Change Can Be Hard. Here’s How to Make it Simple & Easy

Change, ack! No one likes it, but we all have to deal with it—this year more than ever. And, as a leader, you know that while it’s one thing to change yourself, it’s another to make team, department, or organization-wide changes.

Everyone knows that a big part of the problem is fear of the unknown. But what most people don’t realize is that understanding where you’re at in the process of change can alleviate a lot of that fear and sometimes even make change a little fun.

You see, change has structure—even though it might not seem that way. Just as finding a new destination is easier when you have a map, so too is change when you have a model for it.

Here’s one that’s simple and widely applicable to many change processes. It’s called the
Transtheoretical Model (TTM), which has six stages.

(1) Precontemplation. This is when there is no intention to take action within the next six months. Ever been there? Um, yes, of course we all have!

(2) Contemplation. There is an intention to act within the next six months. Yes, you’re working up to it now…

(3) Preparation. Oh, we’re so close. This is when some steps have been taken towards change, and full action is expected in the next 30 days.

(4) Action. Woohoo—change is happening! But it’s been less than six months, so it’s still kinda new, and we could easily backslide.

(5) Maintenance. Now the change is becoming an embedded behavior and has continued for more than six months.

(6) Termination. Celebrate! You’ve reached the point where the change has become a habit, and there is no temptation to go back to your old ways.

Recognize yourself or some team members in that process? Maybe every stage doesn’t perfectly apply to your specific situation, but most will. What’s great about this model is that you can stop beating yourself up for not making a change yet or not making it fast enough.

At the moment, I have a client who keeps telling me he’s ready to do some culture change work in his organization. He’s been telling me that for four months. Years ago, I would have been frustrated by the lack of action. But now, when I look at the model above, I can see that he’s simply working his way through the contemplation phase. He’s thinking about it, and I can probably expect some movement in the next few months.

Isn’t it liberating to know where you or someone else is at in their change process? So, next time you’re worried about change (or the lack of it), take a quick look at the model and see where you’re at so you can relax and know that it’s all just part of the journey.

If you want more ideas for how you can navigate change simply and easily, just download my book for free: 25 Tips for Leaders: How to Leverage the Science of Happiness to Increase Performance, Productivity, and Profitability. And check out my podcast, The Positive Leadership Movement.

References: Prochaska, J. O., Redding, C. A., & Evers, K. E. (2015). The transtheoretical model and stages of change. In K. Glanz, B. K. Rimer, & K. Viswanath (Eds.), Health behavior: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 135-159). Jossey-Bass.

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