In this post we talked about why people fear change and how to differentiate between different reasons for that fear. The urge to resist change has its roots in how we evolved as a species and how the human brain functions. And yet, change is inevitable. If you are reading this article, we can assume you are a growth-minded person who is looking for ways to improve all the time (i.e. change for the better) and get your teammates to do the same. So what can we do about this fear of change?
Chip and Dan Heath talk about a great framework in their book Switch for making change happen in different situations. We have seen it work for teams as well as individuals. The Switch framework helps once you know what is the specific change you are trying to make. But it's important to prepare yourself first so that you are more receptive to changes. It's like warming up the muscles in your body before you do the heavy lifting. Yes, the heavy lifting is what will build your muscles but you can benefit from the heavy lifting only when you have warmed up properly. And when you don’t warm up, your body is not ready and you could end up getting injured!
Here are some simple actionable ways of preparing yourself for overcoming resistance to any change:
Get used to change: This is the best solution for any such challenge, isn't it? You can do this by changing something all the time. You could introduce small changes to your daily routines like changing your breakfast, who you have lunch with, the route you take to work, layout of icons on your phone/desktop, the sequence in which you take up tasks. Anything that helps you get out of your comfort zone and keeps you on your toes is good. Just remember to not do this at the cost of your productivity.
Find the purpose: Humans can summon great amounts of willpower when they know why they are doing something. When faced with a proposed change, try to figure out how it will help you/your organization. When you know (and believe in) the purpose of the change, you will remain motivated and will find it easier to do what it takes.
Turn it into a game: Sometimes there will be a change that is thrust upon you that you don't agree with or don't believe in and yet, it has to be done. Can you turn it into a game? E.g. can I complete this in fewer than 5 attempts? Let me place a bet with myself - I think I can switch over to using the software the IT team is forcing us to use, and not curse the IT team more than twice a day.
Do what-if projections: You cannot really eliminate the fear when it comes to change but you can manage it. By trying to plot the different futures that the proposed change can bring to your life, you will feel more comfortable about it. Yes, there will be some futures that you will not be able to handle and you ought to be scared of them. But armed with your 'knowledge' of different futures, you will feel more confident about making the change.
Set yourself up for failure: One way to address the fear of change is to make yourself immune to the fear of failures. If you take up challenges or projects that you know you will fail in, it takes off the sting. And that's the only way you'll understand the meaning of "Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you a better person". You will realize that most fears are unfounded and even when you do fail, it's not the end of the world. So, onwards and upwards!
Reflect and track changes: Whether you like it or not, you fear it or not, you are changing. All the time. You must set aside some time to pause and reflect upon the different ways in which you have changed. Documenting these changes helps in giving you the confidence about your ability to change and overcome the resistance. As you would have noticed, most of these tips are about convincing your mind to overcome the resistance. You should employ whatever that helps you with this objective.
Find allies: While you can convince (or trick) your brain to overcome the fear, sometimes you need other allies. These allies could come in the form of friends, coaches, experts who have done it earlier. It's essentially another way to comfort your brain that you're not all alone.
Change is inevitable. There will be resistance to change. It's great fun to figure out ways in which this resistance can be broken down. Enjoy it!