Want to Change? Here's The Playbook!
Change is constant whether it's self-selected or mandatory. The challenge with change, or rather with our approach to change, is that intellectually we "get" the need for change, but oftentimes we either get stuck before we even start down the change path or we don't know or have what it takes to make the change stick. Before embarking upon that next great big work or personal life change challenge, factor the Four Imperatives into the equation if you truly want to succeed — Internal Motivation, Simplicity, Energy and Rewards.
Imperative #1: Internal Motivation
We can have the best intentions in the world, and we can make all of the commitments to ourselves that we want to, but it all comes down to digging incredibly deep to find the one single hot button or catalyst or incentive or call-it-what-you-will, that creates a "take no prisoners" mindset which, in turn, drives us to take the right change action. Why is identifying internal motivators such a struggle?
- The "world of motivators" is immense because we, as individuals, are unique and complex;
- What motivates one person is not likely to motivate another person;
- What motivates us to change in one situation is not likely to motivate us to change in other situations;
- Our motivators change with the passage of time;
- The more we're being pushed outside of our comfort zone and into unfamiliar territory, the more difficult it becomes to identify a motivator that is compelling enough that it will drive us to take consistent action; and
- Figuring out what will motivate us to take consistent action can be especially difficult because our motivators are oftentimes tucked away deep inside our unconscious mind, aka "unconscious motivation".
The science behind "unconscious motivation" dates back to Sigmund Freud. He hypothesized that we are driven by unconscious motives and that "the mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water." Hence, our unconscious motives lie well beneath the surface. One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when they introduce change, is that they try to anticipate a short list of motivations or WIIFMs (What's In It For Me) that might resonate with their people "just enough" so that they embrace the change. What organizations fail to do is teach their people HOW to "dig deep" to find their own unique internal motivators based on the type of change that they're facing. Teach them how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime! I've done some coaching work in this area in terms of helping teams and individuals identify their unique motivators as they're facing both work and personal life change, and the results have been astonishing! Not only have the Coachees tackled their immediate change opportunities with flying colors, but they've learned how to approach future change using a more prescriptive method, which has dialed down their degree of fear, anxiety, apprehension and resistance. That said, there is some percentage of the population that may not want to do the work required to identify their unconscious motivators. We can't change people who opt out. It is their choice though there are consequences as a result of those choices.
Imperative #2: Simplicity
Once we've determined our motivators, we need to start somewhere and do so using a SIMPLE, SIMPLE and SIMPLE methodology by identifying:
- SIMPLE self-contained change approaches where we're not heavily reliant on others who may erect intentional or unintentional roadblocks. Think in terms of span of control. Ask your team: "How can we start our work in a way where we're not counting on others to help us succeed?"
- SIMPLE steps that will advance us toward our change goal. Think in terms of small and immediate. Ask your team: "What if we try doing A, B and C — stop there and reassess before moving forward?"
- SIMPLE solutions if we hear "We can't do Steps A, B and C because 'X' is stopping us." Think in terms of getting your team to "Yes, we can move forward despite 'X'." Ask your team: "What can we do to mitigate or work around 'X'? What if we try <fill in the blank>. Might that work? What are some other ideas?"
While the before-mentioned is offered within the framework of a team construct, the same principles can also be used for work and personal life changes at the individual level.
Imperative #3: Energy
Great — we've constructed a simple path! Now we should be on easy street, right? Wrong! We can have the right motivators and steps in place, but if we lack the energy to do the required work and persevere, we're sunk! The reality is that when we're confronting change, especially change that is outside of our comfort zone, we need to do what it takes to operate at our highest level of energy, which is a function of our well-being. In simplest terms, we need to "amp up" the five levers that enable a healthy lifestyle balance:
- Mental — a mentally healthy person is able to concentrate on a task or goal for an extended period of time.
- Emotional — an emotionally healthy person is able to handle work progression and success as well as problems, stress and defeat.
- Physical — a physically healthy person is strong and full of energy.
- Social — a socially healthy person effectively performs his/her responsibilities in a way that maintains good relationships with others.
- Spiritual — a spiritually healthy person operates with a strong sense of values, ethics and integrity.
If we are unhealthy in any of these areas, taking on that next big work or personal life change could become a Herculean effort at best. Typically if one or more of the above five areas is out of whack, we become easily distracted. We then conjure up excuse after excuse as to why we can't make change progress. It goes without saying that not everyone is going to value nor do what it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle. As previously stated, we can't change people who opt out. It is their choice though, once again, there are consequences as a result of those choices.
Imperative #4: Rewards
Let's be honest — positive reinforcement feels great! It's that simple. But the kind of rewards I'm referring to tie back to our internal motivators and not to the usual suspects — money, promotions, gifts, etc. Just as the "world of motivators" is immense, so is the "world of rewards." Not dissimilar from teaching people HOW to "dig deep" to find their own unique internal motivators based on the type of change they're facing, organizations must concurrently help them to discover "the one thing" that will unconsciously reinforce their positive behaviors. It doesn't have to be something grand and tangible. It can be something as low-key and simple as a particular feeling that is experienced as each step is completed or as each milestone is attained. That's why it's so critically important to celebrate successes. If, when we achieve a goal, we just move onto the next change opportunity without taking a "time out" to pause, reflect and celebrate, we inadvertently zap the fun out of life. We become machines that just churn out work and/or personal life changes that can, over time, wear us down instead of lifting us up!
Applying the Four Imperatives
Think of a work or personal life change that you pursued in the past, but when push came to shove, you either gave up or didn't attain the result that you were seeking. If this work or personal life change is still important to you, this time around, factor the Four Imperatives into your game plan and see what happens!