How Long Does it Take?
How long does it take…
- …to turn around the culture of an organization?
- …to find your ideal career?
- …to reform a criminal, change the dynamics in your family, turnaround a business, change a habit? achieve peace in the land,or have balance and satisfaction in your life?
Months? Years? Lifetimes? Strings of attempts ending in failure or at least less-than-hoped for results?
Perhaps. Or perhaps there’s a way to speed things up. Let’s first look at what blocks real, lasting change.
Why change fails or lags
Most change fails because we act at the wrong level. We work the symptoms, not the causes. We get trapped, for instance, in the drama about things or by the discomfort of looking too deep. This is true for us as individuals or in organizations.
Getting trapped like that not only delays change and presents hard work, it reinforces the belief that long and difficult is the way of things and that the next change will be long and difficult, too. More insidiously, we can believe that there’s something deeply, fundamentally wrong with us or our organization. Look closely, and you’ll see this belief hiding and driving people and organizations everywhere.
Real change is just one thought away.
Here’s how to make real, sustained change quickly. It starts with just one thought. Find the right thought at the right level, investigate its truth, and choose a thought that supports your goals.
We tend to start looking at the symptoms; these are our “first thoughts” about the situation. To go deeper ask two sets of questions:
- Where do you or your organization say, “That’s impossible.”? These indicate you are bumping up against a too-limited view of the world and yourself/your organization in the world.
- What question is too painful or sensitive to ask or answer? These indicate the thought that you or your organization can’t handle reality. This type of thinking block has power when you don’t investigate them. They lead to avoidance and stagnation for fear of the consequences. Far better to jump into the jaws of these questions to realize they are toothless and timid.
Once you’ve found the thought, ask yourself, “Is it true, 100% true?” Typically it’s not. Acknowledge your tendency/habit to think like this. Then decide, “What thought would better support me or us?”
Situation: A friend wants to change careers, doesn’t know what he wants, it tired of not knowing (and not having any income) and isn’t taking any action. He’s been struggling for more than a year.
First thoughts: “I am a procrastinator.” “This is hard.” “Maybe it’s not meant to be.”
Underlying thought: “I don’t act so others won’t criticize. I’m afraid of criticism; others will say I can’t have what I want or that I’ve screwed it up.”
Is this true? Pausing here for a moment, he sees it’s not true. Those he fears would criticize merely express their own lack of direction and certainty.
Better thought: “I see my tendency to avoid possible criticism. I act anyway to discover my SweetSpot and bring it life in my work.”
Situation: A company that has enjoyed a large, protected market is now facing stiff competition from new and powerful entrants.
First thoughts: “We can’t change our stripes fast enough to react to these guys. Our way of doing business is so ingrained and the politics amongst the players inside [think along the lines of management-union divisions] are so bitter that we can only make cosmetic changes; we fiddle while Rome burns.”
Underlying thought: “We cannot change anything because the other party is so unreasonable and so greedy that they rather let the whole thing go to hell rather than change.”
Is it true? Reflecting on the fact that both groups have the same thought about each other, they agree that it might not be true.
Better thought: “Though we’ve fought each other for years, we see there’s probably common grounds for cooperation AND even a possibility that our current organization gives us unique power in the marketplace.”
What’s your thinking? How long will it take you or your company to change?