Three Common Mistakes When Approaching Change

Nearly everyone is aware that the only constant in life is change. Despite this common knowledge, most of us are ill-equipped to handle the change coming our way. Quotes like “people hate change” and “people fear change” are truer than we would like, unfortunately.

Change is nothing to hate or fear. In fact, change should be fun and exciting and something to look forward to, if you approach it in the right way. The improper way causes change to be a negative experience and nearly always includes making one or all of these three major mistakes.

Mistake #1: No perceived need to change

The first and biggest mistake many people make is they don’t think they need to change at all. They look at their life as it is currently, and for the most part, things might seem fine. They may have a job they don’t like, but at least they have a job. They may live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood with rent or a mortgage that they can afford. Their business may be doing well where they see steady growth year after year. Someone in any of these situations may be very quick to say, “I’ve got it pretty good. Why should I change anything?”

The truth is the world is always changing. If you take a sideline approach to it, you’re going to fall behind. If you keep doing what you’ve always done in the world around you and that world changes, you’re not going to know how to handle it.

I interviewed a third generation auto dealer. The dealership always played it safe, acted reasonably and had decent growth, but their approach was always the same. They never saw a need to change the way they did business because how they did it was “fine.” But in this ever changing world, fine won’t cut it. Nearly overnight, the auto industry shifted. The public’s shopping and buying habits changed. The world started behaving in a way that was not compatible with how this dealership operated. By the time the dealership realized there was a problem, it was too late and they ended up closing their doors.

Mistake #2: No clear direction

The Cheshire Cat told Alice that if it doesn’t matter where you’re going, it really doesn’t matter which way you take to get there. Many people don’t know which way to go or what changes they need to make because they have no idea where they want to end up. In most cases, people think in reverse about where they want to be. They look at their past results and think, “If I can do that plus a little bit more, I’ll be happy.” They allow the past to determine the future, but as we now know, while the world responded one way previously, it may totally change how it responds to current or future events.

At a seminar I was conducting, a member of the audience approached me and said he tried to make the necessary changes in his life but found it to be just too difficult. I asked him what the nature of the change he was trying to make was. He said he tried starting a business, then after a few long months switched to another venture, then moved into a high commission sales position and after a year went back to another business idea. When I asked what the purpose was behind all of these changes, he didn’t have a clear answer. Because he had no clear direction, he bounced around chasing the newest great idea of the day and never experienced any positive change in his life.

If you think that more sales, more money, or more customers is your purpose, you very likely are making mistake #2.

Mistake #3: A linear approach to change

When people realize the need for change and begin to think about it in terms of a specific purpose, they often make the mistake of taking a linear approach. What makes the linear approach so appealing is the built-in logic it has. It appears to make total, reasonable sense, and we all want to think of ourselves as reasonable people.

The linear approach says, “I’ll set this goal and make a few minor changes until I reach it; then I’ll set another, slightly larger goal and make a few changes until I reach it; then I’ll set a still slightly larger goal and make a few changes,” and so on. We stairstep our changes thinking we’re making significant moves, when the truth is we’re really only recycling what we’ve always done. And since we continue to do what we’ve always done, we can count on getting the same results.

The huge danger in this approach is we can’t get to where we truly want to be by doing the same things. We have to completely change the way we do things. We must look at things from a totally objective perspective and decide what needs to change to get the results we really want.

I constantly work with sales people and business owners to challenge this linear approach. I’ll ask them what results they want to achieve in a specific period of time and how they plan to achieve them. In nearly every case, they say, “First, I’ll get here, then I’ll get there, and at the end I’ll arrive at my ultimate goal.” When I press them why they don’t go directly from point A to point D, the answer is they want to be reasonable about their approach. The problem is that their reason requires them to work harder and harder at the same things while guaranteeing nothing.

By avoiding these three mistakes to approaching change, you can begin to see change as an exciting process. You will see why you need to be able to affect change and become aware of the purpose behind it. Then, you can finally start to see all the ways you can instantly change, rather than setting goals that use the same path you’ve followed in the path.