SNEAK PEAK: CHAPTER 1

 

CHAPTER ONE

CHANGING…WITH CONFIDENCE, COURAGE, AND GRACE

The world as we created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

— Albert Einstein

THE RIGHT CHANGE

You don’t have to go very far to see examples of people who seem to be living a better life than you, making more money, going on more vacations, and even seeming to have better-looking friends. You also don’t have to look very far to find a large number of things you can buy so you, too, can have a wonderful life. You can swipe your card through the machine, take your new toys home, start using them, and get ready for your life to change. The birds will sing louder, the sun will shine brighter, your hair will grow evenly, potholes will repair themselves, those jeans you got on sale for a ridiculously low price will now fit… and your life will be significantly better. Just swipe your card, and wait for the transformation to begin.

Wait for it.....

The truth is, we have a plethora of opportunities to choose from every day. In fact, we have more opportunities at our fingertips than any generation before us. How do we pick from these opportunities? How do we choose what and who we want to spend our time, money, and energy on? How do we sift through and separate the opportunities from the distractions? How do we decide what opportunities are right for us so we don’t waste time seeking something we have had all along or even worse, something we didn’t even really want in the first place? What do you value? Whom do you value? What brings you the most joy? What makes you sad? What makes you want to jump out of your chair ready for a fight? What scares you? What are you dreaming about achieving? These questions help us to grow in the right direction. Growth is change and change is part of being alive.

Change is a significant part of life—so significant, in fact, that change is actually one of life’s defining characteristics.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, “Life” is “The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from organic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and

continual change preceding death.

Continual change preceding death! Yeah, change is kind of a really big deal!

I’m not sure what your beliefs are around mindfulness, meditation, prayer, self-awareness, gratitude, and related practices. I can tell you that I have always been a believer, although I was generally much too busy and distracted running in all directions to stop, be still, meditate, and realize I was going a lot of places and nowhere at the same time, like a hamster on an exercise wheel. A very tired hamster! I’m telling you this now because these simple acts are an important part of the change process, and more importantly, they are part of the skill set we need to help us with the first three steps of creating successful change. They are how we connect to our inner thoughts.

You know, that gut instinct that gives us a little tingle when things feel right and an uneasy feeling when things don’t? This is the connection we create between our thoughts and actions, or our mind and soul. The more in tune we are with our feelings and emotions, the louder and clearer our gut instinct is. It is our internal GPS system. Let’s say we are going on a long trip. Let’s call it “life.” Our GPS needs to know where we are right now and where we want to go so it can analyze the routes for getting you there. Along your trip, you look at your GPS to make sure you are still on the right path. Our internal GPS relies on our self-awareness skills to understand where we are and where we want to go in the future. We develop self-awareness by practicing mindful activities on a regular basis like meditation, prayer, drawing, walking in nature, painting, fishing, planting, and yoga (hot, cold, with goats, with babies, or just plain). Basically, a mindful activity is any activity where we focus on one thing and get our minds into a state of relaxation. It is the exact opposite of multitasking.

We are bombarded by thousands of pieces of information every second—so much information that we can’t even begin to make sense of it as it’s happening. It’s during moments of mindfulness and reflection that we can look back and make sense of all of the information—all that has happened in our day and our world. Not practicing mindful- ness is like setting your GPS for a really important, long trip (life), and then only checking it occasionally (or never) to see if you are still going in the right direction.

Take a deep breath, relax, and think about this….

The words below are a simple way to explain change management. They have been attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lao Tzu, Frank Outlaw, Gautama Buddha, Bishop Mark Beckwith, and even Margaret Thatcher’s father. We can’t be sure who wrote them, but we do know that slightly different versions of this chain of words have been around since the 1800s. Since the 1800s! So, long before the technology existed to see inside the brain to study how it works and long before there were shelves full of books on change, there was some understanding that our thoughts are at the core of our actions and our destiny.

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.

Watch your words, for they become actions.

Watch your actions, for they become habits.

Watch your habits, for they become your character.

And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

What we think, we become.

