Are You an Essential Worker?

By |2020-04-19T19:48:44+10:00April 19th, 2020|Categories: Change Fitness|

This sign has appeared outside London Tube stations and speaks to the realities of life during a pandemic. A few people get the green light to travel and everyone else goes home.

But life has never been much different in some ways. Some people travel along life’s tube getting green lights all the way, while others don’t get far. Everywhere they turn they encounter one red light after another.

Are you one of the lucky ones who travels with green lights? Or do you constantly encounter red lights no matter how hard you try?

There’s something real and unreal about getting green lights. The unreal bit comes from observer bias. It’s easy to look at another person and imagine how easy life is for them when everything keeps going so well all the time. But we don’t really know how they experience reality, or what struggles they deal with. Maybe they do have it good, but maybe they’ve overcome a lot to get there.

The real bit is that some people know how to turn disadvantage into advantage. It may look like life is one series of green lights for them, but what you don’t see are all the red lights they enounter and manage to find ways around. They don’t let failure stop them. They are flexible and prepared to change course. They look for good opportunities. They seek out all the green lights they can find.

Perhaps some are just lucky – born in the right place at the right time. But many are change fit. They have disovered the success pattern of change and are good at making change work in their favour.

Bertrand Piccard is a Swiss adventurer who circumnavigated the world in a balloon. He learnt an important lesson from this experience. You can’t control which way the wind blows. But whether you succeed or fail has a lot to do with how you respond to the wind. It has a lot to do with the choices you make given the winds that blow. Change fitness helps people respond to the winds of change in ways that open new pathways for them. They navigate towards green lights.

So, what kind of lights do you tend to get? Are you frustrated because the lights are often red? Are you waiting for more favourable winds? Well, change fitness can give you the power to respond to change in ways that advantage you.

There are green lights waiting for you. Go find them.

Written by Dr Steve Barlow

You Are the Magic

By |2020-01-20T10:13:45+11:00January 20th, 2020|Categories: Change Fitness|

You Are the Magic

Have you ever felt like you’re not very important? I think most of us feel like that from time to time. I know I have – many times.

It’s easy to feel down on yourself sometimes. Perhaps you feel no one listens to you or cares what you think. Maybe you think no one understands you. Or perhaps you’ve been working very hard on something, yet nobody shows much interest in it.

Whether we’re:

  • building our business,
  • advancing our career,
  • working on our relationships,
  • looking to make new friends,
  • improving our health,
  • or working on other goals

we need to always keep one idea in the front of our minds.

‘I am the magic.’

That’s it.

If I’m going to achieve my goals, it’s up to me to make it happen.

It’s good to have other people who will look out for you and offer support. But others – even close friends and family – are ultimately responsible for their own lives, not yours.

We have to learn to stand on our own feet. If we want all these ‘better’ things, we need to become ‘better’ people. We need to grow and expand. We need to invest in ourselves.

Some people invest in a new car or some other toy to make them feel better about not achieving other things they really want. But smart people know to invest in themselves. They know that they are the magic.

In my opinion, one of the best investments you can make in yourself lies in improving your change fitness. By improving your capacity to succeed at change, you unlock doors to many other things you want from life.

Whether that be a better business, career, relationship, or health, becoming more successful at change makes all those things more within your reach.

You are the magic. Develop your change fitness and go for what you really want.

Written by Dr Steve Barlow

How to Predict the Future

By |2019-12-07T19:52:53+11:00December 7th, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness, Change Readiness, Managing Change, The Change Gym|

How useful would it be if you could predict with pinpoint accuracy what will happen in the future? Imagine you could accurately predict the performance of a coaching client over a given time period. Or suppose you could accurately predict how effective any given organisational change approach would be in the long-term.

If you could make those kinds of predictions, you’d have a lot of influence over the future. But is it remotely possible? How confident can you be about what will happen down the track? Well, let’s explore this and see what we can learn.

Computers playing chess

You might have seen chess apps for IOS or Android. These programs can beat the best human chess players in the world. Why? Because computers are better than people at solving the sort of problems you find in chess. Chess is a system with strict rules of what is allowed and what is not, and there are a finite number of possible moves at any given time. Computers excel at situations where there are clear and fixed rules and limited options (even if there are thousands of them).

But computers struggle in situations where the rules are not clear. They struggle when you can’t give them all the variables, and how they affect one another. That’s why they aren’t good at predicting what the weather will be like in 8 days from now.

Butterflies in Brazil

You may have heard of the ‘butterfly effect’. This is the idea that a butterfly fluttering its wings in the rainforests of Brazil could potentially cause a tornado in Kansas. As strange as this might sound, it illustrates something real about how the world works.

Many of the things we deal with in life don’t work like the game of chess. There are no clear rules about how they should work and there are no guarantees that if you do ‘a’ you will get ‘b’.  In fact, you might get something quite unexpected. You might take tiny butterfly steps and get tornado results.

