Surely you know someone close or have experienced for yourselve the difficulty of following a diet, quitting smoking or exercise regularly. These are important habit changes that bring great benefit.
The big question is: Can we change? How many people who change a habit manage to maintain it after 2 years?
The answer: Only 1 in 10 changes and maintains the new behavior after 2 years. People who want OR NEED to change have only a 10% chance of doing so.
Dr. Edward Miller, CEO of Johns Hopkins Hospital, has found that year after year since the mid-1950s 90% of people who undergo coronary artery bypass surgery return to preoperative lifestyle habits (diet, tobacco, alcohol, lack of exercise) even though they know they can die due to it. This doctor could not understand that despite giving them the solution to have a better quality of life and not die, patients did not quit smoking, eating too much, drinking alcohol or lower their level of stress. The results showed that many of them returned to the operating room and many others died. Only 10% of his patients changed. Dr. Miller could not understand how people faced with a real risk of death were not able to change. He didn't understand it because the answer is not in medicine, but in psychology.
Habits are difficult to change because we have formed fixed neural connections and follow them almost without realizing it. Establishing new habits requires time, repetition, effort, and a large dose of motivation.
As we have seen, change is difficult, but very important. Sometimes our companies can disappear if they don't change. A change in market prices, a new competitor, a new technology or a change in the value of the currency can leave us out of the market. We have a short memory, but 50 years ago the textile sector was an economic force in Glarus, and disappeared. Fifteen years ago construction was the economic engine of Spain, and it sank. And 10 years ago WhatsApp didn't exist and now it's a revolution in communication. Until something better arrives.
As Alvin Tofler (an American writer with a doctorate in Letters, Law and Science) used to say:
"The future will belong to apprentices, because those who believe they know everything are living in a world that no longer exists.
Describe a situation where you tried to change and failed. Describe another one where despite the difficulties you got it. What failed in the first one? What was the key to success in the second one?
The capacity for change is not only a competitive advantage, it is also the basis for survival. Either you change or you die! So the big question is:
Can we increase the chances of change happening to more than 10%? The answer is yes.
The first step: Never use the phrase "Either you change or you die". I used it 10 seconds ago. Doctors, as we have already seen, use it. Don't do it, it doesn't work. Fear is a fantastic motivator in the short term but a disaster in the mid and long term. The reaction we have to fear is to attack or run away... And you don't want your employees to do either.
Let's go back to our heart operated patients.
Dr. Dean Ornish, professor of medicine at the University of California faced this problem from a new point of view. He designed, prepared and conducted a program in 1993 with 300 patients. He focused:
1. Vegetarian diet with a maximum of 10% fat. (A radical change that produced a quick win on the weight of the patients).
2. Patients visited their support group twice a week led by a psychologist (Never walk alone).
3. They were introduced to activities such as yoga, relaxation, meditation and sport. (Activities that regenerate)
The basis of the new treatment, according to Dr. Ornish, was "to provide the psychological and emotional support that is so often ignored"
The program lasted a year. The result:
Three years later 77% of his patients had changed their lifestyle and avoided a second heart operation. From 10% to 77% success rate. Spectacular.
Even the insurance company that financed the study won: Avoiding the second operation saved them about $30,000 per patient.
CONCLUSION: You can change. But to ensure success you have to follow a few rules.
The keys to change.
When these rules are given together the change lasts in time:
Rule 1a: Define your Ideal Vision or Self. It is the starting point for change to emerge. It's about finding out what you like best, what you could do in life, what you would like to be or achieve in 5 or 10 years.
People close to you or a professional can help you discover and reflect on this ideal self.
Rule 1b: Define your current self. At this point you discover how you are perceived by others and compare it with the ideal self. This is hard, because we are afraid of criticism or not doing it right. You have to create your personal balance of your strengths and weaknesses.
The best way to know the "current situation" for you and your company is to make a 360º evaluation preferably by an extern person or institution (Audit, consultant, business psychologist). This way you will have a realistic vision.
Rule 2: Reflect and learn.
How do I want to explore and maintain thee changes in the future? This is not a performance improvement plan. We simply reflect on the path that will lead us to the goal we want.
Rule 3: Experiment, get a quick win. Practice the changes that will help you to be who you want to be. Paradoxically, radical changes are easier to implement than small changes. With a radical change the results begin to be seen earlier (as in a diet) and there is nothing like a victory, however partial, to trigger motivation. Design the process of change in your company so that the first victory appears as soon as possible.
Rule 4: Never walk alone. Having people next to you who support you with a relationship based on trust and affection helps us on this path. A psychologist, a partner, a friend, a parent, a mentor... They act as a mirror and although the information they give you sometimes is not so nice, you know they do it for your own good and they do it for you to develop. They believe in you and are a great impulse.
Rule 5. Change is not continuous. It is a process with ups and downs. You fail, you learn, you get up, and you go on.
Rule 6. Positive emotions help change. A positive experience and shared vision (doctor-patient, manager-employee, psychologist-manager) helps change at an individual level. You achieve a greater commitment to the company, work group, or as explained in the example of coronary patients, a greater adherence to treatment. It is important that we remain emotionally positive for a long time. In this state we feel joy, hope, satisfaction, we feel that we can achieve our goals, we are open to new ideas, to learn, commit and change.