UNDERSTANDING CHANGE MANAGEMENT

Many of you may think Change Management is the department that keeps making all of the changes in your work area. Actually, it is the coordination of a transition from Situation A to Situation B in order to achieve lasting change. It involves managing the change in processes along with the people-side of the change process. For example, if you decide that a vegan diet is the way you want to cook for you and your family’s health, you must change many of the processes you currently use to prepare meals. This is managing the process part of change. The people-side of change involves the family members changing their thoughts and habits around their diet and getting on board with new Vegan habits instead. It is the act of connecting our thoughts, words, actions, and behaviors to achieve the outcomes we want. It involves emotional intelligence skills to help us manage our thoughts and feelings so we can create the actions and behaviors and, ultimately, the change we want. Successful change management includes people and processes changing together.

Think about it like this…. If you took your car apart and laid it out on your front lawn, you would have perfectly good parts, but they would not take you where you wanted to go unless they were all put back together correctly. I find change management to be much the same. The ability to change, adapt, and grow is vital to our success, and if we are trying to use the parts lying out on the lawn as our tool, we are not going to get where we want to be. On the other hand, if all the parts are put together to create a car, it will take us wherever we want to go.

 

Close your eyes and picture this…. Change Management (CM) is your vehicle. It is your tool for getting you where you want to go. Your thoughts and your actions are just parts until they combine to create your vehicle.

IT’S AS EASY AS 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

When I was a college student, I was very lucky to have my own apartment. I did have to work full time to afford it, which meant I was poor and busy. I had a few different dishes I liked to eat and knew how to cook, and by that, I mean four different types of casserole. Each Sunday and Wednesday, I would prepare a large casserole and then eat it for lunch and supper practically every day until it was gone. The ease of getting to cook once for several meals allowed me to focus my time and energy on school and work. Time management at its finest. I can’t tell you how many of those five-ingredient recipe paperback cookbooks I have bought while waiting in the grocery store line, and have never used. There’s no way I could ever cook all of the recipes in the books I already own, but there is something so alluring about the simplicity of five simple ingredients that I just can’t pass up. I’m telling you this because the development of Emotional Intelligence and the powerful programs organizations use for Process Improvement and Project Management all require the same five steps. Yep, the same five fundamental steps for creating change. Which really does make sense given that our thoughts and actions are connected to each other.

WHAT CHANGES?

It’s actually much easier to answer what doesn’t change. The answer: Nothing. Every hour, every minute, every second of every day, we and everything around us is changing. Change is part of being alive. The trees, the plants, the flowers, the grass, the animals (wild and domestic), and humans…we are all in a constant state of change. Living on Earth, which is also in a constant state of change, and working in an era defined by massive changes shaping the business climate, we see change everywhere. It is constant.

Whether you realize it or not, no matter how old or young you are, change is a big part of your life, and it is highly unlikely you were formally trained to manage change. Change comes in many different forms, and it’s like an emotion—you don’t always know when it is coming or what it will look like, but you do get to choose what to do with it. How well you manage change will affect the quality of your life and the lives of those around you. If you are reading this, I can assume you are alive, and if you are alive, you are changing. All living things are constantly growing and changing…even your aunt Betty who has worn the same purple pants and pink sweater as long as you can remember—are changing. We change because we want to, we change because we have to, and sometimes we change without even realizing we’ve changed at all as experiences shape our lives and our beliefs.

When we are born, we are equipped with a few basic survival skills. As we grow, we learn from our environment. We weren’t born knowing how to manage money, how to dress, or even whether to put mustard or ketchup on our hot dogs—we learn from our parents and our environment. These experiences form the habits of our lives. Only when we mature do we start to look around and see other ways to do things. Our habits are the culmination of what we learned from our parents, friends, TV, social media, etc. Once we are grown, these habits continue to be shaped by our environment and experiences and become our own, adult habits.

Like many of you, I have had more than a few moments when change has come barreling into my life uninvited and unexpected. We can prepare for many things…if we have a game or recital coming up, we practice. If we have an interview or test, we practice. If we are speaking in public or trying to create the perfect lasagna, we practice. So why don’t we practice our change management skills? Our quality of life greatly depends on our ability to create and manage change, but we rarely have the skills and certainly haven’t practiced them. What would happen if we knew the steps of change management and practiced them as part of our daily lives? What would happen if our children saw this and learned to create these habits from a young age? What if we changed the change curve!