Many things in life work like this. We make decisions at certain points in our lives, and at the time we can’t even imagine that they could change our course altogether. Yet they do. Little things can have big results.

So, butterflies in Brazil teach us that life is unpredictable and that little things can have big outcomes. If that’s true, how confident can we be in predicting our professional outcomes? How can we predict whether a coaching client will make good progress, or whether our approach to organisational change will work?

Making general predictions

Computers are good at chess because there are strict rules and limited options. If you were to play against a computer chess app, I would be pretty confident in predicting the app will win. But it is much harder to predict how any of my coaching clients will perform over time.

Some are very keen at the start and I may feel confident of their success. But then things happen in their lives and their performance suffers. There are no rules governing how they will perform over time. Things happen that sometimes make it hard for them to focus on coaching. And this is even more likely to be the case with organisational change, where many more people are involved.

So, where are we left? Without any possibility of predicting change outcomes?

Not really. Because there are patterns.

You can never predict for sure how any one individual or any one organisation will perform around change, but you can make some useful predictions based on the rules that govern change and what people begin with.

There are some rules (or patterns) that describe how humans engage with change when they do it well. We call this ‘the change process’. We can predict that when people engage with change following these patterns, they are more likely to be successful, and when they don’t follow these patterns, they are less likely to be successful. That is something we can predict.

We can also predict that when people possess the psychological capacity (change fitness) to effectively engage in the change patterns that lead to success, they are more likely to succeed. And when they lack enough psychological capacity (change fitness) to engage in effective change patterns they are less likely to succeed.

And we can predict that when organisations have enough change readiness to engage in effective change patterns, they are more likely to succeed. And when they don’t have enough change readiness to engage in effective change patterns, they are less likely to succeed.

The patterns matter

Although we can never be certain how any one individual or organisation will perform, the patterns still matter. It matters how people approach the change process. It matters how much change fitness and change readiness they have. In fact, these are among the best predictors of success or failure with change.

The patterns matter: they should also matter to you.

What am I saying here? Change is not like a game of chess. There are no clear rules. Although each chess piece can only do certain things, and you can accurately predict the options each piece has, when faced with change, people begin with different capacities and they make unpredictable choices. This becomes ever more complex when more people are involved.

So, you need to look for patterns. There are patterns in how humans engage in change successfully. There are patterns in the psychological resources people need to successfully engage in the change process. And there are patterns in how organisations become ready to succeed at change projects.

When you understand these patterns, and you have ways to measure them, you can make some intelligent predictions about the likelihood of success. You can never be completely certain about success – reality doesn’t allow for that – but you can make some general predictions and act accordingly.

Acting accordingly

Let’s summarise what we have read so far. Some things in life, like chess, are bound by clear rules and there are limits to what is possible. Because of how these things function, you can sometimes predict what will happen. The chess computer will almost always win. And the casino will almost always win in the long run.

But other things in life operate according to fuzzy rules with variables that can’t be easily identified or controlled. The outcomes of these things are much harder to predict. That said, there are patterns we can observe.

Change, whether individual or organisational, is almost always something of the second kind. It has fuzzy rules and obscure variables. Therefore, you must act accordingly.

How do you do that? First, don’t approach change as though it were a chess game. It’s good to have a plan and strategy, but don’t imagine that the rules are clear, that everyone will obey them, and that people’s options are limited by the rules. Don’t imagine that you can know all the variables and how they work. You don’t, you can’t, and people don’t follow the rules.

Instead, approach change as an explorer. Remain open. Observe. Question. Let what is there reveal itself to you. Make small changes, learn from what happens, and take the next logical steps.

Second, learn to recognise the patterns that indicate the likelihood of success or failure. Learn the patterns of the change process, of change fitness, and of change readiness. Let these patterns guide your approach to change and the people you lead.

I invite you to learn more about these success patterns. Discover how to create more of them, and how to use them to manage change. If you would like to learn how to attract greater success, I invite you to reach out to me and let’s have a chat.

Written by Dr Steve Barlow

steve@thechangegym.com

Change: The Learning Zone

By |2019-11-15T13:59:07+11:00November 15th, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness, Coaching, Programs|

In a previous article, I made the claim that humans are hard-wired for change. My argument there was that, since we have managed to survive and thrive in virtually every ecological niche on the planet (or at least in a diverse range of ecological niches), we are, as a species, very adaptable and not only adaptable but also able to adapt the environment to suit our purposes. Since this is arguably true of modern humans in general, it is logical to assume that deep neurological structures give rise to this capacity.

