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  • Georgios Stergiou

Making a Change - 8 questions and answers for sustainable growth


Current situation

We are currently going through a period of many changes. Social, health, financial, professional. We have a virus that limits us, creating unprecedented feelings within us and around us. We spend a lot of time alone, or with people which before we did not, at home, isolated. We do not see friends and communication is now through a computer. In order to get out we have to follow a routine, one which many of us do not agree with, feeling limited. Many businesses have closed down and there are more financial challenges to come.


All this creates fear along with anger, resentment coupled with sadness and insecurity. And on top of that we have the media, bombarding us with negativity, creating and further enhancing phobias. In moments of crisis, the need for change, multiplies. So, how is this change being addressed by you and your team?


In this block I examine 8 questions about change and the challenges that come with it. I propose solutions at a personal and team level, why we need to change, dealing with the fear of change, how to develop a change mindset, making a sustainable change on four levels. I discuss shifting into change mode, the difference between ownership and authorship and fake vs real change. To conclude I talk about results and the “what if scenarios”.


The tips and methodology I use are from personal experience, coupled with research from a number of experts. For over 20 years working with small and medium-size companies, while “microconsulting” those to achieve fast and sustainable growth, change is always at the heart of growth.


As Confucius said, tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I will understand. Theory is one thing and practice is another. I have included exercises to help with fostering and transition to change. All of the exercises take minutes to do. My advice is to do them all; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain as.


You can print this blog and do them in writing. It will help you to get comfortable with change, including adjusting mindsets. This is imperative and the first step to everything else.


1. How does change start



Someone usually will get up and say: We do not have to do it like this, I got a better idea, another tech, a new way to see the world, face this challenge, deal with this problem. Some people will then get excited, but eventually many of them will give you feedback that goes along the lines of:


Now it’s not a good time, we did it before and it did not work, it’s never been done, this is not the right place, the head office/boss will not go for it, this is not the way we do things around here, it Is complicated, we do not have the budget, its political, its historical, its traditional, it is not our problem, it is not our job, they might even say….it is not in our DNA or in our culture, we cannot do this.


All the above are different ways of saying: It’s not going to happen.


Working in the innovation space, I am intrigued by this wall and how do we get past it. Doing so will allow you to get your passion and ideas and make them happen. Grow.

Change is a very powerful coach. But you have to develop the right mindset. There are two different types of changes. Planned and unplanned. In either of them you cannot know the results. When going through change however, think of “Kintsugi”, the Japanese art for the repair of a broken ceramic, with gold. Embracing flaws and imperfections so that you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. A better you.

There are six steps to behavior change, so you can prepare if you are aware of those. Those are:

  1. Precontemplation: Denial, being too aware of the problem but you do not want to face it. It is almost impossible to see a way forward.

  2. Contemplation: Now you are aware of the problem, you know you have to do something. There is no choice.

  3. Preparation: You start taking matters into your own hands. Mindset change.

  4. Action: You start to practice the desired behavior, the magic starts happening. You can find your purpose here, leading to the new you, and in the process make a difference to others too.

  5. Maintenance: You work on sustaining the behavior change, making life changes, managing a new you, your new life.

  6. Termination: Here you have formed new habits and growth takes place. The change is complete and part of you.

The rule with change is that you should never compare your life now, with what was yesterday, before the change. Do not let change go to waste. Do not hide your scars. Fill them up with your previous experiences.



2. Why do people refuse change?



So what is this wall made of? How do we get past it?

First thing you need to know that all the above reasons are not real reasons.


While I was working in sales, in different markets and industries I noticed that people say one thing but really they mean something else. In the case of change, it is the same. Bellow I have what you will hear, and what it means.

  1. “It’s always been like this”. This is not an argument for not changing right now, but a reason why they should have changed a long time ago. They believe that the problem is much older.

  2. “It is not in our goals” means that the management, the people that provide the vision, did not think of this one.

  3. “It’s the same everywhere”, translates to: the problem is broader and wider than you think. It is not just here, it is everywhere.

  4. “It’s not in the budget” what they mean is we spend the money on the wrong places already.

  5. “Its political” means…I have learned to keep my ideas to myself.

  6. “Its traditional and the way things work here” means I do not know why we do this, but it’s always been that way.

So understanding what people say, it the first step. Do not argue with them. Smile and agree, reply to what they really mean instead and understand their why & why nots.

Very often when people say they do not want change, what they are saying is that they want a change that is real, something that they can believe in. They probably have seen or experienced attempts to change, that were not real, and nothing happened.


There are six main reasons why people refuse change and acting upon it. Emotions play a big part here as some of those reasons come from the shock of change. Here are those reasons.

