There is a predictable, observable pattern that accompanies the undertaking of any significant change.
–The Reality of Change by Fred Johnson & Paul Metler
A few years ago we made a change in our home. We exchanged our carpet for hardwood. For us, it was a positive change. Our response to the change was very pleasant. We loved the change.
However, we are not alone. We share our home with a Maltese named Vanilla. Her response to the change was immediate and decisive. She hated the hardwood. To this day, she refuses to walk on the hardwood. She leaps from rug to rug attempting to develop her own version of Parkour skills or she insists on being carried across the sections of hardwood that have ruined her life.
Her resistance to flooring innovation provides for some interesting comparisons to our own battles with change.
Lack of Traction
A loss of traction can be unnerving. On those few occasions when Vanilla ventures onto the hardwood, it’s clear to see why she doesn’t like it. She struggles to gain traction. It reminds me of my first attempt at ice-skating. Movement was so much easier for her on the old familiar surface.
Any serious change can cause an initial loss or lack of traction. At first, progress seems tenuous. It was easier to move when you were operating within the familiar. When you initiate positive change it’s important to recognize the need for a measure of patience. Momentum requires intentional movement and a clear direction. Initial loss of traction does not signal a permanent loss of traction. Resist the temptation to return to the familiar.
It’s intriguing to watch our little dog stand on the edge of a rug, cock her head to the side and stare at the hardwood. There is always a dramatic pause. At times she rocks back and forth as if to communicate a question, “Should I go or should I stay?”
When you consider change, you may notice an internal twinge that causes hesitation. You feel tension – a tension between your dreams and your fears, between the known and the unknown. You don’t want to admit it, but you would rather embrace the known than experience the potential rewards that lie beyond the edge of your current reality. The unknown seems unsafe. You will never be able to experience positive transformation as long as the fear of the unknown governs your decisions.
Vanilla does not possess the same vocabulary as I do, but she can communicate fear. Right or wrong, I interpret her barks as a series of questions. Will I fall? Will I slide? Will I get hurt?
Vanilla embarking on a journey of change (pun intended) gives rise to similar questions. Will I fail? How costly will failure be? Will I damage my reputation? Will I face significant opposition? Am I ready to respond to pushback from those who are closest to me? Fear of change is complicated and it can be relentless. The first step may or may not be the most difficult. If you’re waiting for all fear to vanish before you take the first step, you will never experience positive change.
It’s one thing to understand the challenges and quite another to be willing to master change. There is one piece of information that can become a catalyst. Instead of pondering the unknown, focus on what is known.
Remember, there is a predictable, observable pattern that accompanies the undertaking of any significant change.
Internal and external resistance is inevitable and it can sting a little. You are wise to learn about these patterns and prepare for challenges. The Reality of Change is a valuable resource that examines the allure of the status quo, the emotional forces that persuade you to retreat, and how resistance to change comes from all sides. When you learn to anticipate the pushback, you can overcome the temptation to personalize the external opposition you face and learn to quiet the internal conversation that perpetuates your fears.