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Why Change?

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Most people will not change until they have to. They may be afraid that they are going to lose something or someone and they feel forced to change. Necessity is often the impetus for personal change. Change often occurs as a result of a major life crisis or a significant emotional event. (S.E.E.). Sometimes real change occurs when something happens to your significant other (S.O.). When the word “crisis” is written in Oriental symbols, it means danger plus opportunity. A personal crisis can be the beginning of meaningful change.

On a recent work trip to Savannah, I read an October 6, 2013 article in USA Today about Glenn Kelman, the CEO of Redfin, a Seattle-based real estate brokerage, who is trying to change how consumers buy and sell houses. He was a self-proclaimed “know-it-all.” Not until the chairman threatened to fire Kelman did he receive the jolt he needed for real change. The chairman and the Board had tried to talk with Kelman many times before the “firing” but he would not listen. Something clicked this time. Kelman decided to look at himself and his behavior. He also decided to listen to feedback for the first time. Kelman said the whole narrative of his life hinged on that moment, because if he had not changed, he would not have gotten a chance to be the CEO of Redfin. He also realized what the stakes were and he became more serious about changing. He understood that change was not an over night process and that, in fact, it can take a long time..

For many, it is a very difficult process. But the point is to keep working toward the desired goal and to not give up. I always remind my students that nothing changes if nothing changes. So take the first step: 1) Do something…anything to begin implementing the change. 2) While you are beginning the change process, stay socially connected and keep supportive people around you. Your support network will help keep you on track. 3) Try not to be too disappointed if you slip up. Accomplishing new behavior and breaking old habits can be tedious. With time and self-discipline, you will succeed at creating new patterns in your life. 4) Fake it until you make it. Act “as if” the change has already occurred. 5) Use your sense of humor to keep things in perspective.

It takes courage to change; it also takes commitment. The effort is worthwhile because the pay-off can be life-changing. I am always reminded of a profound quote from Benjamin Franklin: “When you are done changing… you are done!” Or even better, Bob Dylan, who said, “You’re either growing or dying.”


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