Change is the Opportunity to Grow

Most bold change is the result of a hundred thousand tiny changes that culminate

in a bold product or procedure of structure. Thomas Peters, American Business Author

People say they want change, but change is threatening and they worry that things could get worse. To those who have confidence in themselves, however, change is a stimulus. These people believe that one person can make a difference. They believe that they can influence what goes on around them and they can make an impact.

Kurt Lewin’s Change Model

When I was in college, I studied psychology and in my last terms took courses on organizational behavior and change. One of the social psychologists we studied was Kurt Lewin, who was one of the pioneers in the field. In his overall body of work, Lewin had a change model that included three parts:

  1. Unfreezing: He recognized that to be happy, one has to grow. But to grow, one must overcome inertia, creating an awareness that the status quo is currently unacceptable. Lewin recognized that the status quo may be hindering one in some way and a change must be made.

  2. Changing: When one recognizes that a change must be made and makes it, only then does it become real. This is typically a time marked by fear and stress. It is a time when new behaviors and new practices and new ways of thinking must be embraced—this is a slow process and characterized by many small changes. Because it is so stressful, one must have a great deal of education about the new situation, increased communication with peer groups, a great deal of support and time to understand the consequences related to the change. And the process probably needs to be repeated multiple times in part or in whole.

  3. Freezing: Then comes the crystallization of the new behaviors—the chance to see that the new behaviors are working, they are reinforcing and must be cemented so that there is no going back. The new behaviors must be accepted as the way these things are going to be done in the future. Then they are frozen for the individual—until another change is anticipated.

Starting a New Job

For every person who secures a new job and is happy, there is also someone who is disappointed in their dream of what they thought would be greener pastures. New jobs create stress from others’ expectations…there are new tasks to learn…no support network except what is developed in the new position. Sometimes there are forces at work preventing the changes from happening. Significantly more money or greatly improved benefits may help to spur one on, for sure. One of the most important issues related to happiness in a new job is working forward on specific goals, and those are generally set promptly for a new employee.

Whether you have made a lateral move, been promoted or started a new job (within a system or within a new organization or situation), even when you are confident, it is tough not to be frustrated. All of change comes with some element of risk—but the world does favor risk takers. John F. Kennedy understood this. He said: “There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”

If you can revel in the uncertainty and risk, you are halfway home. Simply keep looking before you leap. Be evolutionary in your approach sometimes, but revolutionary at other, calculated times. Recognize your round sides and your flat sides and play to your strengths, in every circumstance. Focus on those strengths regardless of what the work may be.

What Next?

You can choose to change for many reasons when moving on to a new position (or staying in your current role). In past posts on my blog, those reasons already have been explored. Many people have creative and successful ways of dealing with the changes—and we all need role models. So, for the next few posts, I have asked colleagues who recently have made changes to talk about their past careers and what led them to make a change, their feelings about it and how they coped with both the excitement and frustration of those changes.

It's my hope that these individuals will provide you with some insights on how successful, talented individuals have carved positive next steps—how, in the words of Dr. Lewin—they froze new ways of thinking.

Change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong. Mandy Hale, American Author

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