How about some small changes for a change?


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As I write this January 2013 is drawing to a close. By now, according to research, none of which I can find that would be useful, most New Year resolutions will have gone by the board.

Some of that might be down to the time of year. Even if that start of a new year feels like as good a time as any, to start something new, there has to be a greater motivation supporting that, for it to be sustainable. I am left wondering what got in the way of the intention to change something and actually taking steps to do it.

Could it be that the change that was planned was just too big?

I lead the Effective Manager programme offered by the Edinburgh Institute at Edinburgh Napier University. Participants are managers who want to improve their management practice. Assessment is on their plans to use what they learn, in each of the nine one-day workshops and the report of what happened, when they did. Over the past five years or so that I have been involved, I have read reports of small changes that have made a big difference. I think this is far more common that maybe we give credit for.

So often when I am working with a client, as their coach, they want to make a big change to their life. Usually the starting point is their job. Most have decided that they can no longer do what they are doing and want to change it. The default position is usually to want to find a similar job somewhere else. Occasionally someone wants to explore a whole career change. Neither can happen overnight.

There needs to be a first step, then some more and maybe some hurdles to cross and…well you get the picture.

I am sure I am not alone in shuddering when I hear about a “change programme” being introduced into a business. Like many of you, I am equally sure that you have had experience of one and when you look back it is difficult to see what happened. I remember a friend telling me she was suffering from “initiative fatigue” and that she wished that her employer would recognise what they were good at and leave that alone. In her view there were small, albeit important, things that needed to be changed but they often got lost in the mire of all of the other “stuff” and came out the other side intact.

There are hundreds of self-help books out there promising that you can change your life, size, income, relationship in 30 days, two weeks, overnight. We know that that is unlikely, don’t we? I have bought my fair share in the past and when you strip back the cover claim there is very often some really good advice on how to take the steps that are needed.
So going back to the question I asked earlier if what is planned seems too big what first step can you take to make it smaller?

A final thought.

I was looking for this quote by Lao-Tzu to end on. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” You might recognise it. But on further investigation I understand that a more accurate translation from Chinese would be “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.” Apparently, Lau- Tzu regarded action as something that arose naturally from stillness. So now might be a good time to be still for a moment, to take time to think and maybe that first step will come naturally for you too.

Jackie Cameron is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.

8 Comments on How about some small changes for a change?

  1. KAREN FINLAYSON // February 4, 2013 at 10:43 am // Reply

    The final translation of Lao-Tzu’s words changes everything! Thanks for the inspiration to make a small change that will lead to more…

  2. I worked in local government many years ago and my job, during those Thatcher years, was to help implement the huge amount of change which was being imposed, on an organisation, which then, was not comfortable with change. It was difficult and painful and wholesale. Years later when things had calmed down a bit, we were able to practice small change, a bit at a time and this was often much more successful. I think where there is resistance,in particular, this is usually a more successful way of approaching change.

    • That point about resistance is important Anne . Most of us are happy ticking alone in our comfort zones occasionally stepping into our “discomfort” zone and relieved when that in turn becomes our new comfort zone. Creating an environment for that transition is key to the success and though not necessarily easy to do can be really worthwhile. Sounds like the comparison you had between 2 different methods has given you real insight!

  3. I really enjoyed your article and I agree that a small step is sometimes all that’s needed. It’s definitely less daunting. But I’d also say that in certain circumstances a big, sweeping, let’s-try-something-totally-different change can be very liberating and deliver much quicker results.

    • Ah Kim – yes indeed. I have a preference towards being an activist learner and over the years I have jumped wholeheartedly and willingly into new areas just for the sake of it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but there can be a great feeling attached to giving it a go. I like “liberating”…that works for me!

  4. Good article Jackie. Physical change isn’t always needed, sometimes its just deciding to look at things differently, or even better, through another person’s eyes.

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