Why is it so hard for some people to change? These folks deny the need to change, push back against any change, and can make the workplace a difficult place to be. They defend the anchors that keep the organizational “ship” from moving. Before “throwing” these people “overboard,” it is helpful to understand what happens when we try to behave differently.
Did you know that whenever you act differently than you really believe yourself to be, you produce stress? It doesn’t matter whether the new behavior is worse or better than the old. If it’s significantly different, it will generate internal stress. So how in the world do people change? One way is to just grit your teeth and go ahead and throw yourself into the situation, force yourself to act differently, and hang on until the new behavior is repeated often enough to feel comfortable. Change like this takes longer, and the stress involved affects the mind, body and emotional states . . . and cascades to everyone around you.
There is a better way, a less stressful way, a way that takes much of the pain and anxiety out of change. You change the mental picture you have of yourself first. You literally rehearse the future in your head, and you see yourself acting in the new way. You take yourself through it safely and comfortably in your mind, over and over again. Soon it doesn’t feel like new behavior at all. It feels like something you routinely do. It feels normal, or natural.
Then, when it comes time for you to actually change, it’s not such a big deal. You are already in the changed state. It is “like you” to be that way. Any stress you experience will feel more like the excitement of an adventure than the anxiety of change. And those around you will thank you for not stressing them out.
By the way, the process of repeatedly seeing yourself behave in a certain way is called visualization, and it works for countless individuals. Watch the athletes during the next swim meet, track & field contest or gymnastics competition. NASCAR and Formula One drivers. MLS, MLB, NFL FIFA – a lot of them are visualizing their performance, seeing every twist and turn. Chess masters are champions at visualization, as they plot out their strategy many, many moves ahead of time.
Visualizing change can work for you, too, and you don’t need to be a professional athlete. Why not give it a try? Decide what change you want, then see it in your mind first. And remember: it’s not so much change, as it is growth.