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Emeka Nwonu: The Path to Making & Sustaining Change

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It is no surprise that change is a constant topic for discussion in both social and organizational circles because the human nature auto-transcends. Whether we like it or not, the environment is constantly evolving and by default we need to make changes, adapt or adjust to our environment, or we get overtaken by trends and events.

All change involves elements of letting go of the past and engaging with a different future. However, I would suggest you maintain a great awareness of the present while you scan the future. To change means committing to a new kind of future. It involves taking some difficult decision with certain elements of risk, which often builds the resistance to change. People seldom change without some external reason or pressure to do so. If it is not broken, why fix it? But its either you belong to the group that push the change and take charge of your future or those that gets pulled by the change and are forced to make structural adjustments which are somewhat difficult if unplanned. Your perception does not change reality. Those who lead their own change control the pace of change but those pulled are dragged painfully into a new order. Either you change deliberately through a developmental process or situations make the change swift and sudden, the choice is yours. I would go for the former.

The fact that it is not broken yet does not mean it is suitable for today or relevant for the future. Anyway, to make a change is one thing, but to sustain changes requires altering behavior. Therefore, an incident could trigger change but to sustain change requires much more than a benign isolated incident. It requires a purpose. The benefits of change must outweigh the cost of change if people are to take a proposed changes seriously. In talking or planning to make changes to anything, always start with the end in mind. Why do you really have to make these changes and to what end? While you ponder on the answer to those questions, below are three stages for making and sustaining changes.

Endings
All personal change involves unlearning old ways of behaving and learning new ones. To change something, you have to recognize and admit that a particular stuff needs changing for reasons best known to you, in general it is either because it is not working or no longer fit for its purpose. Therefore, the change process starts with deciding the things to end. What are the things you have to let go of? What are the things holding you back? You need to be brutally honest with yourself if you want to make progress. This phase of change is basically to let go of the old ways and identity you hold on to. This is the stage where you have to be clear about what aspects of your personal or professional life has to come to an end as a result of the change you wish to make.

Describe the changes you wish to make in very clear terms and clearly highlight reasons why the current situation cannot continue. However, do not confuse potential problems on the content of your change with those arising from going through change. Potential problems with the content of your change will help you analyze and choose the elements that you really should change, but the problems from making the changes itself will be fixed in the next phase of the change exercise which is the transition phase.

Transition Phase
This is the stage where you have to wrestle the formidable foe called status-quo. This is the stage where you have to completely let go of the old ways and make substantial progress. Many perceive change as a straightforward process but it is not. There is no guarantee that things will work as planned when you make the identified changes, and when they don’t, you begin to question your decision and its rationality. Doubts creep in.

This is not a time to bottle things up, but a time to seek help and ask questions. It is the phase where you try new things and discover what works for you and what doesn’t. This journey of transition is inevitable. It can be a lonely time, so I implore you to find and connect with other people going on the same journey as you, or those now securely arrived at their destination. Because you are unique in your own way, your journey will be distinct, so take every feedback available and revise your plans where necessary. But never lose focus of the planned destination, the purpose. See this period as a welcome interruption which comes with opportunities to look around, to learn and to gain new experiences. This is when you discover the value in the change you have made by experiencing it.

When I started exercising and eating right, I felt good physically and mentally, I was beaming and I felt very healthy and moved much more swiftly but I struggled with cravings for carb-based foods. I had to make a decision, called myself to order and held myself accountable. It was a time to adhere to new patterns of eating and lifestyle. A period of consolidation. This period is not a time for confusion but for experimentation and development of genuinely new attitudes and behavior. The transition period has creative potentials and allows you to clearly define or further modify and accept the proposed changes, after which you can fully commit to a new beginning.

New Beginnings
This is a time to create and celebrate small wins to keep up the momentum. In this phase you fully adopt your new identity and adjust your behavior to become the person you have chosen to be. This stage represents a full commitment to the purpose. The path to success is clear and the goal must be vigorously pursued. At this stage your behavior should be consistent with your new beliefs and values. Priorities are defined and symbolic decisions organized.

However, people are driven by different factors and those individual drivers impact how very individual values and responds to change. This is not a panacea to making changes in every situation, but it is my intention that it will give you a decent idea towards approaching making and sustaining changes. A lot depends on how quick you can learn and adapt to new beginnings. Some of the changes you make may affect people around you. You may lose some friends or have to severe ties with certain groups and hobbies, but that doesn’t matter.

The change you seek has to start with you. Put your talents to use and optimize every opportunity. You can only be you, every body else is taken.

Doing the right thing will always have more impact on outcomes than doing things right. One is about effectiveness which is relevant at all times, while the other is about outputs which are largely situational. You have to prime yourself not just for now but also for the future. Change is inevitable. Read, learn and continue to evolve. Else, your age-long experience becomes irrelevant as technologies and ways of doing things change and you fail to learn and evolve.

 

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Emeka is a management Consultant and writes about Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Leadership, Strategies, Business Models, Change Management and Digital Transformation. He is an advocate for democracy, good governance, social mobility and financial inclusion. Follow him on Twitter: @Emeka_Nwonu  to see more of his thought and at https://medium.com/@Emeka_Nwonu for his articles.

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