SELF-CONFIDENCE AND CHANGE

In one of my all-time favorite movies, How to Train Your Dragon by DreamWorks Animation, Hiccup is a young boy who lives in a beautiful village perched on the side of magnificent cliffs. The sunsets are breathtaking, the meadows are lush, and if not for the large flying dragons, life would be pretty peaceful. Fighting the dragons is everything in the village. The children are taught to become Vikings and attend Dragon School where they learn to slay dragons, but Hiccup is not like the other children in the village. He doesn’t have their athletic skills or killer instincts, and he feels uncomfortable with the whole thought of fighting and killing. One day, he asks his father, “Has anyone ever tried to train a dragon?” His father replies, “No one has ever lived to tell about it.” So, while the entire village is trying to make more and better tools to fight the dragons, Hiccup is off trying to understand “Toothless,” the dragon he shot out of the sky with a flying net he built. Hiccup originally intends to find Toothless and kill him, but instead, he cuts him loose. However, Toothless is injured from Hiccup’s net and cannot fly. Hiccup continues to visit Toothless and even provides him with food while he is unable to hunt. The two begin to understand each other and work together. Eventually, they show the rest of the village they don’t have to fight, but instead, can work together to fight the queen dragon and stop the dragons from attacking the village. By the end of the movie, the people of the village and the dragons are working together to build a better community, rather than endlessly rebuilding the destruction caused from battling the dragons.

The Vikings in Hiccup’s village would have continued to fight those dragons if one courageous boy hadn’t looked for a different way of doing things. Once the Vikings and the dragons realize they really want the same things, they work together. The energy wasted on constantly rebuilding and repairing is turned into continual improvement and growth. Hiccup was self-aware enough to know he would feel terrible if he killed Toothless, and he was confident that he was smart enough to find a solution through understanding the dragons first.

It takes courage and self-confidence to be the change you want to see. It’s easy instead to think, Who am I to think I can make a difference? Who am I to speak up? Who am I to suggest a different way? Yeah, you’re right; we all have a hundred different stories we can tell ourselves to sabotage our goals and dreams. Our desire to stay safe and comfortable creates fear and self-doubt about our ability to reach the next level. We all have fears and self-doubts! My favorite stories to tell myself are “I am not smart enough,” “I’m not pretty enough,” “I don’t know enough”— all with an undertone of “I’m not worthy.” However, I choose not to believe any of my old stories. I am no less afraid than I was a year ago, or two years ago, or even three…but I am moving forward and sharing despite my fears. I am doing that in hopes that this method helps you and me to be the best versions of ourselves so we can achieve the success we desire.

SEEING THE CHANGE BEFORE OTHERS

Oprah Winfrey has spent years in the spotlight talking about her journey of overcoming her self-doubt and the naysayers to become one of the most successful and influential people in the world. She talks about how excited she was to have a job as a news anchor. However, the excitement eventually diminished. Because it was thought to be a glamorous, sought-after position, she stayed at it longer than she wanted. Her heart wasn’t in it, and her bosses at the TV station where she worked knew it. They were trying to get her to quit when they demoted her to doing a local talk show to finish out her contract.

 

Oprah talks about her and her best friend Gayle were sitting over a glass of wine, ecstatic that she was twenty-two years old and making $22,000 a year. Oprah’s goal was to make her age, so she set a new goal of making $40,000 a year by the time she was forty. To do that, she knew she would need to find another job. However, her dad was in her ear telling her she would never find another job as good, so she better hang on to it—“Who is going to pay you more money than you are making now?” she heard him say.

Oprah kept her position at the TV station for a while, but she knew it was a job and not a calling. When she began hosting the talk show, she knew she was closer to her calling. If Oprah had listened to others and her own self-doubt about not being good enough, she wouldn’t be the Oprah we know and love today. Millions of people around the world would have missed out on the knowledge and wisdom she has shared through her remarkable approach to life and learning to live with purpose. She persevered when others gave up. She created a platform where one didn’t exist. She tuned into her gut and relentlessly focused on creating a show where thought leaders had a platform to inspire and share their knowledge and experiences. She became the change she wanted to see. Are you the change you want to see?