Hard Wiring

This neurological hard wiring may not have developed for the singular purpose of making us good at change. We understand from the Transtheoretical Model that change involves a great deal of analysis, visioning, planning, and problem-solving. These are all basic survival skills for a creature with a big brain but without many of the ‘mechanical advantages’ of other competitor species (we can’t fly like a bird, run like an gazelle, climb like a monkey, balance like a mountain goat, or swim like a dolphin). But we are very good at analysing our environment and planning our next moves.

We could explore this idea at greater depth and even debate whether big brains are an evolutionary advantage or a probable cause of ultimate demise. However, leaving such issues aside, we should understand that being hard wired for change is no guarantee of being able to use that neurological inheritance to much practical advantage. This is because being good at change requires more than hardware (neurones). We also need the right software (information).

Software

In general, humans all inherit the brain structures that enable us to analyse, vision, plan, and problem-solve. But we don’t all have access to the same information about how to do those things. In other words, there are differences in how well people have learnt to do those things.

And it’s even more than learning how to do things. It also involves developing the psychological strength to do those things and keep on doing those things when there is a psychological, emotional, or even physical pain associated with doing them.

So, being good at change requires us to have the neurological hardware (which, generally, we do) and the right kind of cognitive, emotional, and psychological software. And what cognitive, emotional, and psychological software is the right kind?

This is a complex question and we can’t go into details here. But we can make some broad statements.

Cognitive Needs

On a cognitive level (what we need to know), we need to understand how the change process works. We must understand what’s going on and what we should do to succeed at change. In other words, we need to understand the process we engage in. That might sound simple, but many people don’t really understand how the change process works and what is normal about it.

The second thing we need to understand on a cognitive level is what personal change fitness means. Change fitness refers to a set of psychological capacities that empower us to succeed at the change process. But in addition to developing these capacities, we need to understand what they are and why they are important.

The third thing we should understand on a cognitive level is the system in which we operate. This system (family, workplace, community, national, global) exerts pressure on us as we do on it. We need to have some understanding of this system so we can manage change within it.

Emotional Needs

On an emotional level we need emotional intelligence. We need to be able to regulate our emotions so can best utilise them to our advantage, and the advantage of others. Much has been said about emotional intelligence, so there is no need to say anything more here.

Psychological Needs

On a psychological level we need to understand ourselves and how we function in the world. We need to work on developing more of the change fitness capacities that give us the psychological strength to meet the demands of the change process. And we also need to understand the deep-rooted immunity to change forces that keep us trapped in current realities.

How Do We Do This?

The easiest and most direct way to tune up your change software is through change fitness coaching. Unfortunately, many of the things people learn about themselves and about change make them less likely to succeed at it. How our minds are programmed often leads us to be afraid of change, to resist it, and to run away from it. That is unfortunate because we have the hardware to be better than that. We just need to unlearn some unhelpful lessons and relearn some better ones.

And that’s where change fitness coaching fits in. It targets the most important cognitive, emotional, and psychological issues you need to focus on the reprogram your mind and help you get better at change. And the best place to start is with the Personal Change Fitness Program.

Perhaps, though, you’re not ready to engage in a coaching program. Maybe you would prefer to put your toes in the water first and test it out. You can do that too. You can start with a self-paced, online learning program that doesn’t involve coaching. A good place to start is Understanding the Change Process. This will give you some of the cognitive information you need. And if you decide you want coaching as well, you can always add it on later.

If you need any further information or help, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Written by Dr Steve Barlow

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"The Personal Change Fitness Program will not only make you change-fit, it will really change your life."

Debunking a Popular Myth: the Kubler-Ross Model of Change

By |2019-11-14T07:32:55+11:00November 13th, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness|

The Kubler-Ross Model (of Change)

Many people are familiar with the Kubler-Ross model. This model is often cited as a description of how change works – a model of change, if you will. It is commonly used in business circles to show how people in organisations react to change. However, before we embrace the model, we should understand where it came from. It came from the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She was a medical doctor who helped people who were dying.

What is a Model?

We should be clear about what a model is. It is a way of representing some reality, often an abstract reality. It represents patterns in the world. Kubler-Ross’ model represents patterns in how people react to mortality, or loss.

A change model would need to represent patterns in how people engage with change. It would seek to answer questions like: how do humans typically respond to and engage with change?

It is sometimes claimed that humans are hard-wired to resist change. The idea is that change involves risk, and humans are hard-wired to avoid risk and seek safety. I think there is truth in this claim, but, it doesn’t capture the full picture.

How successful a species is depends on how you measure success. But you could argue that humans are one of the most successful species on the planet. We have not only adapted to virtually every ecological niche on land, but we have also made the ecology adapt to us. We have even found ways to adapt to the most inhospitable of environments – space.

So, the way humans engage with change cannot be reduced to the simple claim that we are hard-wired to resist change. We also appear to be hard-wired to embrace change – changing ourselves and changing the world in which we live. Think of how much enthusiasm surrounds the idea of a mission to Mars or the concept of terraforming the red planet.

