Life Principle: Long-lasting Change
Change is hard and takes time
We get wiser as we age, because we get different and more varied experiences. And one thing I thoroughly enjoy is that it allows me to crystallise things down to underlying principles.
Almost a year ago, I shared my first life principle: Everything requires a balance.
Because for every situation, there is always a choice. Not in the binary sense, but a lot of grey in between two extremes. And more often than not, the extreme ends of the scale are not the ideal approach.
That belief held true for me. And I have been able to apply it in lots of situations — at work and at home.
And guess what… It is time for life principle number two!
Something that has been percolating in my mind for a while now. And like the balance principle, I am not inventing something novel. But I leverage it as a core belief to guide my thinking and behaviour.
Long-lasting change takes time.
Influencing change has been fascinating to me for a long time. I have touched on it a bit during the culture balances series. More recently, I have shared a couple of approaches to help with team dynamics.
And the connection between lasting, persistent change and time has become very clear.
Short- Vs. Long-term
Yes, I understand that we would love to get things done and fixed right away. We are all short on time and we do not want to worry about it for days, weeks, or even months.
In some situations, a quick turnaround is not only desired but also necessary. In a crisis or emergency, it is all about acting quickly and making sure everybody does the right thing.
But most change we are trying to influence is not during a crisis. It is geared towards the long-term. To improve a process, culture, or relationship. Not only for tomorrow and the day after, but also next month and in a year from now.
If we want to have a profound impact, we need to achieve two things:
- Get ourselves and/or others to change their behaviour
- Get ourselves and/or others to believe in said change
(1) is the natural go-to task. It is what we worry about first when change is required. Behaviour change can be achieved in a lot of ways — some of which lead to quick results. For example, someone in authority tells us what we need to do. But, chances are this will not stick.
For it to stick, we need part (2) — which is often a lot trickier and takes more time and effort. Yes, we can tell someone what to do, but there is no guarantee they believe it is the right decision.
Let us look at a couple of examples, one about changing our own behaviour and one focused on a group of people.
There are countless concepts on the topic of changing our own behaviours.
Two of the more popular approaches are goal setting and habits. Especially habits have become the preferred method today, with lots of great books being available on the topic. What these books describe are ideas on how to make certain behaviours a habit. Or get rid of behaviours that are no longer desired.
And even though books describe in great detail how to get it done, it still takes time.
It takes time to decide what behaviour is worth changing. It takes time to be sure enough to invest energy into it. It takes time to set up our plan and routines. It takes time to reflect and adjust our approach. Most authors agree that it takes on average 2 months or more for a habit to manifest.
Yes, going to the gym once is easy. Long-lasting change however takes time.
It is similar when it comes to influencing the behaviour of a group. We still need to come up with a plan. We still need to reflect and adjust as we go along.
What is more challenging in this scenario are the first two steps of our approach: Decide what behaviour is worth changing and be sure enough to invest energy into it. While this is comparatively simple when it comes to ourselves, we now have to make it work for the whole group.
For a group to believe in change — and make it long-lasting — it has to come from within. In other words, the ideas have to come from the members of the group. Which — you guessed it — takes time.
Most of the change we want to influence is meant for the long term. Long-lasting change requires two aspects: Changing the behaviour and believing in said change.
Neither of those happens overnight. It takes time to bring about a new behaviour and it takes even more time to get others to believe in it.