Components of Successful Change
Mary Ann Bailey, MC
We live in a world that is constantly bombarding
us with changes. One would think that with all
that practice, we would be fairly adept at navigating
the change process. But the truth of the matter
is, making any kind of intentional change in our
lives can be difficult.
When we decide to change something, we make the
decision to swap out the old and familiar for
something new and unknown. This upsets our equilibrium
and can be frightening and somewhat disorienting.
We can lessen these feelings of uncertainty,
and ensure ourselves a greater chance of success,
if we initially take the time to address the 3
key components necessary for any successful change.
These components are: commitment, competence,
Most of us believe when we decide to make a
change in our lives that we are fully committed
to doing what it takes to make that change happen.
But commitment can be tricky. There can be a part
of us that is truly committed to the change, while
there may be other parts of us with no desire
This phenomenon is known as having "competing
commitments". Competing commitments create
resistance; and having to deal with resistance
is what often causes us to give up before we reach
Megan wants to start an exercise program to lose
weight and increase her energy level. She signs
up for a class at health club and is excited about
getting started. The first few mornings go well,
but then she begins to notice that her enthusiasm
is waning. Megan begins to sabotage her progress
by skipping classes and telling herself that her
instructor isn't really sensitive to her needs.
She feels she is still committed to losing weight
and does not really understand where her resistance
is coming from.
Resistance is the red flag for competing commitments.
In Megan's case the competing commitment turned
out to be her desire to spend time with her friends.
She had a weekly get-together that she assumed
she no longer could attend because she had to
get up early in the morning to exercise.
Megan saw her dilemma as an either/or situation.
She believed that she would have to give up one
activity in order to have the other. Once she
realized that that wasn't actually true - that
her friends would be willing to change their meeting
time - Megan began to relax and her resistance
The second key element is competence. Competence
means having the skills necessary to make the
change happen, or having the time, energy, and
ability needed to acquire the skills.
Lucy was having trouble at work with one of her
workers, Kris. Every time Lucy would try and talk
to Kris about her negative attitude, the conversation
would end up very heated and both women would
leave feeling upset and unheard.
Lucy was committed to finding a way to try and
help Kris see how her attitude was affecting her
team and the whole organization. After several
less-than-satisfactory attempts at trying to solve
the problem herself, Lucy realized that she was
not as skilled at having these kinds of conversations
as she needed to be. At this point she had to
decide whether or not she wanted to commit to
strengthening her ability to have difficult conversations.
Lucy knew she was capable of learning what was
needed, and she was committed to seeing her problem
through; so she decided to hire a consultant to
help her address the situation.
The last element is structure. Structure is
the most important element in making change happen,
but it is very often overlooked. Structure is
what holds the change process together. It refers
to any resources you might need, such as Megan's
exercise class or Lucy's consultant. It also refers
to the systems needed to support you as you are
working through your change.
Structure provides the safety net. It allows you
to share the burden of change with others, therefore
lightening your load. It also helps ensure success,
as a team effort is usually more successful than
one person going it alone.
Who do you call when you are feeling stuck, discouraged,
or you want to quit? Who do you celebrate with
when you are successful? Who will be there to
prod you, encourage you and remind you how great
you are and that what you are doing is wonderful?
Often, we forget to put this piece into place
and then we are left to face the struggles alone.
We can become overwhelmed and give up feeling
defeated and discouraged. Making sure you have
a strong structure in place to support you through
your change can keep this from happening.
Although the process of change is often described
as difficult, it also can be an incredibly exciting
journey. Change is the source of energy that keeps
us moving forward and allows us to discover new
things about ourselves and our world. But, as
with all journeys, the better you prepare for
it, the smoother your trip will be.
So, the next time you are faced with a change,
make sure you are clear about your commitment,
realistic about your competence, and that you
have taken the time to create a solid structure
to support you. I think you will be pleasantly
surprised with the end results.
Mary Ann Bailey, MC, is a life coach
who specializes in helping professional women
successfully navigate the challenges of midlife
career transitions. Visit her website at http://www.baileycoaching.com
to read more of her articles and to receive a
free copy of "How to Make the Changes that
Will Move Your Life Forward."