 

We can learn to be fierce self-leaders of ourselves, our lives, our homes, and our beliefs…and we can bring our skills with us to school, work, the field, the court, the boardroom, the Sunday school class, the Senate, the House, and everywhere in between. We can be a part of creating self-confidence, self-awareness, and self-respect so we can have confidence, awareness, and respect for others. We can be the change we want to see in ourselves, our families, our organizations, our communities, our schools, our states, our countries, and our world.

CHANGING THE CHANGE CURVE

Almost fifty years ago, 1969 to be exact, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross created the Grief Model (see below) to help identify the stages of grief people go through when faced with a terminal illness or the loss of someone close to them. The model is so well known it has been mentioned in movies like Dead Pool II and Madea’s Family Funeral. Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychologist who pioneered work in the areas of death, dying, and the grieving process, began to study grief to identify the different stages people go through when dealing with the most permanent form of change there is…death. She presents the five stag- es; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, in a graph to show the general order people go through the stages. Kübler-Ross found that everyone going through grief didn’t go through these steps in exactly the same order; in fact, some people skipped over stages entirely while others got stuck for years before moving on. I first learned about this model from the staff at Hospice where my dad was a patient for the last three months of his life, then again in psychology class in college, and again in nursing school when we studied end-of-life issues.

 

(Diagram not able to be pictured here, pictured in book)

Denial: Is this really happening? This can’t be happening! This happens to other people, not me. We have all experienced moments of shock and disbelief when a life-changing event presents itself. There’s a period of surreal confusion where you are trying to process what you have just learned and then immediately start thinking of how this is a mistake.

Anger: Feelings of frustration set in when we realize this really is happening and things are going to be different. Finding someone, or any- one or anything, to be angry at is very normal in this stage.

Bargaining: If only…what if?...I will do anything to make this change not happen. During the bargaining phase, we are still living in the past and will often try to negotiate our way out of feeling the hurt from this loss.

Depression: Low energy, sadness, hopelessness, self-doubt, and fear, are just a few of the adjectives used to describe depression. Comedian Sarah Silverman describes depression as: “It feels like you are really homesick, but you are already home.”

Acceptance: When we begin to realize these changes are permanent, we start to accept the new realities of the situation. We may not like it, but we start to accept it. During this stage, we experiment with new things and adjust to our new normal.

I also studied this exact model while studying organizational change in graduate business school. The model is used in business to help employees deal with change that occurs within the organization. Leadership uses the model to identify which stages employees will go through as they grieve over changes affecting them and the work they do. Employees will often be educated on the stages so they are prepared for changes and, hopefully, can move on to the next stage as quickly as possible getting everyone back to business as usual. Change is always a very volatile time for any organization. It is normal to expect disruptions, frustrations, and some resistance. In most organizations, leaders are taught how to use the change management program, and they decide what needs to be changed based on new regulations, performance measures, new services, etc. Once the project is well underway, a few select, high-performing employees, or in some cases the only employees who would volunteer, are added to the project team to help work out the last of the details, plan the rollout, and share the changes with the rest of the employees to get their buy-in. For the vast majority of employees within the organization, however, change feels like being invited to the party at the very end, just before it’s time to clean up the mess.

“Somewhere, someone is changing something…and it’s going to affect you,” is what one employee told me she took away from a short presentation I gave to a group of 150 employees. I was telling them for the first time that budget cuts were forcing a hiring freeze and there were going to be some changes. If you have never been in this situation of impending change, your heart feels like it is going to bust out of your chest and life flashes by in your head. You don’t even really know if it is going to be a good or a bad change for you, but you are already freaked out, so it doesn’t even matter at the time whether it’s good or bad because you stopped listening as soon as you heard the word “change.”

