How to Free Yourself from the Fear of Change
We have always done it this way - are the most expensive words in business.
It’s time for a change.
We need to make a change.
Times are changing.
When you hear statements like these, how do you respond? Some people find change exciting. Others feel their blood pressure rise as fears invade their minds.
However, growth and development only happen in the context of change. The challenge is that change is hard, and it makes most of us anxious.
Innovation: A Competitive Necessity
Change is a necessity in the business world. Success requires a commitment to innovation because the times are always changing. You can’t continue running a business the way you did 15 or 20 years ago, or you may go out of business. However, common side effects of organizational changes—stress, misunderstandings, and noncompliance—can result in serious dysfunction. Change management has become an important concept to prevent or mitigate these undesirable outcomes. But in order to effectively manage change, you have to understand how both you and your organization relate to change.
How to Diagnose Your Attitude toward Change
To understand how you relate to change, you have to understand what group you are in. When it comes to technological change, for example, you’ll often find yourself in one of five different groups:
- Innovators – Those who bring about change; also known as “five percenters”
- Early adopters – First to embrace change—20% or less within an industry
- Early Majority – Those most likely to adopt a change once they see others adopting it; the 25% or so that push an industry over the 50% threshold
- Late Majority – Those most likely to adopt change only after a majority has coalesced around an innovation; around 25% percen
- Laggards – Those least likely to embrace change, who may only do so when it becomes a matter of survival; the last 20%
You need to figure out what group your organization is in. Your group will determine the trajectory of your organization. You should also ask yourself the same question as an individual to challenge yourself—to grow, to evolve, to create value within yourself and your organization.
Factors that Cause Resistance to Change
If you tend to resist change, you will fall behind the innovators and early adopters. You will lose your competitive edge and consistently find yourself lagging behind the rest of your industry. What can you do about it? Remember this: resistance to change tends to arise from cultural and psychological factors.
Some businesses impede their own innovation because of a culture of micro-management. This creates a fear of failure among employees and a myopic focus on day-to-day details, rather than an adventurous culture that leaves room to see the big picture. Poor timing and unclear communication can also hamstring a company seeking to innovate. One of the biggest causes of resistance, however, derives from an unreceptive mindset among stakeholders, arising from fear or complacency.
The Fear Factor: Innovation’s Biggest Impediment
Among all the causes of a non-change culture, the biggest by far is fear. Fear is an extremely powerful, even visceral, emotion. Fear stops us, holds us back, and prevents us from moving forward.
There are four fear-based barriers that disrupt business:
- What other people think – This social condition arises at a young age as soon as we see ourselves in a group. If left unchallenged, this self-consciousness can become templated and produce destructive thought patterns that continue into adulthood. Simple logic is the antidote: only the facts, not others’ opinions, matter.
- Biting off more that you can chew – When evaluating a complex solution, you may think too far ahead and become overwhelmed. It’s akin to reading a book backwards. The key is to focus on one step at a time and trust the process.
- Avoiding failure at all costs – Failure is a necessary part of the journey to success. But fear of failure can produce a crippling risk aversion. This mindset of worry and anxiety can negatively affect the trajectory of your life and business. Remember: short-term failure often produces long-term success.
- Change is counterintuitive – Many businesses reflexively reject any idea that’s “outside the box” or doesn’t obviously fit with the way the business operates. That’s like making a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, yet avoiding the gym because you don’t think you will fit in with everyone that is in relatively good shape. Let the merits of an idea determine its worthiness—not your preconceived limitations.
Questions to Identify Your Barriers to Change
If you are having difficulty identifying the factors preventing you from embracing change in your personal or business life, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you afraid a particular outcome?
- Is there someone you are trying to impress or please?
- Do you have pre-existing opinions or judgments about a situation or solution?
- Do you see yourself being successful, but just don’t know how to get there?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you have an incredible opportunity to enrich your life and overcome your fear of change. The only constant in life is change. It’s time to set yourself free of fearing the unavoidable.