When we search for a model of change, we are seeking a way to represent the patterns in our brain structures and the typical human behaviours those structures produce. We are not really looking to model an abstract concept called ‘change’ – what we want is a model of how humans, at our best, engage with the process of change.

Back to Kubler-Ross

The Kubler-Ross model pre-supposes change is perceived as negative and threatening. This threat could come in the form of some unexpected and unwelcome news of a medical condition, the loss of a job or a significant other, negative financial news, or any other announcement that has significant implications for how you will move forward in life.

In other words, the model doesn’t really describe change: it describes a person’s emotional response to an unwanted and apparently negative change that has arisen on their horizon, and the process by which they come to terms with this new reality.

The wavy line on the graph represents a person’s emotional and cognitive response to news of a change they don’t want. Their initial state of relative well-being takes an immediate fall as they first hear the news, but soon rises as the person denies the reality or truth of the news. Surely this can’t be true? There must be a mistake here!

Once it become apparent that no mistake has been made, emotional well-being falls as shock and perhaps anger overwhelm the person. This may be followed by attempts at bargaining (with God? The universe?) as the person sinks deeper into depression.

Hopefully, with time, the person comes to terms with the new reality and begins to accept it. As emotional and cognitive well-being improves, and they make commitments about how they will proceed with life. Unfortunately, some people never accept the new reality and remain trapped in a state of depression.

This is a useful model that describes aspects of a common human experience – how we handle our fragility and mortality and the fact that bad things sometimes happen to good people. But there are several reasons why this model is not a good model of change.

First, change is not always negative. People win the lottery. They discover treasure. They meet someone and fall in love. They receive accolades and awards. There are many changes, expected or unexpected, that would not follow the pattern of the Kubler-Ross model. So, it cannot be a model we apply to all situations alike.

Second, not all change is unintended or unexpected. There are changes that just happen and there are changes we make happen. Intended changes usually don’t have the denial or shock elements that may be found in unintentional change.

Third, and most importantly, the Kubler-Ross model leaves too much out. It doesn’t provide a clear enough or detailed enough representation of how people typically respond to or engage with change. But what it does do well is it represents how people typically respond emotionally and behaviourally to a change they don’t want. That’s fine, but it’s only one part of a much bigger picture.

So, if a bigger picture is needed to describe typical human behaviour around change, where can we find such a model?

The Transtheoretical Model of Change

Change has always been part of human life so it may seem odd that it would be difficult to describe how that process happens. But it was difficult to describe. By the 1970’s there were over 250 different models of change in the academic literature. These models demonstrated a sense of confusion about the nature of the change process. This confusion led two American researchers, Prochaska and DiClemente, to put all existing models on the table and look for patterns. After years of work they produced a model that incorporates the best of existing models and most closely reflects the typical patterns in how humans engage with change.

They discovered 5 distinct phases, stages, or steps people engage in, and each step has its own purpose and its own set of behaviours. They also found that it’s normal for people to move forwards and backwards through these steps. Let’s look at these steps.

Step 1 – Not Even Thinking About Change

It may sound strange that the first step should be where people aren’t even thinking about change. But just because people aren’t consciously thinking about change doesn’t mean nothing’s happening. The person may have a vague feeling that something’s wrong.  The sub-conscious may be working and this might eventually emerge as a conscious need for change.

Furthermore, Step 1 doesn’t necessarily mean the person isn’t conscious of the need for change. They might be very aware of the need but may not think change is possible, or they might have tried to change before and failed.

And it is also very possible that people are in Step 1 because they hope things don’t change. We are all in Step 1 with things in our lives. We might love our home, love our jobs, love our car, or whatever. Sure, there may come a time when we think about moving, getting a new job, or replacing our car; but for now, we’re happy.

Step 2 – Thinking About Change

At some point we start thinking about changing things in our lives. We get tired or bored with how things are, and we want to change them. Or we become aware of things we want and good opportunities, and we start thinking about them. So, we make some investigations, talk to some people, perform a cost/benefit analysis. We think about how we feel about the change, whether it could work for us, and whether it’s worth the effort.

I think that Step 2 is where the Kubler-Ross model fits in. Sometimes we are thrust directly into Step 2. If we are thrust into a change that is perceived as threatening, the fight or flight mechanism will be activated. We may very well go into denial, become shocked or angry, and get depressed. We have a lot of processing to do. Sometimes, people get stuck in Step 2 and can’t find a way out.

But the way out of Step 2 is with a decision. It may be a commitment to do all we can to make change happen, or it may be a decision to go back to Step 1. If we decide to go ahead with change, we move into Step 3.

Step 3 – Deciding and Preparing

A firm decision for change marks the beginning of Step 3.

What do people do when they are in Step 3? They engage in preparation for change. There are many things to do and we need to work out how to approach them.