 

So imagine this…. Imagine the massive amount of change that takes place in our organizations each year. Imagine how many people are experiencing change in their work environments (we won’t even mention the struggles these people could be having in their personal worlds) on a regular basis. Imagine the vast majority of employees in a company going through the stages of grieving with every change that takes place in their workplace. So think about this, even the most successful organizations in the world fail in their change efforts 50 to 80 percent of the time. That’s a lot of grief and a not-so-impressive track record. So why do we keep changing the same way despite a low outcome? I can’t answer this, but I can tell you that I have watched organizations continually repeat their same mistakes over and over and over again when trying to create change, despite the negative effects it has on the employees and their wellbeing. Nothing lets employees know you don’t really care about them more than continually making bad changes in their work area and not even including them in it.

 

Maybe it’s not change that’s so bad; maybe it’s being changed.

The majority of us are never taught, formally or informally, how to create effective change. We learn about change through life experiences watching our parents and others, who were most likely never taught effective change management skills either; and by watching TV, movies, cartoons, and even the news. It doesn’t matter how old or how young we are, how rich or poor, the color of our skin…. We are going to experience change many times throughout our lives as we grow into who and what we want to become—as we adjust to the unexpected twists, turns, and obstacles thrown at us. Most of us won’t get the opportunity to learn how to create successful change at work either; instead, we will be taught how to deal with it.

What if we could start learning how to create successful change habits when we are young so that by the time we are entering the workforce, we are already in the habit of creating effective change? I kept asking myself this question over and over when I saw the massive benefit to understanding how to create effective change in life as the bigger picture to being able to create change at work and most certainly bigger than being dragged through bad change over and over at work. I see an enormous problem for society if the vast majority of people in every organization are in grief-related stages due to bad organizational change. I also see an enormous opportunity for organizations to start being the solution! I believe we can change better together.

It’s time to change the change curve; okay, maybe not change it, but at least add another option where knowledge and understanding foster optimism and courage….

 

(Diagram not able to be pictured here, pictured in book)

When you feel experienced and confident in your ability to be still and make the right next move, feelings of anger, fear, and uncertainty may be replaced with optimism and courage. That’s not to say that you won’t experience anger, or go back and forth between anger and courage. Courage is embedded in the skills of self-awareness. While bargaining is about staying in the past to look for solutions, planning is about looking forward and planning what comes next. Confidence is experienced when you achieve new challenges and experiment with new activities. The feelings we experience when we feel confident are almost indescribable. It feels so good—the opposite of what depression feels like!

Courage is what happens when we can overcome fear and self-doubt, which give way to depression when we can’t or won’t make the changes we need to make to get to a new normal. Acceptance of the new norm and integration of new activities into normal day-to-day life help hard- wire our practices and turn them into habits. Experimenting with new thoughts, ideas, and behaviors helps us adjust and adapt to our new situation. So think about this: Your kid has just been through a big change, maybe a breakup, a bullying incident, or the loss of a friendship. Would you rather your child go through the change from a place of depression or from a place of courage? Courage numbs the pain we feel with the same dopamine chemicals that opioids numb the pain with.

Current research shows increasing levels of depression, addiction, anxiety, and loneliness in our children and decreasing levels of self-confidence, courage, and empathy. There are many distinct forks in the road of life. What’s next depends on what you do at this point. What new behaviors will you integrate into your life?

KNOW BETTER, CHANGE BETTER

Change continues to be one of the most written about and spoken about subjects there is. From the personal self-help section to the business section, there is a plethora of information on creating change. I started studying change in the organizational setting (or so I thought) about a decade ago. This was about the time I got my Lean Six Sigma certification. If you have no idea what Lean Six Sigma is, don’t worry; I didn’t either. Lean Six Sigma is a tool or method used by organizations to manage their performance and productivity. It is so well respected as a useful tool for generating successful outcomes that 100 percent of the Fortune 500 Companies have some form of it built into their management structures. It is a phenomenal tool for time management, goal setting, managing finances, goal achievement, and a lot of other important things you should know when you want to perform your best at home and at work. It is about aligning your actions to your end goals. It is about effective and efficient use of resources (time, energy, money) to work smarter rather than harder.

