Eric Hoffer, a moral philosopher, said it best: “In a time of drastic change, it is the learner who will inherit the future; the learned will find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” I do not need to ask you if we are living in a time of great change. While change has long been a subject of my work, for I have been speaking and consulting on change for twenty-five years, the accelerated pace of change today is unlike anything we have ever experienced. And it is predicted to continue. We all experience change, and while some of us think we thrive on change, and some do more than others, the reality is that most of us are ok with change that we think we can control. Think of an example, those of you who go to church. If church is not a good example for you, think of another location, anywhere that you go often. Let’s think of the church sanctuary. You go in, prepared to sit in YOUR seat, and it is taken by someone else! Now, YOUR seat does not have your name on it, but it is where you usually sit and prefer to sit. And when you are required to sit somewhere else, you feel, at least momentarily, unsettled. You are being required to change a habit. And habits die hard. I found that out at the gut level the year that I stopped spending anything on myself or my house for one full year. I journalled the journey that year, and the book from that experience, A Year in the Life of a Recovering Spendaholic, is in publication and will be released mid January 2017.
It is so much easier to talk about change that is outside of us, or the changes that we experience that we think we cannot control, than it is focus on change within ourselves. Now, perhaps like some of you, I have had a divorce. I still feel sad about that. I married the first time at 19 to be married forever. Now, what do we know about marriage at 19? NOTHING! Regardless of my young age, it still could have worked out, but it didn’t. We divorced after almost ten years of marriage. While a divorce was not in my plan for my life when I married, it happened anyway. It was a change that I could adapt to, or let derail me. As I think of that time in my life, my best memory is having the gift of my daughter, Tara, from that marriage. While the changes I experienced by a divorce were devastating at the time, I was able to move on, and built a new life for me and Tara. A few years later I met and married Mike, and we have been married for thirty-two years. That was a wonderful change, for which I am grateful.
We are talking not just about change, but also about relationships. And you do not need to be told that the only one we can change is ourselves. We know that, but why do we spend so much time trying to change others? Some of us even try to change our adult children, by telling them what to do! It does not work!
Motivational speaker Jim Rhone once said, “Work hard at your job and you can make a living. Work hard on yourself and you can make a fortune.”
The greatest change we can make is changing ourselves. We need to understand ourselves and the probability of our behavior, and understand our most significant others and how to utilize our strengths, and theirs, to build and maintain good relationships and results. This is about personality, some of which is hard wired, or genetic behavior, which does not change, and some of which is learned behavior, which can change, although it isn’t easy. Behavior change is the hardest change to make.
About 20 years ago I was hired by Kinko’s to do management development with their store managers and sales managers at different locations in the southeast. While I do believe most of us can change, given the right information and support, I know that since behavior change is the hardest change to make, sometimes it won’t happen in the time necessary. I knew what changes the managers needed to make and I could guess who would be able to make those changes. But, I wanted data, data I could determine quickly, to validate my assumptions. I sat down one day in a branch location in Florida and developed the It’s in the SAUCE 20 question questionnaire. I have used this since, on audiences all over the U.S., not to analyze personality, but to help individuals and teams understand themselves and others and work better together.
I have been amazed. I have found that of all the content areas you can provide them, people care more about knowing themselves better than anything else we can give them. This has been true for a variety of audiences, including 300 International Scientists from a pharmaceutical company on the subject of Leadership and state associations on a variety of topics.
A few examples. Some of you are always in a hurry, but usually late! You know who you are! You have a drive for action. Some of you do not appreciate being singled out in a group, even for a compliment! And you know who you are; you are group minded, and worry about the feelings of others. Some of you are “Know it all Bureaucrats,” who want things done your way, and a certain way! Then there are some of you who are the “My Way or the Highway people,” wanting what you want, yesterday! Regardless of where you find yourself in these examples, to live and work well with others requires that we understand and value those others who may be the opposite of who we are.
To get gourmet results, the best results, in a fast food world, the world within which we are living, requires change, including changing ourselves. It requires that we understand ourselves and manage our own behavior well, and work with others collaboratively to get results.
And speaking of change on a different level, after a very contentious time in our political history, we now have a new President. I hope that we will all do our best to put the political past behind us, and move forward together, changing for the better.