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Why is Change so Challenging?

The key reason CEOs, Business Owners, and Executive Leaders hire me, whether as their Executive Business Coach or as their EOS Implementer® is because they seek to change. They understand that what got them this far can only get them THIS FAR. A new outcome will require a new way. Yet, we all know how difficult change is: over 80% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned within a week. As the saying goes, if change were easy, we’d all be wealthy, fit, and happy. Why is it that we may know exactly what we want from ourselves or our business, but we cannot seem to get our new habits to take root and remain consistent? Even when we know this new behavior would benefit us greatly, why isn’t the change easy in that circumstance?

Change is challenging for several reasons:

  1. Habits are strong and pervasive. The average person has far more habits than they realize. Each morning, we wake up and follow the same routine, taking the same path to work, even if that is within our home. Even our thought patterns are remarkably consistent from day-to-day. 
  • We cope with boredom, sadness, joy, and frustration with the same 2-3 soothing or celebrating techniques. We regularly interact with the same five or so people. Like a typical restaurant, our personal menu changes little from day-to-day.
  • Habits are automatic. They require little thinking by simplifying our patterns without expending unnecessary energy.
  • As Charles Duhigg says in The Power of Habit, The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.”
  1. Personal growth is inversely proportional to personal comfort. We know the effort required to get in shape, grow as leaders or change our company – each an example where we may hire a personal coach, a leadership coach, or an EOS Implementer®. And in each case, we know that we will likely be sore, uncomfortable, and even impatient. These known consequences can hinder.
  2. Our current habits reward us – on some level. Our brains are hardwired for survival, frequently manifesting as a resistance to change, because the status quo is keeping us alive – or is keeping our company profitable, that is our reward. We fear that change could threaten our lives or the life of our business.
  3. We tried that – it didn’t work. It’s a classic excuse we give ourselves – the pragmatic part of our brain that, after several attempts, we say, “Obviously, I can’t change. What’s the use in trying?”

The reality is that change is often simple, not easy when taken in smaller quantities. The primary issue keeping you from following through on your plan to change is attempting to change too much, too soon. Approach change in the smallest effective dose administered over time.

How to implement Change with an effective approach:

  1.   Adopt a mindset to change. Expect that change will be challenging, both within yourself and especially with your team, as you make changes in your organization. Your odds of success improve if you’ve planned well and approached with flexibility.
  2. Start small. To minimize the discomfort that change creates, set small milestones each week. Whether it is adding a new person habit of meditating for two minutes each day or changing the sales process for one of your products, those two changes are easier than meditating for an hour or selling all 100 products in a new way.
  3. Have patience. It can take months or years to make a change permanent. It’s often quoted that a new habit requires 30 days to instill. That’s not true. Studies show that it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the habit and the person. Using a personal and a professional example, consider that fitness is usually a lifelong habit/mindset shift and an EOS® Implementation lasts 18-24 months, yet both yield results for as long as the habits continue.
  4. Accept the consequences. Changing ourselves or our company is risky because we don’t know what the results will be. However, if we accept that life will change in some way and that discomfort frequently leads to growth, we are likely to cope more effectively.
  5. Expect an uneven progress chart. There is an ebb and flow to progress through change. Focus on the prize. Aim for 80% compliance as a measure of success as that is solid progress. Perfection is an illusion best left to the gods.

Change requires patience, focus, and endurance. That is the key challenge as effective change occurs slowly and incrementally, building momentum over time. That said, committing to slow, deliberate, effective change can yield tremendous results both personally and professionally.

Ken Kilday, CEO/founder of Leader’s Cut: The Ken Kilday Coaching Experience, is an Executive Business Coach and EOS Implementer®. He works with leaders in companies of all sizes to implement actions, evaluate success, and adjust to new, improved habits and actions to produce repeatable and predictable outcomes independent of changing business cycles. Ken is an entrepreneur who has designed, built, launched, and rejuvenated successful businesses. Contact Ken to schedule a 15 minute Meet & Greet and discover how coaching can best serve you and your business.