Can you change when it matters most?

In the book “Change or Die” by Alan Deutschman, the author examines why change is so difficult for people. When you think about the most challenging events that occur in your life, they are usually associated with the biggest changes either thrust upon you (i.e. you get downsized at work), or that you create yourself (i.e. a health crisis). The obstacle that most of us face is not whether or not we want to change, but how to make substantial, sustainable change happen.

Deutschman provides three keys to lasting change based his examination of groups that have successfully made a change, when their peers facing the same challenge, were not able to make a change. These keys are:

When you connect with a person or group that has successfully navigated the change you are wanting, and they have a pattern of behaviour that you can learn, you can be inspired to make the same change yourself. This could be a coach, a group like alcoholics anonymous, or a mentor that can guide you, but they usually have to have gone through the challenge themselves to be believable.

Once you have learned the new behaviours that are successful, you have to repeat then to engrain them as habits. This way, what might have seemed odd at first becomes second nature and you do it without thinking about it.

The way you look at the world is your “frame,” and the new people in your life and the new behaviours that you have adopted require a new frame within which to operate. By reframing your world with the new behaviour within it (i.e. working out on a daily basis when you never worked out before), gives you a sense of identity that is different and requires a frame that supports it.

The author gives the examples of heart disease patients, ex-convicts, disgruntled unions, and companies on the brink of collapse, all of which appear to be too far gone to even want change, let alone know how to make it happen. In almost every instance, the individual or group did not believe change could happen, but once they experienced the change through a short-term success, they had the momentum needed to continue. Change is not easy, but it is possible, and that possibility is the starting point from which all change is born.


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