In conducting research for my upcoming book “Escape Velocity”, I asked the following question about change, on LinkedIn.
I got terrific responses, from terrific people (including a psychotherapist, a scientist, a banker, a microbiologist, project managers, marketers, authors, to IT professionals, career coaches, and CEO’s).
I wanted to share them, unedited, in the author’s own words, here.
Among those who WANT to initiate some meaningful change in their life, it is true that some people are able to change, while others are not. What are the distinguishing characteristics between these two groups? What are the common denominators amongst those who successfully do change?
Because they want to & they believe they can.
Consultant: Strategic Solutions
I agree with Christine’s answer and would add that I do think others can change – just a bit slower at it sometimes or don’t know how to go about making a change. Frankly – change scares many people and tendency is to avoid it. Also – making meaningful change in one’s life leads people to think they have failed at something – and people don’t want to feel like they have failed.
This will be an interesting topic!
Author at Dooley Downs
- Most people need a clearly defined WIIFM (what’s in it for me)
- People may not want to give up something known for something unknown, even if what is known is hurting them
- Habit and comfort are difficult to change
- The energy or stress can be too overwhelming to initiate the change
- They have to be ready
- They have to be willing
- They have to be able
- They may not feel they have a network of support
- Past experiences of change have not gone well
- Past experiences of change have gone well
- They were raised to embrace change
- They were raised to be wary of change
- They are part of some ideology, religion, or group that either embraces change or is wary of it
- They may think the change is beneficial, but do not like the people initiating it
- The circumstances/timing will affect the desire to change
- What is said about the change through family, friends, spouses, co-workers, and/or the media affects the perception of the change, even if it runs contrary to their own desires for or against it
- The change requires too much financial burden
- The change calls for too much time investment
- The change will affect (good or bad) relationships with others
- The change is not well defined or lacks a clear path
I’m sure there is more, but that’s off the top of my head.
Programme and Project Management Consultant
I would say, everyone CAN change, but there is a wide spectrum in terms of how willing, and how much incentive/pressure is needed to make them change.
It’s certainly not a binary can/can’t change!
“Why are people different?” – because they are, its a fundamental requirement of any species to survive that there is a wide variety in any aspect, including willingness to change – if they didn’t have this they would have died out long ago – that’s evolution 101.
Taking that back a stage further – why is a variety of willingness to change an evolutionary trait – at first glance maximum willigness to change would seem good in evolutionary terms, resistance to change as bad. In reality there are plenty of situations where being too wiling to change is bad – it leads to flighty, inconsistent behaviour and means the tough tasks and discoveries don’t happen – many of the great discoveries have been people who stick even blindly at something when everyone else thinks they are mad and chould have changed.
As a change management professional I generally need as many as possible to be open to change, and to identify how to encourage those that have resistance, but as an armchair philosopher I can appreciate that the human race has benefitted sometimes from those who adopt a stuborn stick-at-it approach!
Unemployed: Project Engineer / Planner
In theory everyone can change, but for some its easier than others for a whole variety of reasons, not least of which is personal inertia.
Some people gain pleasure from change and others see it as a means to an end.
People also believe that a change can be so big as to be impossible to achieve (This used to be me) where the reality is that even the smallest step can have a big impact and its the little steps that lead to the big change.
We are also controlled by our environment – people, places etc – and sometimes we don’t change incase it effects others in a negative way.
The lesson I’ve recently learnt is that we all change every hour of every day and its within our own power to make small changes if we want to grow.
Marketing and Advertising Professional
Why would anyone want to change?
There is always an incraving to be ourselves. No matter how much we mask our feelings or acts in front of others. The inner craving or want to be myself will always be shown.
We just cannot escape that feeling, but once you come to an agreement with yourself that you can’t change YOURSELF but CAN surely change the way you react to oneself or a suituation. We will see ourselves differently. And when we love this differently feeling and want or start wanting to be differently; the past just over writes itself with the NEW being. That’s when a transformation happens.
Acceptance of oneself or being Aware of oneself in the fullest form.
Branch Manager at Robert Half International
Very interesting topic. I’d have to say there are a few differences between those who do or can, and those who don’t or can’t.
1 – First being fear – never a good thing. I see people and companies every day who are scared to change because there’s a small chance that things could be worse after “the change” than they are now. Never mind the fact that there is a much greater likelihood that things will be better – the risk is not worth the reward to them.
