Change is hard. It’s difficult. It sucks!
Well, it’s not really that hard. It’s hard because of how we deal with the change.
We hate change. We detest it. We resist it. We procrastinate. We put it off. We do whatever we can to avoid it. We make a herculean effort to avoid the potentially small effort required to make the change.
That is how we are hardwired. If our current state has some sort of equilibrium, a sense of sanity and acceptance of where we are, we would resist change. Even a change that is for better.
It is not because we do not like to make things better. We all like to be richer, happier and more satisfied.
It’s the process of change that we hate.
Consider your current state of existence – let’s call it A. Assume there is an opportunity for something better – a new better state of existence – let’s call it B. B is better than A. May be a better job, more money, better relationships, better health (or a better writer!).
We want going from A to B as simple as closing our eyes in A and waking up in B.
Unfortunately, it’s not. It’s harder. It involves a transition. It requires letting go of what we currently have – place where we live, people that we know, things that we have got used to. It entails getting out of our comfort zone. It forces us to get uncomfortable. Imagine you moving to a new house, even one that is far more comfortable than the one you are moving out from. Or moving to a better job. They are both great end results. But the process of moving – winding up in a place where we are comfortable and making effort to settle in the new one – is difficult. Or at least, we think its difficult.
As a result, a lot of people simply let go of B – the better land – just because they do not want to take the ride to get to B. They stick with A. They stay on their couch. They stay in their current job. They continue to do whatever they are comfortable with, even if it means just digging a deeper hole for themselves. They are invested so much in their current ‘comforts’ that they resist anything to disrupt the equilibrium.
“After living with their dysfunctional behavior for so many years (a sunk cost if ever there was one), people become invested in defending their dysfunctions rather than changing them.”
— Marshall Goldsmith
Virginia Satir formalized this human tendency into what is now called the “Satir Change Model” (Peopleware, a classic book for managing knowledge workers, goes over the model in detail). Satir model describes Change as a process to move from Old Status Quo (A) to a New Status Quo (B). However, unlike the human tendency (or desire) of treating this as one long hop, it describes it as having two steps in between – Chaos and Practice & Integration.
As soon as there is an effort to move out of Old Status Quo towards New Status Quo, Chaos ensues. Things falls apart. The auto-pilot is no-more. The comfort zone is gone. This is where most people get scared. They think of the Chaos as a New Status Quo and simply revert to Old Status Quo. They consider Chaos as the result and not as a transition. Or they simply get too scared of the Chaos and do not want to be part of it. It’s just too uncomfortable.
Chaos sucks, obviously.
If you do whether the initial storm and get past the Chaos, you need to ride across Practice & Integration. This is the phase where persistent effort and application is needed to learn new habits, adopt new ways and make potentially radical transformations. Sometimes even transform to a new culture.
Practice & Integration sucks too – it requires all this ‘extra’ effort that we could have lived without at the couch. However, it is this persistent effort that prepares us for the end result – the New Status Quo.
Nothing fancy – very common sensical model. But then, we miss it, as we do most common sensical things. Evaluating any change with this model can help us differentiate between the transitioning Chaos and the destination. It helps us appreciate the effort involved in setting up the foundations for the new status quo. Most importantly, it helps us understand and appreciate that change requires going through the ‘Chaos pit’ and consistent effort.
Illustration of Satir model by Michael Erickson.