Originally published in Human Resources Management in Canada, Prentice Hall Canada, Inc.
Change: It's a Matter of Belief
By Lorraine Weygman
The ancient Greeks believed that running a 4 minute mile was impossible. They still tried. One scheme was to challenge the runners with wild animals chasing behind them in the hopes that it would make them run faster. It didn't work. Maybe the wild animals didn't break the four minute mile, either!
Other ideas worked just as poorly, so they concluded that breaking the four minute mile was a physical impossibility. The bone structure and lung power of humans were not adequate and the wind resistance was too great. Considering the evidenceat that time, this belief made plenty of sense.
Therefore, when Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile barrier, he created a miracle. One year later, 37 other runners broke the four minute mile. Two years later, 300 runners did the same thing! A belief changed and a new reality was born.
Roger Bannister didn't believe the Greeks or anybody else, regardless of their evidence. He succeeded where they failed because of the power of his belief and his vision of seeing himself running a mile faster than four minutes.
The 20th century had more rapid changes than any century in the past millenium. As we close in on the 21st century and enter it, change will be accelerated to a speed we've never experienced.
Technological changes and the baby boomer generation are driving business and consumers in new directions never before discovered. Affected are world economics, politics, religion, health care, finance, education, business as well as our social and personal lives. Downsizing, rightsizing, expansion, regionalization, mergers, acquisitions, relocation, lateral movement, promotion, outplacement, computers, satelites, microchips, the new spirituality. alternative methods of health care and an aging population continue to have a profound effect on everything we see and do.
What many people call a recession or depression of the 1990's, is ill labeled. The evolution of science and technology in the closing decades of the 20th century has created a change that is probably greater than the Industrial Revolution. That change or paradigm shift dictates a new way of doing things. Cotton is no longer picked by hand, few chickens in North America roam freely on the farm and a cathode ray tube is hard to find. The past is dead, except in minds, memories and libraries. What we must do is learn from history and our own experience, be aware of our beliefs and learn to adapt.
Change is the most constant of constants on this planet. The distance between calm and chaos in our lives is just a matter of time. Whether we like it or not, we constantly experience both. One measure of change in our lives is the amount of chaos we're experiencing.
Resistance to change is quite natural. We have well developed coping strategies. Adapting to change often occurs with difficulty. The unknown is unpredictable. We fear our risks could create mistakes, anger and rejection.
The resulting stress can create disease, depression, denial and avoidance.
Change is a time of transition
Transitions begin with endings and end with new beginnings. You might say that making a reluctant but necessary change is like the death or ending of a behaviour pattern, habit or belief and the beginning or birth of another one. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages of dying - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance- clearly describe the journey many people take when they go through the process of an agonizing change.
Fear is a common factor in the change process. What do people fear? Failure, rejection, ridicule, mistakes, embarrassment and the unknown are only a few. What if this change costs the company money? Will my risk cause bankruptcy? Will I lose my job? Will I be able to cope and even be brilliant in this new job? Will my friends and family still love me? Many people become immobilized and unproductive, causing untold millions of dollars in lost revenue for business and tremendous revenue falling into the cash registers of pharmeceudical companies as they spin out medications for stress related diseases.
People vary differently in their response to change. Some people love the challenge of change. 3% of the population innovate and create change for the rest of us. For these initiators, change is easy. 13% of the population quickly adapt to these new ideas. The early majority group, about 34 %, follow next, but the other 50 % wait longer, including some who totally resist. Think about new clothing trends, cars, information technology, appliances, business and leadership trends, restructuring the corporation and reorganizing the office department. In the early days of personal computers, many people resisted courses in computer literacy because of their fear of failure and the overwhelming nature of the new technology. If their job depended on it, they were more motivated.
When an organization feels the need to make changes, the chess game analogy is not good enough. Corporations cannot simply announce the new or revised strategy and expect changes to occur. People are real and their fears do affect their productivity and relationships. Attitudes, values and beliefs don't change as easily as a chess move. Individuals must learn to flow with the river instead of trying to hold it back. This is more easily said than done.
The values, beliefs and personal goals of individuals as well as those of the corporation must be synchronized. Leaders must understand the obstacles and how to deal with them, not only on a companywide basis, but also on an individual, personal basis, thus gaining individual commitment and cooperation.
