“Please, oh please, tell me that people can change,“ I hear frequently. And more specifically, can my boss, my co-worker, my spouse, my teenager, or my mother-in-law change? All of us in consulting professions hear that same question over and over, although it takes a variety of forms:
“Do you believe there’s any hope?”
“He’s too old to change, isn’t he?”
“She’s in power. Why would she do anything differently?”
Sometimes the question is posed as a statement.
“I’m 40 years old, I’m not going to reinvent myself now.”
“I am going to retire in a few years, so let the new kids learn that stuff.”
“She’s too stuck in her ways to try this.”
I’ve said that everyone can be a leader, or can become a better leader. I am even writing a book on the topic. So, clearly, I believe that people can and do change, at all times of their lives and regardless of the circumstances. However, they have to want to change. They have to be motivated. No one changes because YOU want them to change. They change because something within them has prompted them.
In the past decade, research into how our brains work has turned earlier beliefs about brain development on their heads, so to speak. People can change, because their brains can, and do, change. The question is, how can we steer our brains in the direction we want them to go…toward the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, rather than the trash dump? We know these everyday steps create the change:
- Voice the desire to change, write it down, and commit.
- Ask people you trust to help.
- Set clear and measurable goals with dates.
- Create mindfulness routines.
- Move toward the change slowly, consistently and predictably.
If you would like to explore how you can change, let me know. While we can’t change others, others are constantly watching us. And when we change, they change as well!
How have you successfully changed in the past? What changes are you interested in for your future?
It was a foggy, icy day. I was driving on I-95, my son Jeffrey in the passenger seat. We were heading back from North Carolina after visiting colleges.
I broke the silence, “Jeffrey, what did you think of High Point?”
“It was OK,” came his monotone reply.
“That’s it? Can you tell me more?,” I nudged.
“You know, Mom, I’m not really sure I want to go to college.”
This was the moment I had been waiting for since we started touring colleges. Finally, an opportunity to address his ambivalence about his future. I pulled off at the next exit, looked him in the eye and said, “Next year, everything is going to change. Some of your friends are going to college. Some will join the military, and others will get jobs. But one thing’s for sure: everything is going to change, no matter what you do. So, you have a choice – you can either drive the change and figure out what you want, or, you can dragged along by it.”
I was ready for this conversation because I work regularly with people who are at a crossroads and gripped by inertia. And here’s what I know:
Some people are drivers of their futures. They say to themselves, this is what needs to happen, and they create a vision. Others just seem to get dragged along. There are a lot of things that you can’t control in this life, but you can control whether you’re a driver or you’re a dragger.
In order to create change, you need to create the vision. If you want to be more efficient, you have to see yourself being efficient. If you want to advance your education, you have to envision yourself in night school, making it all work. For those retiring, envision helping in the food bank or hitting the perfect golf stroke on a Monday morning! Envision yourself in the new situation.
Jeffrey chose to be a driver and the transition turned out to be pretty simple. He chose a school, started wearing the clothing emblazoned with its logo, and suddenly it became him.
Are you at a crossroads? Grab the wheel and embrace the journey!
About half-way through the meal, he said,
“I don’t know what the big deal is. All they give you is a piece of paper.”
We suspected he didn’t really mean it, but talked about how important recognition is, praised him, and continued our meal.
When we walked in, the huge auditorium was already brimming with excitement. The students were a little more dressed up than usual, and the parents were beaming.
You wouldn’t see as many cameras poised to flash, click, and whirr at a Presidential photo-op.
When our son got his first piece of paper, I clapped and his father clicked. When he got the second, I cheered and his father clicked again.
Then it was time for the best piece of paper of all, the one my son wanted most.
My heart pounded as the administrator said something like this:
“This award goes to a distinguished student who excels in mathematics, someone who enjoys the logic of math, and who shares his knowledge with others. This award goes to an eighth grader…”
My pulse slowed. My son sat quietly for a moment. Then he leaned over and whispered, “I’m gonna get that reward when I’m in eighth grade.”
My son went home with two wonderful pieces of paper and a new goal.
What do you do with the paper in your office?