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Personal change fitness is a person’s ability to be the primary agent of change in their own life.  This means within them they have the psychological resources and capacities needed to successfully navigate change. That simple definition needs some unpacking and illustrating.

The marathon

Imagine you decided to host a marathon race and you went searching for runners to participate.   Your search led you to 2 people – one an elite marathon athlete; the other an unfit person who struggles to run 100 metres.  Are these people fit to participate in your marathon?  The elite marathon athlete is more likely to be able to run the marathon than the unfit person who struggles to run 100 metres.  He may not be ready to run your marathon, but he has the resources and capacity to run a marathon if he wanted.  The unfit runner may have desire to ‘throw his hat in the ring’ – but it is unlikely he has the capacity, training, or experience to go the distance.

Change can sometimes be like a marathon.

A matter of capacity

Being fit for change means having the resources and capacities within yourself to ‘run your own marathon’ if you so choose.   Change fitness doesn’t mean you are ready to make any and all changes. But when you commit to change you have the resources you need to finish. You don’t need anyone to stand over you with a whip to keep you going.

You still may have much to learn

To have the resources and capacities for change doesn’t mean you have no need to learn anything new.  You may be fit for change, but not know exactly what to do. Or you may still lack some key skills.  You don’t have to know it all. Being fit for change means you’re ready to learn what you need to know as you go through the change process.  It means being aware of your limitations and willing to accept the challenge of growth. And being willing to accept help from people who can help you.  It means taking responsibility for the entirety of your own change process – being the primary agent of change, but not the only agent of change in your life.

Change fitness as growth

Change fitness is not something that you have either all of or none of.  People can be fit for some parts of the change process, but not ready for other parts.  As I write this article, there is less than 2 weeks left of 2011 and some people are considering what to put on their list of New Year’s resolutions.  New Year’s resolutions tend to be a bit of a joke, because the changes people make at the beginning of January are often in the ‘too hard basket’ by February.  People are ready to engage in some parts of the change process, but not ready to engage in all of the change process.

If you think we can help you to make your organization more adaptable and deal with change more efficiently, please contact us to discuss your needs.

Dr Steve Barlow

Steve Barlow
Author: Steve Barlow

Steve heads up The Change Gym. He is a change readiness specialist. You can contact him at