Change is a process, not a product or an end in itself. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of The Change Master says, "everything looks like failure in the middle". Too often, we cut the process short, just before the dawn of success. Success is impossible without risk and failure. They are the sharp rocks on the path to our vision. Our survival depends on change. Otherwise, we'd still be infants in our cribs.
Beliefs are at the core of our behaviour. Whatever happens to us, arises from our beliefs: our values, priorities, choice of religion, politics, friends, where we live, what we buy, the state of our health, how we choose an education and career for ourselves and for our children. We judge others according to our beliefs. Discrimination is based on differing belief systems and their resultant value judgments.
If you are unhappily stuck in a relationship, business or personal, which part of your belief system is operating to keep you there? If you are unhappy with your career or where you work or with your colleagues or with the new company policies, you do have options. If the changes going on around you are upsetting, you will eventually have to make a change - whether you make the decision or someone else does it for you.
Limiting beliefs or the "ya buts" (works for others, but not for me; it's always been this way and it works) limit our lives and keep us "stuck". Anywhere you limit yourself, you stop change and the progress it could bring to your life.
Three major factors of "being stuck", or limiting beliefs are hopelessness, helplessness and undeservedness. Any one of these factors will keep you in the pit of despair, or uncomfortable at the least.
Hopelessness means you believe there is no way a change that you can foresee could work. For example, your boss won't change and he's the problem. You can't leave your job because you need the money and know you won't get another job so easily. Might as well put up with the headaches. (and you do get headaches from your job!) Your marriage or relationship isn't going too well, but there's nothing you can do about it or you're afraid of the consequences if you do make a change. You have poor eyesight, a particular allergy or quantum migraine headaches and that's the way it has to be for the rest of your life. It's your belief.
Helplessness means that you could believe that it's possible to make those changes, but you don't know either "how" or "who" or "what" can help. You need support and strength and courage. Where is it?
Undeserving means that consciously or unconsciously there is a little voice inside your head saying that you don't deserve those wonderful, new possibilities or they can't happen to you. This limiting factor represents your self-esteem, a key factor in all behaviour and a sure-fire way to limit success.
How, then, do you calmly create change from the chaos and turbulence that you feel? Change your belief around that issue. Take little steps.
Answer the following questions:
Hope - Decide what you want. Make it real for you. See it, hear it, put yourself in the picture and really feel yourself with the change. You must believe it!
Resources - You have many personal resources that make you a special individual, such as intelligence, creativity, strength, health, sense of humour, curiosity. Available to you is a network of people and places to speak, read and listen. Some people are afraid to ask for help or support. Learn how to do it. You'd be surprised how people are willing to share their own skills, talents and expertise with you. Is there someone who could be your role model, just as Roger Bannister was for thousands who came after him?
Deserving - This involves your self-esteem- how much you like yourself overall and in each individual area of your life. Self-esteem is the most critical barometer of your success in life and determines how well you do things - how well you dress; how well you get along with other people; how well you do your work and how well you achieve.
It's critical that you believe you can make your change and that you believe you deserve it or your change will never happen! The key determinant of the success of your efforts to change is your belief that you deserve it. Your clear mental picture combined with the feeling of succeeding will certainly make you a winner in your personal and professional life.
Change is the most important skill executives, managers and human resource professionals will need to achieve in order to meet the challenges and changes that the future brings. Change management is a primary issue and how individuals and their corporations deal with it will make the difference between success and failure.
Everyone in the organization must learn to understand the change process - absolutely everyone! Even though a committee decides the structure and process of the reorganization, it is the individual that will make it work and only if those individuals believe it can work and can make a commitment to that end.
Change is a process of transition. It begins with a loss of what we know and ends with the newly focused reality. If you have the hope, resources and believe you can do it, you certainly will!
Lorraine has over 25 years of international experience as an accomplished motivational speaker, consultant, writer, facilitator and radio host. She has been featured on radio and television and in numerous magazines and newspapers in North and South America, Britain and Russia. For more information about Lorraine, visit http://www.weygman.com
This article may be copied as long as it's kept whole and Lorraine's bio is kept with the article, including the live link to her website.
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