Successful Change is a Matter of Perception

Successful change is a matter of perception

Successful change is a matter of perception

We all know change is frightening.  No one likes it, even if we know it is necessary to grow.  Sometimes changes are thrust upon us without anyone asking if it’s okay, such as at work.  There’s nothing like being told you have to change to make someone dig in their heels and decide that where they are is just fine, thank you.

But why do we resist changes that we want to make?  It can deal with personal or professional growth–it doesn’t seem to matter.  We know there are things that could be better, and sometimes we even start on the road to make that evolution a reality.   There is the conversation we have with ourselves, discussing why this change is good.  We may even list out the steps needed to get where we want to go.  All seems great for a while.  Progress is made and we have positive feelings about what we are accomplishing. Then we hit a roadblock, or even make it to the finish line, and start to slide back to where we were.

It’s not the roadblock that stops us from making that change a reality.  There will always be obstacles we need to overcome.  Actually, external roadblocks are the easiest to hurdle because they are simpler to recognize and react to.  No, the reason so many of us have trouble making or following through with change is due to our perception of reality.  So many times, we want to create a positive change.  We can even list all the reasons it should happen and how it should happen, but it never does.  Why?  Because we don’t really believe it can.  We have spent so many years believing the negative side of an idea is real that we can’t grasp the opposite could be true.   Even when we know it is true, it can be very hard to accept.

External roadblocks are easy.

External roadblocks are easy.

This is often the case when someone is trying to make a lifestyle change.  The person who is overweight can’t  believe she is thin, even after she loses  the weight.   The one who wanted that promotion and gets it then spends years waiting for someone to tell him he is not really qualified.  So even if they do reach their goal, it’s much more difficult for these people to savor their accomplishments because they have not altered their own perception of what can be real.   It’s not so unusual–in fact, it is rather common.  They still believe in the  negative side, even when the positive side stares them in the face.

I’m not saying accepting positive change should be easy.  It’s not.  On just about any level, accepting change is hard.  Even for coaches, who make a living helping others navigate change, it can be hard.  I was married on February 14th of this year.   I had trouble accepting the reality that I am married.  Not because I don’t want to be.  Don and I have been together for eighteen years, raised two children, numerous dogs, and now a grandson, so for all practical purposes I have been married for a long time.  All, except one.  It was never legal, and I never believed it would be in my lifetime.  I had long ago come to accept that I would never be able to marry the man I loved, and have it recognized by others as a legal and equal union.

I thought I had adjusted pretty well to my new status until last week.  I was filling out some paperwork, and came to the part about marital status.  For some reason, I hesitated to mark “married”.  Then I got to the emergency contact and relationship.  For the first time, I acknowledged to a stranger that Don was my husband.  Not a partner, not a “friend”, but my husband.

It was incredibly cathartic.

It also made me realize that my perception of my world had not yet shifted  to include this amazing, positive change as an actual part of my reality.

Believing change is possible

Believing change is possible

Another one of my friends has been dealing with a similar issue.  She is an incredibly talented musician who has spent her life doing the right thing–making a sensible living.  She is a popular hairstylist and even owned a salon for a time.  While she loves her job and her clients, her heart has always been with making music.   She has been in bands, collaborated with professional singers and musicians, but could never take that final step to make her passion her life.  Why?  Because in her mind, that just couldn’t be a reality.

It couldn’t be a reality until she changed her perception of what is possible.  Last year, she changed her mindset.  She allowed herself to believe it could be real, and now is about to sell her songs to a television show.   Is it just a matter of positive thinking?  No.  It is a matter of believing that your goal can be real, and more importantly, accepting that you have made it happen once it is.

If you are having trouble making those positive changes happen, it might mean you need to examine your own perception of the  world.  Do you really believe that change can happen, or have you spent so many years accepting the opposite as truth that you don’t see this as a viable option?  Believing the negative may be safer, but it won’t get you where you want to go, or help you grow once you get there.  Once you let yourself believe the positive side can happen, there is no limit to  what you will be able to achieve.

It all comes down to allowing yourself to change your perception of what can be real.

About Chris Griffin

Chris Griffin is a executive coach with a passion for wellness. He helps executives and senior management enhance their performance and their lives by pinpointing and changing self-defeating behaviors.
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