When it comes to change, I think most of us would agree it’s hard to do. For humankind, perhaps it’s our least favourite thing to do. We become so used to our familiar routines that we come to depend on them. They are our normal. We get stuck in a rut and are quite content to be there, often completely unaware as to our jammed-up condition.
This, of course, is not always a good thing.
Always doing the same thing, in the same way, can become very limiting, not to mention boring. In cases where the better alternative is “less is more,” a lack of change could even become dangerous. Change, though, can be tricky. It’s easy to do something we’ve done before countless times. It’s not so easy to do things differently, let alone figure out what needs doing differently and why.
Necessity, of course, makes it easier for us to put our full support behind any change. It is, after all, what we call the “mother of invention.” But, even when change is necessary for our very survival, we still find it hard. Why? Because disruption doesn’t tend to feel good. It’s uncomfortable; it’s unpredictable; it’s scary.
For example, who can predict the massive, sweeping changes we’ll be expected to make when the high-stakes matter of climate change forces us to do things differently—both as individuals and as a society? And would we, whether as individuals or as a society, be focussed enough or resilient enough to make whatever changes were necessary?
The good news is that low-risk change scenarios give us a chance to exercise and strengthen our change muscles. Think of it as improving on a familiar can opener that works, but still has room to operate more easily or safely. Or, an opportunity to increase efficiencies when doing day-to-day activities, whether it be at school, at work, or making dinner. While doing things differently in small ways can realize improvements and efficiencies, it’s unlikely that big, scary, and unpredictable changes would be needed to do so. That’s why it feels safe, and sometimes fun and exciting, to make changes in these circumstances.
We cannot underestimate the value of low-risk change scenarios. Because the gentle and regular flexing of our change muscles might be just what gets us through tougher times ahead. Like when we’ll be expected to make massive changes in short timeframes just to survive, whether it means keeping financially afloat or just plain staying alive.
Unfortunately, I think most of us prefer to deal with high-risk issues in a low-risk sort of way. Let’s change a little of this, or maybe a little of that, to make things a little better. To go so far as to disrupt our entire familiar system to effect the real kind of change demanded by the situation? Sorry, I don’t think so. At least not until it’s our very last option.
But it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, have to be this way.
Acclaimed forward-thinking entrepreneur, marketer, writer, and public speaker Seth Godin offers this caution: “Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late.”
The longer we wait to change, the less chance we’ll have of enjoying any favourable conditions close to what we have today. If we are to survive the significant issues of our time, how practiced at the art of change should we be? Flexing our change muscles now, so we’ll be up to big challenges ahead—now that’s in our best interest.