2 – Second is lack of motivation or laziness. People and/or companies are ok with where they are. They probably even believe that things would be better if they changed, but they’re not uncomfortable enough or unhappy enough with their current situations to actually start WORKING towards change (and it’s always – 100% of the time – work).
3 – The third is that they lack the knowledge of how to change. They are not creative enough to come up with a solution to their problem. They know change is needed, but have no idea how to approach the question – “who do we want to be after our change and how do we get there”?
I’m not sure those thoughts will be of much help to you, but I hope you have great success with your book!
VBA magician (MS Office automation), Information Architecture wizard, and Experienced Quantitative Analyst
Off the cuff, I don’t believe that it’s about ability.
I think more important factors are motivation (cost/benefit) as well as personality traits such as perseverance (or ignorance).
Just my two cents
Seasoned leader with background in multiple disciplines.
“Escape Velocity”…catchy, I like it.
I see a lot of other people have taken a lot of time to respond.
I will keep it brief however because I believe you have already zeroed in on the answer with your title.
I work with a lot of people that are so far from being able to escape that they don’t try. You may succeed in convincing some to take on a mountain of a challenge and a few may succeed, and even fewer will succeed long-term. The characteristic of the ones I have seen succeed are somewhat selfish. These people become singular in purpose and that purpose becomes THEM. They become self absorbed which the average person finds unpleasant in others…but that’s what it takes to move a mountain.
Seth Kaufman, psyd, certified career coach
Career Change Coach for successful professionals ready to find your ideal career and make it a reality.
A precise and compelling vision of who you want to “be” in the future is the foundation for all positive change. Without a clear and compelling target, you will sooner or later lose your motivation.
Graduate student at Jones International University
“People’s minds are like cement- all mixed up and permanently set” (anonymous).
The risk of change can be more frightening to some than others. Natal charts do, in fact, point out many of the characteristics of the two groups that you highlight. Interestingly, they have not been adopted by business, yet. Hypocrites, Father of modern medicine, stated that no one should treat another without first examining this chart.
Of course, th faculty of human will is not fully developed at this particular junction (in human evolution). Ergo, some might understand change, but not be able to act. Conversely, those who have developed this capacity more than others will obviously be in a position to change more readily.
One cannot understand the human being, without understanding the spiritual aspects that animate the physical, simply put.
Change is the only permanent thing in life. Everybody is able to change, the difference is only in the will & determination. There are situations in life when if you keep on sticking to old things & old ways the growth becomes stagnant.
There is no point of doing the same things or doings things in the same way & expecting better results in the end. Things & ways has to be changed with changing time. People get used to the way they are & change require little efforts to make things better & to make your own personality better.
The only difference between two groups is some accept this thing in time & some a little later.
I help companies increase their ROI by engaging my services as:Social Media Marketing Consultant|Diversity Coach|Speaker
I dont think it is a matter of people being able to change or not but rather do they know how to do it or not
People dont change for many reasons some of them:
- being scared of any changes
- Not knowing the unknown and fear it
- Not wanting to leave their comfort zone
- Not knowing that change in needed
- Psychological issues where they feel it is everyone else needing to change and not them
- Cultural issues coming from a culture for example where change is not looked at the correct or in a respectful way specially when it comes to men of age
- Not being educated enough
While those who can change:
- Either are in a place where they know they have to change like being in a marriage where either partners know if they wont change they will cheat themselves out of the marriage or at work where if they dont change they will loose their job
- They are well educated and can plan for the change
- They have access to help and support
The comon characteristics is resilience, success, open mind and joie de vivre
Nanette de Ville
at Life Reflections
Change is always good and should be looked at that way. Sometimes it is difficult at the time to understand the unseen benefits.
Life’s lessons often push us to change and sometimes it takes an experience of personal pain before we will make efforts to change our lives for the better.
Many people are afraid of change and afraid to step out of their comfort zone. To start a cycle of positive change in life all it needs is a small step out of the comfort zone to trigger changes.
It requires listening to your intuition and follow the feelings that are triggered as to whether you are moving in the right direction or not. Keep following the feel good emotions.
Need to be strong to follow what is good for you and not listen to negative reactions from family and peer groups.
interviewer at DSS Research
We talk about this a lot at a web site I frequent, and after much discussion, the consensus seems to be the following:
1) The people who actually want to change are able to change.