In every step of the change process there are risks and ways of getting stuck. One of the risks in Step 3 is that people get impatient. They skimp on preparation and want to get into the “real” change. But that behaviour only helps people fail.

A way of getting stuck in Step 3 is being a perfectionist. We do need to prepare thoroughly, but we don’t have to do it perfectly. We need to move on.

Step 4 – Making it Happen

This step is where we begin doing new things or doing old things in new ways. This is where we try things out, where we make mistakes, and where we learn the most. This is exciting, but there are many risks here. The chance of making mistakes is high, and we must deal with that. We may become frustrated, fearful, disappointed, or overjoyed. We may be tempted to give up if it gets hard, but if we continue and if we learn we eventually enter Step 5 of the process.

Step 5 – Keeping it Going

This is the final step of the change process. What are we doing here? We are persisting with change. The steep learning curve has flattened out and we are working towards the end, where we are used to the new behaviours. But there are still risks involved – getting sick of the struggle, memories of ‘the good old times’, and such like.

As mentioned earlier, it is normal to move forwards and backwards through this process. We make some progress, and then we regress. But, if we keep at it, eventually we win.

That’s what the Transtheoretical Model of Change describes – the pattern of how humans approach change. Or I should say; how they approach change when they do it right. So, what does it take to do it right?

Change Fitness

This process of change described by the Transtheoretical Model of Change may be typical of people, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are many challenges and many risks, and it’s not easy.

To be good at this process we need a special kind of fitness – change fitness. Change fitness is a psychological fitness for the change process and it’s in our minds. People who have lots of change fitness find the change process easier to handle than people who don’t have much fitness. That means change-fit people are more likely to succeed at change. They are more likely to be successful people because you can’t grow if you can’t change.

Conclusion

The Kubler-Ross model is a good model, but it is not a good change model. The Transtheoretical Model of Change is a much better description of what people do when they engage in change. To be good at the change process you need to understand how it works and you need change fitness.

If you would like to have more change fitness, or would like your leaders and employees to have more change fitness, we can offer you change fitness coaching. If you would like to become a change fitness coach, please reach out to me and express your interest.

Dr Steve Barlow

What We Do

By |2019-12-04T18:13:59+11:00November 1st, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness, Change Readiness, The Change Gym|

Growing Success

We help organisations and individuals become more successful at change. We do this by developing their capacity to succeed at the change process, helping them get ready for change, and by providing actionable change management processes.

If you can’t change, you get stuck. If you’re not agile and adaptable, you can’t be competitive. If you’re not change fit, you’re not ready for the opportunities of the future.

Personal Change Fitness

Change fitness is a psychological concept that refers to an individual’s capacity to meet all the demands of the change process. The more change fitness a person has, the more likely they are to succeed at change. A person with high change fitness has a greater capacity to cope with the demands of challenging and difficult change.  As a result, they are more likely to be successful when making change. People with low change fitness tend to be more resistant to change and are more likely to disengage and quit when change becomes hard. The good news is, change fitness can be developed at any age.

Organisational Change Readiness

Organisational change readiness refers to an organisation’s capacity to meet the demands of the change process. It is much more than simply readiness to begin a change project. Change readiness consists of 6 major elements, one of which is the change fitness of  all stakeholders. When these 6 elements work together in harmony, the optimal environment is created for successful change to occur. Organisational change readiness can be grown so the organisation becomes more agile over time. Change-ready organisations are at least twice as likely to achieve successful change outcomes compared to organisations with low change readiness.

Organisational Change Management

Although there are a number of popular change management approaches in common use, we believe they are lack some critical elements. They don’t map well to the change process, nor do they integrate change readiness into their processes.   

It is important to base your change management approach firmly on the change process because this is an expression of how humans approach change when they do it well. We are hard-wired to approach change in a way that delivers optimal results, but we don’t always do it that way. Why? Because, although we have the hardware to be successful, we often don’t have the right software. We want to teach you how to approach change with the right software (thinking and knowledge).

And it is also important to integrate change readiness into the change management approach. Change readiness isn’t something to tack onto change management. It’s about the readiness to succeed at the change process, and that’s a fundamentally important issue. We can show you how to do it right, so you have the best possible chance of success.

We provide change management templates that guide you step-by-step through the change project. These are practical tools you can use day to day.

Coach Training

Part of our business involves training external and internal coaches in how to build the change fitness and change readiness of individuals and teams. If this interests you, we have accreditation pathways to teach you what you need to know.

Assessments

We provide comprehensive change readiness assessments for organisations highlighting areas of strength and weakness in change capacity and helping organisations become more change-ready.

How We Help

The Change Gym specialises in helping people develop more change fitness and helping organisations develop more change readiness. We have also developed a change management model based on the change process and with change readiness principles and practices in-built. We provide training, advice, and tools to help people and organisations become more powerful and successful around change.

