Changes - turn and face the strain

I recently visited the David Bowie exhibition at the V & A in London. Now, I am not particularly a Bowie music fan however I was immediately struck by his endless ability to seek out and embrace change. This enduring ability to change has set him apart from all others artists. He was not prepared to simply keep on playing the same old music into his retirement. It’s hard to believe that Ziggy Stardust was killed off after just one year, to make way for Bowie to follow his next project and not to be stifled by the persona of Ziggy. Bowie has inspired many people to follow their dream and ideas, to dare to be different and stand out from the crowd.

Bowie is the master of change. He has constantly evolved throughout his long career with the ability to reinvent himself into something new. Bowie has been many different things a song writer, a singer, a musician, a designer, a mime artist and an artist to name just a few. His collaborations have included artists and designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre, art and film but above all he is a leader and people follow him, he has the ability to set a trend and people follow. He had vision and chose his path, the people he had around him, the opportunities he could shape and the way that he thought about what he could do.

Every day we are faced with many choices, choose one path to go in one direction or choose another path to go in a completely different direction. It is the quality of the choices that we make in responding to change that decide our direction. Some of us fear change and others thrive on making changes.  

The degree of your success in dealing with individual, team or strategic level change successfully depends on the activities and initiatives you choose to focus on. The quality of the people that you have chosen to surround yourself with, the opportunities you have chosen to seize, the kind of thoughts you have chosen to allow in your mind all influence the changes that we want to make. Change is like walking down a footpath. If you have chosen the right path for what you want to change, have the self discipline and determination to do so you will reach where you want to go. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to be”.

We embrace huge changes many times in our lives. People have babies, get married, move house, adapt to new technologies and new jobs. Changes like giving up smoking or losing weight can be difficult even though we may want to make the change. There are some things that we can’t change, for example, our genes and our human urges, but almost everything else can be changed if we really want to. Changing ourselves is not easy, it takes a lot of hard work and a really good motive and usually means that somebody somewhere has to get out of their comfort zone.

In order for things to change somebody somewhere has to start to act differently. Maybe it’s you or your team. For change to take place three things need to happen at the same time. You have to change the environment and engage the hearts and minds of the people you wish to influence. This is best summed up in a book by Chip and Dan Heath ‘Switch, How to Change When Change is Hard’. They say think of change as a huge elephant and a small rider. The rider is our rational self and the elephant is our emotional self. Each of us has an emotional side and a rational side. For change to happen we must direct the rider (our rational self) motivate the elephant (our emotional side) and shape the path to change our situation, when the situation changes our behaviour changes. This is the case for organisations and the individuals in them. Success is about behaviour. If we behave in a way that is congruent with the goals we want to achieve it can change everything if we really want it to.

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