2) The people who say they want to change, but really don’t, come up with all sorts of reasons about why they are unable to change. It’s their inability to want to change that renders them unable.
3) The people who really want to change but can’t have typically run into external factors/regulations/etc. that prevent them from helping themselves or others. They simply figure out a way to leave so they can change. Whether it’s an impotent US Congress or a corrupted Africa, people figure out a way or die trying.
The trick is figuring out the people who really want to change from the people who just want to whine about it. There’s not much of a trick, actually: Just suggest a solution. The people who actually want to change will consider if it will work for them — and generally they conclude it does, or if it doesn’t work, they figure out a way to adapt it to work in their circumstances. The people who really don’t want to change will shoot down suggestion after suggestion after suggestion without much thought, all the while whining how difficult it is to change.
I hope that helped a bit.
Immunologist, Microbiologist, Organizer
First there has to be a recognition that change is necessary. Then, we are told to “learn from our mistakes”. That did not mean much to me until I had the epiphany that I had to first “own my mistakes”. The one cannot happen without the other. In the process, I have to acknowledge the elements that contributed to the mistakes (my fears, inadequacies, habit of ignoring instincts and advice, etc). Change follows.
Dir. Product Management at UCN
Top-to-bottom alignmens: If the leadership wants change, but the “common” folks in the org don’t, it’s easy enough to subvert it. Conversely, if you have visionary people in your ranks who are trying to make change happen, but they have no executive support, the no change.
CEO at The Terri Kern Company
All people are able to change. Some people take action and do change, some don’t. Action the difference between group one – those who do, and group two – those who don’t. The common denominator with people in group one is they’re willing to step out of their comfort zone, create new habits and/or plans and put them into ACTION.
Hope that’s helpful.
Vice President – Zions Bank
Some it seems are pre-destined to follow the paths of their parent’s mistakes and misgivings in life. Some are able break free with relative ease and people call them the exception. When in reality it was simply a decision on what path in life they decided to take. Change is easy when you view it in its simplest form, it is just another decision.
I could look back on terrible things in my past and use them as an excuse to make poor choices or justify bad behavior, but I refuse. Who I am now is made up of all the bad and good in my life. All have shaped me to the man that I am now.
I thrive on change and look forward to change; it adds excitement and a new view to work and life. The ability to be flexible is what makes change an acceptable alternative to the norm, or the stagnation. Those that have rigid thoughts, actions, timetables and beliefs struggle with change in my mind.
Not all change is good. Most of us know someone who happily launched into ill-advised decisions. Evolutionarily, we adapted when we changed as a species or perhaps a tribe, but as individuals, STABILITY was, and still is, highly adaptive.
So I’d say that identifying logical reasons not to change is a good first step. For instance, your change may shake up your marriage, create anxiety, carry unforeseen consequences and so forth.
Next, it’s a much less a matter of sophistication, motivation, education, intelligence or any of these other elements that are relatively static. When you focusing on traits, you’re looking at what is hard to change and all you’ll see is barriers. Sure, many people make fantastic changes with apparent natural spontaneity, which the rest of us may identify as strength of character or some nonsense. But anyone in the right circumstances will make huge changes.
We’re all creatures of reinforcement. We do what pays off for us, and we generally do what pays off in the short-term. Big changes generally mean putting off rewards and inviting discomfort in the short term, and so to see this through we need strategy. A good strategy will take into account the elements of (1) cognition – e.g. ways to counter automatic negative thoughts, (2) behavior – e.g. break all tasks into manageable components, and (3) environment – manage all the contingencies, maximize support and so on.
“Just do it” works fine ifs the goal is to run in the rain. For something like career change, it’s a recipe for failure.
Meijke van Herwijnen
In response to what Claus Schmidt says: it’s usually not about actual ability, but more often about perceived ability. On a daily basis I meet people who are somehow convinced that they won’t be able to change their lifestyle to start feeling fit and healthy. This is not true (as they usually prove later on), but they need to have the courage to face their fear to fail or to be disappointed.
You might be interested in the research and techniques developed by William R. Miller (motivational interviewing).
Also Dr. Ben Fletcher and Dr. Pine did research that pointed out that people who are more flexible (i.e. are used to changing simple daily behavior) are more likely to succeed in changing significant behavior.
Meijke van Herwijnen