This website gives you information about what we do, but we invite you to contact us directly to discuss how we can help you achieve your change goals.

Is the Change Process Real?

By |2019-10-17T17:57:51+11:00October 17th, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness|

Is the change process real?

Is there such a thing as the change process? That might sound a strange question because there are hundreds of models of the change process and people have been studying it for decades. But is it a real thing and, if so, what is it?

Models of Change

Arguably, the best analysis of the change process is the Transtheoretical Model. This model postulates that change unfolds through a series of five steps, or stages. It begins with Pre-Contemplation, where a person is not even thinking about change. Then, if something happens, they may enter the Contemplation stage – Step 2. Here they begin to think about whether change might be a good thing or a bad thing and weigh up the costs and benefits. In this stage, people are considering what they implications of change could be and whether it offers enough value or poses enough risk.

If people come to accept that change can’t be avoided or that it presents enough value to outweigh the risks, they may decide to progress with change and make some necessary preparations. This is what happens in Step 3 of the change process.

In Step 4, people begin implementing the change. The previous steps were also part of the implementation process, but in Step 4 people really look like they are changing. Here they are doing new things or doing old things in new ways. This is a time of learning, of experimentation, of making mistakes, of experiencing setbacks.

At some point, the steep learning curve starts to flatten out. The new behaviours are not yet the new normal, but they are beginning to feel more familiar. Setbacks and discouragements can still happen – the new neural pathways are still being established. This is Step 5 – the Maintenance stage. Ultimate success lies at the end of this stage.

The Model is Not the Territory

The Transtheoretical Model has been widely accepted for over 40 years. It is a valid model of the change process. But it is a model of what happens when people engage in change. It is a description of what is normal for people who are successful.

Normal doesn’t mean everyone does it. It’s a description of what is normal when change is done well. Many people can’t handle change because they don’t do it well. They don’t think it through enough at the start, they rush through the steps impatiently, they underestimate how hard it might be and how long it might take, and they give up when they make mistakes or when it gets hard.

So, the change model is not so much a model of change as it is a model of how humans negotiate change when they do it well. It is like a model of the change architecture of the human brain.

If you go out into nature with a microscope and a camera, you won’t find something called ‘the change process’. Nor will you find anything called ‘the Transtheoretical Model’. These are not really things in the sense that a tree is a thing, or love is a thing.

The change process and the Transtheoretical Model are observations about how humans negotiate change when they do it well. The best physical evidence of the change process might be the neural connections in our brains – the ones we use when we succeed at change. This is where the hard wiring for the change process is to be found.

Right Information

But, as I said in a previous article, you need more than hardware to do change well. You also need the right information.

There are two main bits of information you need. You need information about how to navigate the change process. This is done by following the steps outlined in the Transtheoretical Model and ensuring you succeed at every one of them. This is a map of the change territory.

The second source of information you need is change fitness. This is the software (mindset, psychological capacity) needed to successfully meet all the demands posed by the change process. This is the kind of fitness you need to complete the change journey. If you follow the map and have the fitness to complete the journey, you are much more likely to succeed at change.

Change How You Change

If you already handle change well, congratulations because you are in the lucky minority. But if, like most people, you sometimes struggle with change, the good news is this: you have the capacity to change how you handle change.

You can get good at the change process because you already have all the hardware you need. You might need to do something about the software in your mind, but that is something you can learn.

So, if you want to get better at succeeding at change, we have programs that can help you. This is the area we specialise in and we know how to help. Why don’t you book a time to find out more?

Written by Dr Steve Barlow

The Hardware and Software of Change

By |2019-10-17T14:50:01+11:00October 16th, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness|

The Hardware and Software of Change

Human beings have always needed to adapt to change. The fact that we have survived so far, have managed to occupy almost every ecological niche on the planet, and have become the dominant species shows that we do adapt to change. Yet, it’s not hard to find people who hate change. So, how are we to understand this paradox?

Threat or Opportunity

To our ancient ancestors, change meant threat or opportunity. At times they faced the dangers of fire, flood, and drought. At other times there was an abundance of food and opportunities to flourish. New people brought the potential for conflict or disease, or an opportunity to mix, share ideas, trade, and learn.

We are all descendants of those people who were good at handling those threats and grasping those opportunities. Our human brains have the architecture to adapt to change: to recognise threat, to see opportunity, and to respond in ways that help us survive and flourish.

The Change Process

To a large extent, our experience of the change process reflects the hard wiring of our brains. We have the brain architecture to recognise feedback from the environment and to understand when something is wrong, and when we need to change. We have the brain architecture to evaluate the costs and benefits of changing, of rationally assessing various options, of making informed choices, of learning from experience, and of making new neural connections. People around the world can do these things because the capacity to do them is embedded in the structure of our brain, and they help us survive.