When I realized how good Lean Six Sigma is for organizing, improving, and achieving, I started using it in my personal life. Let me tell you…my actions were so efficient and effective that eight months into my self-proclaimed “Year of Toie,” I managed to find time to meet, get engaged, and marry an Englishman, all while I was working full-time, earning my MBA, running my small group home, and single-parenting two boys. My performance and productivity were off the charts, which would have been fantastic if my thoughts had been in the right place too. They weren’t, and that’s when I discovered the first part of creating successful change. The part that comes before our actions. The part that actually guides our actions. The part that helps us see the right problems so we can also see and achieve the right possibilities. You know—connecting our thoughts with our actions to achieve our best outcomes.

For years, we believed that happiness was the result of our success. But Shawn Achor, Harvard professor and author of the New York Times bestseller The Happiness Advantage, reveals that his research conduct- ed on students at Harvard indicated it is actually the opposite—happiness leads to success. Achor was the guest on one of the first episodes I watched of SuperSoul Sunday. When I heard his story, I felt like purple smoke had just blown out of the top of my head. Achor applied to Harvard on a dare, got in as a student, and stayed there for twelve years studying and researching depression among students. He admits it sounds crazy to think about students at Harvard being depressed when they have so much opportunity in front of them. But, as Achor explained, most Harvard students were accustomed to being at the top of their class. At Harvard, all but one of them lost that status, and 50 percent were below average for the first time in their lives. This is a big change to deal with, and coupled with the intense pressure of school work, it caused depression for many of the students.

Achor conducted hundreds of interviews over several years and discovered an advantage that some of the students had over others—a set of skills that helped them thrive when many others in the same environment were just surviving and even struggling. He calls it the “happiness advantage,” and the advantage starts with how you see things. Focusing on positive thoughts or negative thoughts brings positive or negative experiences into your life. It is the Law of Attraction, and it is based on the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from pure energy and like energy attracts more like energy. Replacing self-destructive and self-limiting thoughts with more empowering and adaptive thoughts through creative visualization, practicing gratitude, and other mindful practices can help you get and stay on the positive side of your life where you can see the possibilities. There really is an advantage to being happy; those who see the glass as half-full enjoy that advantage. The good news is, even if you are a glass half-empty kind of thinker, you can develop a more optimistic approach to life and gain the happi- ness advantage others have by adopting some of the healthy habits your optimistic friends have developed. Being optimistic isn’t just about being happy all the time; it’s about having the ability to see opportunities where others just see problems. The ability to see the opportunity beyond the problem opens the door to solutions, growth, innovation, and success. It’s the starting point for everything that comes next. This important set of skills that Achor identifies is part of the Emotional Intelligence skill sets. In fact, these skills are primarily all self-awareness skills. This is important because the vast majority of organizations (and schools) overlook these skills as part of the foundational skills for creating empathy, collaboration, adaptability, and leadership. The second chapter of this book is dedicated to Emotional Intelligence.

Gallup research studies cite work as the primary source of stress for most Americans, with coworkers, bosses, and unreasonable demands listed as the top three things causing chronic stress and all the health issues associated with it.

Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you can do better.” It is an exciting time to see the changes organizations are making as we continue to discover what makes people thrive, engage, and perform in life and at work. My hope is that one day organizations will teach all of their employees how to create successful change, not just so they can be included in change projects at work, but because the ability to create positive change in their personal lives is the best investment and gift you can give to yourself and the people you care about. I also hope schools will incorporate these Social and Emotional Learning skills into their learning curriculum for K-12 so our children and grandchildren can learn these skills and create these habits at an early age.

HARDWIRING HABITS

Creating long-lasting successful change is about hardwiring your new habits before your discipline muscle wears out and you revert back to your old habits. I feel sure that I don’t have to describe how difficult it can be when you are transitioning from old habits to new habits. We are going to discuss how to overcome this in later chapters, but for now, I want you to think about creating habits of continual growth. When I first started studying change, I was coming at it from an organizational change perspective. When I realized that organizational change and personal development are connected and achieved in the same way, I developed one method that works for achieving any kind of change. There are hundreds of thousands of books on change. They all are based on fundamental knowledge and practices presented in a variety of different ways. If you understand the fundamentals of change, know the 5 Steps to Change (covered below), and practice developing your skills, you can create habits of continual growth that you can master over a lifetime. That means you effectively also master the skills required to create successful change, like emotional intelligence, empathy, self-awareness, self-confidence, courage, adaptability, process improvement, project management, and of course, change management. Hardwiring continual growth habits helps us to feel confident we can create the right next move even in difficult and distressing situations.

