Change: Why Is It So Hard?
I remember when my kids were little. They loved going to school! Everything there was so predictable. They always loved going back to the same vacation spot on Cape Cod. They always wanted to go to the same restaurant! They looked forward to “sameness.” They didn’t crave new experiences. Life and their own development were filled with constant new learning and sensation.
But as adults (and teens too), we want and need novelty. We plan vacations to new locations. We want to have new experiences, make new friends, or start new projects. Yet at the same time, we may find ourselves resistant to “change.” We seek a balance of novelty and consistency—but without realizing it, we can easily find ourselves hesitant when it comes to trying something new.
We enjoy innovation when it comes from within. If I decide to learn a new instrument, develop a skill, or make a career change—I’m naturally excited. After all, I have gone through my own internal process of contemplating a new direction, deciding to make it happen, preparing, and then doing it! (Click here for more information on this process).
But what if it’s someone else’s big idea? What if my wife thinks it’s a good idea for us to move to a new house? What about if she thinks we should take up salsa? What if my company decides I should be working in a new location?
Without warning, I’m against it! I think it’s a bad idea. What’s wrong with our house? I don’t want to spend my time looking for a new place. I don’t want to learn salsa. I may be resistant even if I understand why my wife wants to move. Understanding the whys of change doesn’t guarantee that I am up for something new. My openness to change may not be influenced by a compelling argument for something new.
My company, The Everett Clinic, is strongly considering making appointments available for it’s patients from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. five days a week. My department, the behavioral health department, plans to have more appointment availability on Saturdays. We are told—patients want to see their doctors before and after they are at work. It’s hard in this economy, to ask for and take time off from work for a medical appointment. Of course it makes sense to all of us, after all it’s hard for me to take time off to see my doctor during working hours! (And he works just down the hall from me at Mill Creek!).
So what’s the resistance? It’s natural—why should I want to change my schedule around? Why would I want to come in earlier and leave later, even one day a week? What if it means spending less time with my kids? Sure, it’s a good idea for my patients, but what about me?—maybe not.
This is where adults are pretty similar to kids. We like sameness when it suits us. We are used to a certain schedule or a specific way of doing things (even if it’s not that efficient). We have adapted to our environment and our behavior has become habitual. Even if we see the value for change, the “timing” is wrong for us (e.g. “it’s a good idea, but I still don’t want to do it!”)
So how can we adapt to change more effectively?
- Seek to understand the case for change. What are the reasons why we should change our working hours? What are the reasons for moving? Push past our own inner resistance. Work hard to really understand the point of view underlying a new proposal or project before you make up your mind about its value.
- Have confidence in your capacity to adapt. New working hours may be difficult at first, but after awhile, it’s likely that you will get used to it. There will be new negatives, but there will also be new positives. Remember, we are designed for adaptability!
- Recognize that change is inevitable and constant. My main office is at the Everett Marina, and I probably have one of the best views in Everett. I don’t expect that I will always have this beautiful office. I know that it is likely that change will come. I am ready. In the meantime, I appreciate today.
- Take a leap of faith. At the end of the day, we may decide to go along with our spouse, because we know how important moving is to her. Or we decide to try something new at work. We take the leap…
What makes it easier for you to adapt to change?