We are wired to engage in the change process and to adapt to the environment. That is our hardware, and it is partly why humans can survive in the harshest of environments. But there’s more going on than hardware.

The Software

We are familiar with the concept that computers need software to run. Software is information that tells the hardware what to do and how to perform. At its most basic level, it tells tiny electronic gates to either open or close. Without the right information, the gates cannot act in any coordinated way and cannot do useful work. The hardware is useless without the right software.

Our brains are amazing biological structures that are more powerful than any current computer. But they rely on the right information to work well. Our brains are structured to help us adapt to change, but they need the right kind of information to coordinate what they do and how they work. In the end, how well we deal with change depends largely on the software (information) we feed into our brains.

The author Carol Dweck has noted that some people have a fixed mindset and others have a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset want things to stay the same, are generally resistant to change, and have rigid views, attitudes, and behaviours. People with a growth mindset are open to change, see it as an opportunity to learn and grow, and see many opportunities on the horizon.

But those with a growth mindset have the same brain architecture as those with a fixed mindset. The difference lies in the software – the operating beliefs and the information that drives how they respond to change. Both groups have the same brain structure and they both experience a degree of anxiety that is common around change. But they behave in different ways.

Kegan and Lahey have helped us understand that we all possess software that seeks to protect us from change. We all have thought patterns and behaviours that sometimes jump into action to protect us from change. They liken this to an immune system that jumps into action whenever it detects a threat to the way things are. The trouble is, this mental immune system can undermine us. It sometimes prevents us from using our brain architecture and causes us to protect things that could even threaten our survival.

Kegan provides a good illustration of this. He refers to some research with cardiac patients. Each of these patients was told by their doctor that they would die if they didn’t make significant lifestyle changes. They all understood the message, they all wanted to live, and everyone said they would make the necessary changes. But when they were followed up one year later, only 14% of the patients had made any of the changes.

These patients had the same brain architecture that enabled people to survive and adapt to change over thousands of years. But they were powerless to make changes that would enhance their own survival. This is how dangerous it can be to have the wrong software.

Change Fitness

So, what it the right software? Some people obviously have the right software because they have a growth mindset. They know how to minimise risk and take advantage of great opportunities on offer. But what information are they feeding into their brain architecture?

Until recently, we weren’t sure about that. Now we have a better idea. The right information is something we call ‘change fitness’. It’s helps us fit into new situations and adapt to change.

Do You Need an Update?

We like to have the latest software on our computers. It helps us work better and we are more productive. It can be frustrating using old software that reflects an out-dated way of thinking.

But many people go through life with old software in their heads. Even though it doesn’t work very well, they persist with it. They keep using the old software, yet they expect different results. Is it sensible to expect better performance if you’re feeding the wrong information into your brain?   Didn’t Einstein tell us that we can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created them in the first place? Wouldn’t a software update be a better idea?

Change fitness coaching is like having a software update. It introduces your mind and brain to the right information. You already have the hardware, but you need the right software to make it work properly.

Many individuals and organisations need a software update and the time to do it is now. Don’t accept the wrong information. Speak to me or a trained change fitness coach and seize the opportunity today.

Written by Dr Steve Barlow

Understanding the Demands of Change

By |2019-10-24T12:51:59+11:00October 15th, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness|

When the change process is difficult it is difficult for a reason. The reason is that it makes demands on us. We might look at those demands in a future article (let me know if you would be interested in such an article), but for now let’s consider two general aspects about the demands of change.

Self-Summoning or Self-Transforming?

Self-summoning change demands that you summon your resources and bring them to the table. If the change is relatively easy, you will have more than enough resources to be successful. But more difficult change might push you to the limit of your resources. You will need to ‘pull all stops out’ and summon everything you’ve got to succeed at the change.

Self-transforming change demands that you go beyond the current limits of your resources. It requires you to grow. If you want to be successful, you must allow the change to change you. It calls you to transcend the current limits of your capacity, to go out beyond your comfort and safety zone, and to become a bigger person.

Self-transforming change is generally more difficult than self-summoning change because it demands all you’ve got and then more.

This distinction is useful, but we can explore the demands further by thinking about distinctions between change projects.

Simple, Complicated, or Complex Change?

These three types of change differ in two ways. First, they differ in how clear the relationship is between cause and effect. In simple change, it is relatively easy to see how cause and effect are related to each other. An example of this would be creating online ads, like Facebook ads. You could create an ad and see how it performs in the analytics. Then, you could make a change to the ad (say, change the headline, or change an image) and then see how that affects performance of the ad.

In complicated change, it is more difficult to understand what the variables are and how they might affect outcomes. This is largely the domain of experts who possess specific and in-depth knowledge of an area. An example of this would be making changes to a financial portfolio where expert knowledge is needed to evaluate which investments are likely to provide the best yields.