CHANGE EDUCATION

Now that you know how important change is in our lives, let me ask you this: When did you learn about change? Did you take a class or learn about it in school? Did you know there is a change curve? Did you know there are only 5 Steps to Change and they have been the same for hundreds of years? Probably not because most of us are not formally or informally taught how to manage change effectively. So, if change is important (and it is), and habits are created by repeating the same action or process over and over (which they are), what would happen if we could create positive change habits? Change management is like any skill—it gets better the more we practice it. If you were going to speak in front of a large crowd, play an instrument in front of an audience, or play any sport, you would practice. You would practice a lot so when it was your time to perform, you were in the habit of performing. Your speech would practically flow out of your mouth, your fingers would find the right chord at the right time, and you’d hit nothing but net at the big game. However, the practice that led up to the big event would have been anything but perfect, especially in the beginning. You didn’t start out running. You started out crawling, then walking, then running. Incorporating programs like mine that focus on Social and Emotional Learning are becoming more and more popular in many K-12 schools across the country. Such programs reduce bullying and absenteeism while increasing academic performance and the overall wellbeing of the students and staff.

THE CHANGING BRAIN

Until the last few decades, scientists believed the only changing our brains did after childhood was starting to decline and lose brain cells. As it turns out, the brain does not stop growing in adulthood; it can grow throughout our entire lifespans. In fact, every time we learn a new fact or skill, we change our brain. It’s called neuroplasticity. Our brain is one amazing machine. We don’t even fully understand what it is capable of. It holds all of our history and the key to our future at the same time. Our brain’s ability to create new neural pathways brings new hope for the treatment of brain injuries and brain diseases. It also causes us to stop and think about the way we learn and work. Psychologists and neuroscientists continue to study the brain, collaborating in research to understand how our brain functions throughout the day in different situations, circumstances, and environments. Bringing a new understanding and appreciation for creating an environment where people (students, employees, teachers, customers) can thrive.

HOW WELL DO WE SCORE AT CHANGE?

If you have already ditched your New Year’s or Back to School resolutions, or you can’t even remember what they were, you’re not alone. Popular studies indicate that only 8 percent of New Year’s resolutions are maintained for longer than a year. You might think organizations score a lot higher than individuals in their change success rates. Well, they do, but not by much. According to an article in the Huffington Post, even among the most successful organizations, change efforts fail 50 to 80 percent of the time. This is why we need to start thinking about change a little differently—so we can understand how change works, learn the formula, practice the formula anywhere, and create habits of personal development and continual growth. As Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

EXERCISES

A popular saying, often attributed to Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, or Mark Twain, is worth repeating: “If you always do what you’ve always done, then you are going to get what you’ve always got.”

Are you ready to look at the world a little differently? Are you ready to get to know yourself a little better? Are you ready to start creating the habits and life you really want? Are you ready to stop working hard and start working smart to make time every day to do the things that help you thrive? Changing is part of living. To ignore change is to bury your head in the sand and hope you grow a sunflower out your back side to provide shelter for you when it rains. Accepting the Change Curve as the best way to manage change for fifty years is only slightly less absurd! (Sorry, Dr. Kübler-Ross; I mean no disrespect. Your work is profoundly relevant even after so many decades, but surely you thought people would continue to develop your model to include new research and theories.) Answer the questions below to start thinking about change and achieving possibilities a little differently. You are worth it!

Answer these questions:

1. When was the last time I did something for the first time? What was it?

2. When was the last time I really impressed with something I did? What was it?

3. If I could do anything I wanted, what kind of work would I do?

4. If I were going to create the perfect day, what would it be?

5. When was the last time I felt confident and courageous? What was I doing?

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