“We can’t do that, it’ll cost too much.”
“Things are too complex to work on that now.”
“We have too much going on right now.”
“There’s higher priorities.” “
We need better justification to make that change.”
We hear these things on our jobs from our peers, people doing the work, managing those doing the work, or those leading the managers. There’s always a reason to resist change. It’s easy to fall back on what’s known. It’s not as scary and thus more comfortable. However, when we resist the natural evolution of things whether that be in our society, work or personal lives, we cut ourselves off from the natural ebb and flow around us. Our interactions become hardened and we stop learning. When we stop learning, we stop growing and adapting which leads to closing off the system of who we are.
By definition closed systems do not allow transfer in and out of the system. By system, I mean us as personal systems in body, mind and spirit, systems of personnel within a business, whole business systems, as well as the societal systems we are integrated within. Our interactions with the systems around and within us directly influence our sense of satisfaction, pleasure or suffering. When we resist change we slowly cut ourselves off from exchange of information, energy or materials. We begin to isolate ourselves. Isolation disconnects us from the larger purposes in our lives. It creates silos in companies and divisions that don’t share information. Resisting change can polarize political systems. Meaning and fulfillment erode out from under us and we start complaining more than acting in ways that bring about the vision and spirit of who we are. Over time this resistance becomes a habit. Not only do we resist change in our own lives, but those around us. If we are in supervisory positions, this may keep us from trusting those we manage or not listen to feedback given to us. This lack of openness to feedback either positive or negative further stagnates the system and creates more disharmony amongst the elements of the system.
I experience this when attempting to help my 6-year old son with his homework. When he chooses to do his homework reading the questions and doing the math, a homework session can take 10 minutes with me simply clarifying questions. However, when he’s not interested and wants to do other things, the homework takes an hour and a half. I’ve even seen him put his fingers in his ears to block out my feedback. He even gets to the point where he can’t understand that I’ve given him the answer. He closes his system and stops exchanging information. We all have this childish tendency inside to stand firm and not listen to the feedback given to us.
I know 50-year olds who go to the doctor and don’t believe the results. The go to different doctors over a couple of months to find the same information put in different ways or with different tests. After 3-4 months they decide to do something and find out that their health has worsened and the procedure is more extreme. I’ve seen it at work with inspectors and technicians. A technician submits paperwork and gets feedback that all kinds of changes are needed to meet customer and process requirements. The technician complains and makes a few changes without addressing the feedback. It can go through a couple of cycles with the technician’s supervisor getting involved so the technician finally hears what the inspector’s feedback was indicating. Specifically, you have to complete your work as you’re hired to do. Instead of wasting a week and program dollars, openness to feedback would have made the exchange between inspector and technician systems a lot simpler and less costly. The technician, the 50-year old and my son created dissatisfaction and diminished their own spirits as evidenced in their complaining and worsening problems.
Instead of resisting change what if we turned our attention to discovery and understanding. Forget being comfortable or secure. Mental health as Viktor Frankl indicates comes from tension between what we have achieved and what we ought to accomplish or what we are and what we are becoming. Tension and our reaction to is are part of life. Avoiding them by resisting change only increases them. By switching our focus to exploration and uncovering what we do not know opens our system to learning. So the next time you find yourself saying “No we can’t” or “That’s not my job” try something like, “I don’t know if we can do that” and start asking questions like why and how depending on the context of the interaction. It’s not easy. For example, with my son, I get stuck in trying to help instead of attempting to understand where he’s coming from with questions. I have to stop, return to my breath, and ask questions instead of being demanding or saying something hurtful in my passion to help.
So if there’s any take away from this know that:
- Change is fundamental to life and adaptation from moment to moment
- Observe yourself without judgement.
- Re-orient yourself if you find you are resisting change
- Decide to ask question instead of standing firm with what you are comfortable with
- Act in accordance with the information you learn and not what you think is correct.
Correctness is an illusion based on premises we carry from the past into the present. We can only adapt ourselves to the present situation given the existing constraints. Obviously, some requirements stick around for a life time, but we should always be asking about the context and whether we are doing the most appropriate thing for the given interaction between systems now.
Observe, Re-orient, Decide, and Act appropriately for whatever may be unfolding around and within you.
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