Psychology of Change HEAD
1st Aug 2019
3 Min Read

The psychology of change

Lindsay Kohler
Lindsay Kohler
Culture & Change

We all want to change something. Admit it. Who doesn’t dream of learning a new language, paying off your debts, or running a marathon? Well, maybe not the latter for everyone, but you get the drift. And change is great; it shakes up the status quo and often challenges you to think, act and live in new and exciting ways.

Change is also a vital component of a living, breathing, evolving business. No successful company ever sat on its laurels. But change can be as tough as it is rewarding. Luckily, we can make implementing and embedding change a whole lot easier.

How? By understanding the psychology behind it. Let’s get straight with the basic factors behind successfully adopting changes In a nutshell, we change behaviour when it is easy, when we are motivated, and when we feel something.

Remember your own attempts to change: like that time you vowed to start exercising every day without fail. Maybe you did the first day, and possibly even the second, but by the third, with motivation failing in light of the pouring rain, you hit snooze and got an extra 30 minutes sleep instead. We’ve all been there. Once the initial enthusiasm fades (and it inevitably does) we end up relying on willpower and self-control, and many scientists believe those to be finite resources.

So if science is against us, how do we stick to our guns? We cut out the middleman. Aristotle, a pretty clever chap as it turns out, said this: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” Take that willpower; it’s over to habits.

A habit is something you can do without even thinking about it. If one part of change is making it easier, then not thinking about it – going on autopilot – is a good start. So how do you form that habit?

First, start small. It can even be unrelated to your larger goal. The idea here is to prove to yourself that you’re capable of sustaining an action over a long period of time. For example, before I was ready to tackle exercising regularly, I started with something simple—like making the bed every day.

Second, identify the barriers that keep you from your goal, and make sure any solution you come up with takes those into account. That’s a large part of making things easier, as well. When it came to exercise, I realized I wouldn’t sacrifice sleep or a social life so the class had to have lots of available timeslots; I was really lazy so I needed to be in a class to make sure I worked hard; and it was too easy to make a last minute decision to skip so I needed some skin in the game - a fee if I didn’t show up,

If this is a personal habit you want to form, chances are you’re already motivated to achieve it. But if this is an organizational habit, you’re going to have to bring your people along. How? By communicating a clear and compelling vision. Articulate where you want to go in a way that resonates with employees. One of my favourite examples of this is from Dan and Chip Health’s wonderful book Switch. In it, they describe how a teacher wanted to motivate her students to achieve better reading and math scores. But that’s not what she communicated to her students. She instead said: “By the end of this year, you’re going to be third graders!” See the difference?

We’re your experts in change communications. Get in touch to find out how we can help you successfully make a change and embed your new habits.

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