In complex change, it is unclear what all the variables are and there may be no definitive way to determine how variables contribute to outcomes. An example of this would be starting a business. If the business is experiencing significant problems, you may decide to call upon the services of an expert (e.g., a business analyst), but this may not reveal any of the factors that are causing most of the problems. At the end, you still might be unclear of what is wrong or how to fix it.

As a rule, increasing complexity increases the demands of the change process. For example, improving how a Facebook ad campaign performs is relatively easy and may only require you to change some text, change an image, or make changes to your audience. For most people, this would not be too hard. But making beneficial changes to an investment portfolio is much harder and requires some expertise. Without first gaining expert knowledge, it would be easy to make a mistake and lose money. Gaining such expert knowledge would push many people to the limits of their current capacity, or even beyond it.

Changing how a business performs may be even more difficult. The main cause of poor performance may be the personal limitations of the business owners or its employees. In order to achieve better performance outcomes, the people involved may need to change how they think, how they speak, how they relate, and how they behave.

Overview

Bringing this together, we can see that self-summoning change is often easier than self-transforming change, and that increasing change complexity often corresponds with a movement towards self-transforming change.

The more demanding a change is on the person, the more change fitness is required for success. Change fitness is the wellspring of our change capacity. In other words, it is the deep inner psychological capacity to meet the demands of the change process. It impacts how we think about change, how we react to it, and how we behave around it.

A good analogy to help understand this is physical fitness. If a swimmer wants to improve their performance and compete at a more demanding level, they will need to improve their swimming stroke, improve their breathing, improve their speed, and improve their style. But none of that will happen if they don’t also improve their fitness. They need to build their heart-lung capacity, develop muscle strength, develop more endurance. And they also need to work on their mind. They need a success mindset.

It’s the same with change. If you want to make more difficult changes, you need to build your change fitness.

The good news is that change fitness can be developed. If you have struggled in the past with difficult change – or if you find change difficult – you can become better at it. Change fitness coaching significantly helps more people.

So, if you want more change fitness, or if you know people who need more change fitness, I invite you to have a chat with me or another trained change fitness coach.

Dr Steve Barlow

Move Beyond Your Comfort Zone

By |2019-09-03T16:22:05+10:00September 3rd, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness|

Flames pushed at the cold and dark as they eagerly devoured the campfire. In a ring around the fire, I sat with a group of friends. Behind us, the blackness stretched into the unknown. But in the midst of this circle of light and warmth, we shared a place of safety.

Across the circle, the fire danced on the shadowy outline of my friends. We shared this common moment, warmed by the fire and reassured by the light.

But then, from somewhere out there, in the blackness, came a blood-curdling shriek. Eyes quickly turned and a dark fear fell on the circle. Then, out of nowhere, something large and black swooped over our heads and disappeared back into the night. Time for bed.

This story is true; it happened to me when I was young. But a similar story happens to people all the time. It has probably even happened to you too.

I want to show you a picture. Here it is.

comfort zone

This is a picture of that campfire, only this time you are at the centre. The blue circle represents your comfort zone. In our story, this is the circle of friends who faced the warmth and light of the fire, with the darkness at their backs.

This comfort zone is a place of relative ease and security. It represents all those things in your world that are familiar to you. To some extent, you know how to navigate this area. There is a degree of warmth here, and you can see where you are.

But there is another zone behind you, or perhaps in front of you. This is your zone of potential (shown here in magenta). In our story, this zone is represented by the darkness at your back.

This zone of potential is a dark and foreboding place, and it takes courage to venture out there. Many people never do venture into this zone. It is a place of fear. It is the unknown – the concealed. The unexplored. The yet-to-be-discovered.

But, in various ways, it beckons. Sometimes it reaches into your comfort zone, swooping for your attention. It calls you to face your fear and to explore. Because, in some fearful way, you belong there.

These are times when your potential makes itself known. You get a momentary glimpse of what is possible for you. It coaxes you to come and follow, to explore, and to uncover.

But this is a call into darkness, away from the warmth and light of the fire. And it’s a call that, sadly, many people never heed.

I know something about you. You have lots of potential – far more than you realise. But to claim it, you must move out of your zone of comfort and into your zone of potential. And you must stay there. Gradually, your comfort zone will expand, but then your zone of potential may expand along with it.

I’ll tell you one reason why so many people never venture into their zone of potential. It’s because their change fitness isn’t what it should be. The limit of their comfort zone represents the limit of their change fitness.

So, if you ever stare out into the darkness and wonder who might be out there, I’ll tell you. It’s you. It’s the you you have the potential to become. It’s waiting for you to come and find it. Do you have to courage to do that?

Build your change fitness and discover a bigger you.

Written by Dr Steve Barlow

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