The work I do causes me to think a lot about how and why culture changes, how businesses change to respond to cultural change and how we, as individuals, adjust engagement and consumption behavior in reaction to an external disruption–that change in our usual state–when it is forced upon us. Throughout my career, I have helped many companies facilitate a transition, and the most important thing I’ve learned from it all is most of us hate change because it is usually something we are forced to react to, rather than participate in change. This is particularly the case in our workplaces, with the businesses we deal with, and even with our favorite products. If you need an example, consider “New Coke,” or the attempt by GAP to change its logo.
I think everyone realizes change is constant and there is no rational choice but to embrace it, evolve with it, or at least find a way to adapt to the impact it has on our work. Embracing, growing, or adapting is how most of us manage change in our personal lives, too. Although, we probably handle change in our business and professional lives much easier than we do in our personal or home lives.
My friend, Wendy Lou, believes most of us just want someone to change with us. I believe this, too, and I think this is why a change in business and professional environments, as painful as it is, can feel much more comfortable for us than personal change. While each of us may approach change differently based on our background and life experiences, we typically experience workplace change with colleagues who are all moving, together, in the same direction. Change is much easier to navigate and appreciate if others are with us on the journey.
In our personal lives, we typically tackle change, at least self-change, alone and this is precisely why such change can be difficult. When we need, or desire, change of our own it’s often self-driven or created by an internal disruption and not directly caused by external forces. When we have people in our lives who are capable of and willing to change with us, we can grow together. If not, then, unfortunately, we will grow apart.
Facilitating life change is intensely personal. After all, not everyone experiences change the same way, or at the same rate. Unlike in the work or the business world we are not all moving in the same direction or toward the same goal, at least not at the same time, in our personal lives. While others might empathize and support us on our journey, no one will truly understand our new path because they will navigate the unique twists and turns of their way at a different pace.
Change is inevitable. Accepting our need to change and evolve is extraordinarily difficult, but necessary part of what it means to be human. Acknowledging that we may need to experience personal change alone surfaces the undeniable and sometimes painful recognition that we are solely responsible for who we are, who we will become, and the happiness we choose to uncover in the process of living our lives.
David Harkins is a business strategist, speaker, and teacher.
He is the founder and executive consultant at David Harkins Company. In his spare time, he writes hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order.
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