It is an undeniable fact that our past defines our current thinking. It dictates how we see the world around us. Each one of us looks at the world through lenses that blur certain details while highlighting others. Even the most adventurous of us live by habits, clinging to what we know, and ignoring everything that does not fit into our worldview. We all relive moments of failure, wondering what we could have done differently. We also hold tight to our glorious moments, breathing them in and out as if they were the air keeping us alive.
Motivational authors and speakers often try to get us to leave the past behind. As a society, we spend billions of dollars to have people tell us that our past does not have to affect our future. The problem with this movement is that it often causes us to forsake who we are, and this can make it very hard to figure out where we want to go. Directions only work if we know two things: our current location and our planned destination. If we completely let go of the past, we may know where we want to end up, but we are lost on a map with no landmarks to guide us.
Sure, fear, guilt, and wallowing in our past decisions will stop us dead in our tracks, but this does not mean that we should completely forget where we have been. I see many businesses make the same mistakes over and over again. I think that this is in large part because we have been conditioned to ignore our failures when we should be embracing them. Each mistake is a waypoint helping guide us towards our destination.
If we want to change our current direction, start a new initiative, or create new goals, we have to remember that change is hard. It is hard on us and it is hard on our employees or partners. The key is not to simply plow over the concerns that come up. Change is hard on people because our past has taught us that new things can be disastrous. If we simply try to ignore the warning sirens in our head or the groans from our team, change will become a self-fulfilling prophecy and indeed be disastrous.
Three Ways to Make Change Positive and Productive
1. Have clear, defined reasons. Change is hardest when it appears to be taking place for no reason. Sometimes, we just get in a rut and want to change for the sake of changing, but this is a surefire way to run straight towards failure. Your purpose, plan, and end goals must be front and center for any new plan to get off the ground. You must be able to show where you are going, give a clear account for why you want to go there, and what you hope to accomplish once you arrive.
2. Take the counsel of your employees, partners, and mentors. As business owners, we like to pretend that we know best, that we have counted every cost and predicted every outcome, but let’s be honest with ourselves: we are not really as all-powerful as we think. Positive and productive change can’t thrive if we are unwilling to listen to those around us. Change is much less painful when everyone is on board. The best way to get your team excited about the change is to ensure that everyone affected by the change has had an opportunity to give their input. Of course, the trick here is to control the conversation. This is not a time for everyone to complain; this is a time for people to provide real solutions to help move the change along in a smooth and orderly fashion.
3. Embrace the fear and uncertainty. No, I don’t mean that you should cower in the corner, but I do mean that you should make sure that everyone knows that you are proceeding with caution. Fear can be unwarranted, but it can also be a warning sign. Making even minor changes can cause huge problems if you rush headfirst into them. Each step forward should be tested to make sure that the ground is firm. It is also important to keep checking your road map. Look at where you were, where you are, and where you want to be.
Navigating through change really is like taking a voyage. Any successful trip starts with great planning, relies on the help of other experts, and focuses on you keeping your eyes on the road. Safe journeys!