In line with our February theme about, change, I’ve launched a new monthly feature called, “Ask the Expert.” I’ll be interviewing industry leaders who will share their insights and wisdom with you. You’ll have the opportunity to learn from and interact with the best of the best.
My gratitude and thanks goes to John Ryan, change expert extraordinaire, for being my first guest. He was so generous with his answers that I’m sharing the interview as a two-part series. Part 2 will post tomorrow. Come back to learn more because the wisdom he shares is too good to miss. Before we begin, here’s some background about John.
John Ryan, MBA, MSW, PhD is the co-founder of The Life Change Network and creator of The 7% Solution. He is a professional speaker who provides consulting and coaching to individuals and organizations throughout the world. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or his website.
Linda: You’re an expert on helping others successfully navigate change. What are the key ingredients for success?
John: Great question. As we all know, change is guaranteed, success is not. So what can we do to make sure that we create the change that we desire? While there certainly are a lot of factors that impact our ability to navigate change, the three most important are what I refer to as the 3 Building Blocks of Success.
1. The first building block is Strategy. If you decide that you want to build a house, one of the first things you need is a blueprint, your plan for getting it done. So, you have to have the right strategy.
In life, part of that is figuring out where it is you want to go. What is your outcome? That must be the first question we ask ourselves when faced with change. Either we have a plan, or someone else has a plan for us. It is clearly much more empowering when we are in control because we’ve formulated our strategy.
2. While knowing what to do is important, it’s not enough. You must also have the second building block of Desire. We have to have desire. We have to want things to be different. Otherwise, nothing will change.
We may know exactly what we need to do to create the success that we want but if we don’t have enough desire, we hold ourselves back, we never get off the couch, and we never really go for what we want. So we have to have desire.
3. The third piece is Resources. Even if we have the right strategy and we have a strong desire, you can’t build a house if you don’t have the tools, the lumber, or the lot!
Those are the building blocks: Strategy, Desire, and Resources. But the piece that binds them together is the mortar, which is Action. Even if we have the right Strategy, Desire, and Resources, none of those matters unless you take action.
Those really are the keys to success in change and in life. In fact, life is change and the greater our ability to identify our goals, connect to our desire, and use and acquire the tools we need to accomplish our goals, the better able we are to accomplish any goal.
Linda: What are some of the reasons we are challenged with making the changes that we desire?
John: One of the main reasons that we don’t make the changes we desire, even if we know the change will be good for us, is fear. We are hardwired to resist change. One of our core needs is consistency. Consistency gives us safety. When we start making changes, it messes up the status quo and it is not our conscious mind that has the problem, it is our unconscious.
If you’ve ever tried to “get healthy” you know exactly what I’m talking about. Consciously, we know we should eat healthy, drink more water, and exercise. And so we start on a new diet or workout routine and we actually start to feel better. We say to ourselves, “Hey, this isn’t so bad, I can do this.” We say that consciously, but our unconscious mind isn’t excited about these changes at all.
One of the main functions of the unconscious mind is to protect the body. Well, then why would it resist being healthy? The answer is that it doesn’t know any better. The unconscious mind thinks that everything you’ve done in your life thus far has kept you alive so it wants you to keep doing that since it is what has worked so far. But, this new “healthy” stuff, that’ll kill ya!
So what happens is we have conflict. We consciously want one thing and our unconscious wants another. Guess who’s going to win? That’s right….our unconscious mind because it is a lot more powerful than our conscious mind. You’ve heard that we only use 10% of our brain’s power. That is referring to our conscious mind. The other 90% is our unconscious mind.
So until we change our unconscious mind, we will struggle with change, even if we know it is good for us.
Linda: Why do some of us embrace change while others fear it?
John: The “why” of anything usually goes back to childhood. Most of our mental programs are established by the time we are seven years old. That is the imprint phase where we absorb thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs from our environment without question. It isn’t until we hit our teenage years that we begin to question our environment and think for ourselves. The problem is, the patterns are already well established.
Our attitudes toward change really come from those patterns that were created early on in life. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t change our attitude.
While the patterns we learn early in life affect our baseline attitude toward change, we can decide for ourselves what a particular change means to us. And there lies the power.
Change is neither good nor bad, it just is. It is the judgment that we make about the change that determines whether it is good or bad. What does the change mean to us? How is this going to impact me and those I care about?
While all change involves loss, if only a loss of the way things used to be, some losses are more emotionally significant than others. Loss of a job has huge repercussions. Loss of a loved one has even more.
And certainly there is pain there but what you do after that is a choice that we have. If you lose your job, you are forced into a choice about what to do next. Do you take the first job you can find or do you take the opportunity to start the business that you’ve always dreamed of doing? Or perhaps you can use it to find the job you’ve always wanted.
Understand, the loss of a job threatens the consistency and safety that we talked about earlier. So there is going to be some fear there but we can choose what we want to focus on. By focusing on what you want, you can turn that loss into a meaningful event that makes us stronger.
We’ve all been through things in life that we didn’t know how we were going to make it but we did. And we can draw on that experience to keep us forging through life’s greatest challenges.
Now, on the extreme end of change is loss of a loved one. And nothing is more difficult than this type of change. And it is very hard finding meaning, especially when it is untimely. And many people never find meaning in that loss and that is okay. Sometimes we carry around that pain and it never makes sense. That is our choice.
Other times, people take that loss and they turn it into something else. We’ve all heard of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which is the breast cancer foundation. Susan Komen’s untimely death at age 36 due to breast cancer inspired her sister to start the foundation so that other patients wouldn’t have the same result. That is creating meaning from loss.
Part of our inspiration for creating The Life Change Network was the loss of my mom, Diana Ryan. She also died of cancer and out of that loss, my wife, Deana, and I decided to create the community so that others going through change wouldn’t be alone and could get the help they need.
Whether you’ve lost a loved one, lost a job, are getting married, or starting a new business, these changes cause stress and it helps to connect with professionals and like-minded individuals who can guide you through it.
So whether we embrace change or fear it depends on the meaning we associate to it. The power comes in realizing that we can choose what the change means to us. And that makes all the difference in the world.
Come join the conversation. Share your thoughts or questions about change. I invite you to stop back tomorrow for Part 2 of John’s interview when he shares more ideas about change.