How We Deal With Change

A group of graduate students did a very bizarre experiment. They took lab rats and put them in a tank of water and placed the tank in a totally dark room. They went into the adjoining room and monitored them with video equipment. The rats swam for almost six hours before giving up and drowning. The students then took another set of lab rats and put them in a tank of water and placed that tank in a room where there was a small lamp. Their hypothesis was that the light would give the rats hope and they would survive longer. As it turns out, the rats swam almost 17 hours. Much longer than the rats in total darkness. Something about the light enabled them to survive longer.

The above experiment illustrates we always have a choice on how to deal with change and demonstrates what happens when we choose to find hope in situations that may initially appear hopeless. Change is the only constant. As we deal with the recent organizational changes there may be a tendency to give up on hope rather than seek out the new opportunities it offers. The Agile Transformation activities, another change opportunity, is about enabling us to respond to, instead of reacting to, change. The distinction is captured by Steven Covey in the First Habit:

Your life doesn’t just “happen.” Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear. Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.

Habit 1: Be Proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. You can’t keep blaming everything on your parents or grandparents. Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.” They don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. They know they choose their behavior. Reactive people, on the other hand, are often affected by their physical environment. They find external sources to blame for their behavior. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance, and they blame the weather. All of these external forces act as stimuli that we respond to. Between the stimulus and the response is your greatest power–you have the freedom to choose your response. One of the most important things you choose is what you say. Your language is a good indicator of how you see yourself. A proactive person uses proactive language–I can, I will, I prefer, etc. A reactive person uses reactive language–I can’t, I have to, if only. Reactive people believe they are not responsible for what they say and do–they have no choice.

Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control. The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two areas–Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.

Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about: health, children, problems at work. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern–things over which they have little or no control: the national debt, terrorism, the weather. Gaining an awareness of the areas in which we expend our energies in is a giant step in becoming proactive.

Is the Sun coming up or going down?