Everyone has a list of things desperately in need of change. We’ll stipulate that the only constant in our world is change. In reflective moments we might even acknowledge a need for personal change.
But all the agreement notwithstanding, the fact is that change is tough — potentially painful. And often the result hardly seems an improvement.
Why is change so difficult?
Here are thoughts on three reasons consequential change (never mind a change for the better) doesn’t come easy — and maybe an idea or two about a frame of reference for anyone aspiring to lead meaningful change.
1. Change Forces A Different Perspective
Consequential change makes us look at things through a different prism. And even when the idea is embraced, the day-to-day reality can be exceedingly uncomfortable. Things appear askew. The once-beaten path is fraught with unfamiliar twists and turns . . . and was that a Danger Ahead posting?
Solutions aren’t as clear as they once seemed. Or as we want them to be. The temptation to put on the old perspective is mighty.
2. Change Forces New Conversations
Those skilled at thwarting it instinctively know the easiest way to prevent change is to perpetuate the same old conversations. Use the same vocabulary, focus on the same issues, listen to the same voices and the status quo is secure.
Anything out of the norm can have the effect of nails-on-a-chalkboard, or a previously unsung dissonant chord. In this context, dissonance taps into fear.
Doubt this? Consider how each generation of parents tends to respond to the music of the new generation.
3. Change Underscores A Temporary-ness
Change is first hand experience that very few things endure. Main Street isn’t the Main Street of our youth. Nothing is as unsettling.
And if the things we view as bedrocks of each day can be so temporary, what can we depend on? Facing this, the natural reflex is a retreat to the comforts of what we know.
But the agents of change are tenacious.
From commerce to political regime, social enterprise to personal endeavors, nothing is immune. Everything will change.
The truth is that it is not difficult to act like a change agent. A platform and a megaphone can catapult one into the spotlight for a season.
But extraordinary leadership focuses on three things that result in change for the better:
- Provide a framework for a new perspective — this is about vision;
- Inspire and instigate better conversations — this is about intentional listening and engaging; and
- Leverage the lasting nature of relationship.
Fail to articulate a clear vision, engage around the issues of yesterday, or ignore the real fabric of community — relationships — and the road to a change for the better will, at best, be a rocky one.
Beware the siren call of shortcuts that promise quick fixes, no pain and disproportionate gain. Change will come, to be sure; but it may not be what we bargained for.