. Although he had every capability to start something from “scratch”, he decided to go with a franchise model. This decision to invest in a turn-key solution was a good one. Bill was going strong from the beginning-and isn’t done yet!
Reactive change is equally difficult but for reasons of its own. With reactive change the individual is usually dealing with a host of emotional and psychological issues as well as the realities of change. In my world reactive change commonly shows up when someone loses a job. There are usually two common scenarios that I see.
Scenario 1: The default option. This person has lost their job and is focused on finding another position within a company. They do everything right in order to find another job and it just doesn’t happen. No, no, no, no, no is all they hear. At some point the light bulb goes off and they begin to think that the only option is to take control and create a position for themself. This reaction may come too late. It often comes after all or most of their resources are depleted. That’s why I call this the default option.
Being in this position can be both good and bad. On the positive side, there’s a LOT of motivation. When there are no other choices one works really hard to make it work. On the other hand, if business ownership is a default decision there is often little money, energy, time left to expend. Additionally, emotional stamina and relationships may be at their wit’s end. In other words, the risks are much greater.