  1. I am full of fear to think about what you are talking about.

  2. I am scared of the transition/journey to the idea, not the actual idea.

  3. I feel like I’ve no say in what happens.

  4. I don t see how I fit into any of this.

  5. I don’t know how big a deal this change really is.

  6. I am fed up with phony change that goes nowhere. This is a big one.

3. Why do you personally need to change?



There is a say that goes along the lines of; If nothing changes, nothing changes. And this change has to start with you first, because you are in control. Both internally and externally.

Start by accepting that everything in front of you is a challenge. Opportunities to become better. Think about the past, when you once had a challenge, a time when you thought there was no way you could do something and you did it. How did you feel afterwards? So it is possible. You have done it before.


Why do you want to change? Here you can do an exercise that big companies do when they want to find the main reason why something did not go as they planned. This method comes from Japan, specifically Toyota, which was the first company to apply it. And it works. Multiple books have been written about it and many other companies have applied this method with impressive results.


What is this method? It is called “the five whys”.

It works in a very simple way. Ask and answer five whys.


I will give you an example. Let’s imagine that procrastination is something you want to overcome and change. Start along the lines of:

  1. Why do I procrastinate - Because I escape.

  2. Why do I need to escape - Because It helps me forget.

  3. Why do I feel I need to forget - Because I do not want to think.

  4. Why I do not want to think - Because everything around me is very stressful.

  5. Why do I feel stressed - Because I am not happy with my life, the situation around me, I am not in control.

So… you procrastinate because you are flooded with emotions, the main one being you are not in control. Does this help you? If not, you have to change. Start by looking at the 5th why. This is the real cause. If, however, you do not feel the 5th why is covering you, keep asking.


This method can be applied wherever you want to change a habit or a situation you are in. Just change procrastinating with drinking, eating, smoking, etc.



4. How to deal with the fear of change



When we have to change, we feel excitement at first. Then, when we have to act we freeze and often people that need to change hide away, disappear. The last phase is negativity and objections. From different angles and at different speeds and intensity.

The key principle here is to replace the world fear with opportunity. In your mind first.


Everyone is afraid of something. Between where we are and where we want to go there are emotions like: Failure, loss, ridicule, rejection, risk, fear, anxiety, confusion, waste, blame, shame, change, pain, exhaustion. Any change makes us concerned. So how do we solve this problem?


If you are scared of flying for example and the pilot does not explain the turbulence ahead, you allow imagination to take over and scare you. So you need to know. This is the reason why pilots before they take off in a storm, they warn everyone with phrases like, it might be bumpy, we will face turbulence, if it is too windy we might have to turn back, etc.

They help you understand, giving you a heads up that they are aware of the situation, they have a plan, they know what they are doing.


Change has four possibilities. Those are:

  1. Things that you used to be able to do and can still do.

  2. Things that you could not do before and still cannot do.

  3. Things you used to be able to do but cannot do now.

  4. Things you could/did not do before but can do now.

Let’s go through a change due to coronavirus.

  1. Used to and can: Still have email, make phone calls, same business, …

  2. Could not and still cannot: Cannot cheat, change your product, ...

  3. Used to and cannot: Travel easy, meet face to face, personal interchange, ...

  4. Could/did not but now can: Job suit your lifestyle, find work life balance, work from home, spend more time at home, …

Do not just dismiss the way you operated and focus only in transition and new processes. Think of the positives on how you do things before change. It has knowledge, structure, proven ways, certainty and is familiar. Otherwise you will be left with facing the unknown, the unstructured, unproven, uncertain.


Do this exercise for a situation that you have to make a change. Ask yourself what is normal and usual (1 & 2), let go of things you cannot do anymore (3) and focus on new things that you can do now (4).


Remember: change is everywhere around us. In many industries from fashion, to retail, tourism, medical. It is in our DNA to change, so change in within us. When we change, we affect the structure and chemistry of our body & new links are being formed between brain cells. Change is also transmitted to next generation (Darwin).


Here are some tips to deal with the fear of change. Answering the questions will help and direct you.

  • Little tiny actions and little decisions result in massive impact. Change is not a revolution, is little actions every day.

Answer the question: What are the little tiny decisions that I am are going to take today that will lead me to change in the direction I want?

  • Find a purpose to what you do. This is not about you, it is about the other people that you can and will touch and impact their lives. When you want momentum, hold on to your purpose. So find it. Whatever the level of fear, you will always find a way to defeat the fear of change as long as you have your own why to the change.

Answer the question: How bad is really my desire to success? Why?

  • Build yourself a system to help you live up to your promises. This is a big one. Make a promise to yourself that you will arrive to your goals. Great leaders deliver on their promises. Build in a system of people, of environments which are going to lift you up and make you become accountable. Contemplate on the following.

What is my system? Which are the people that can help me achieve it.



4. How to start a change process



You need to change your mindset and your environment. Internally and externally.


Internally

You begin by observing what you do, you hear what you say (to yourself but also to others), what you think, what others say about you, how & what you feel.

Analyses your internal voice. Do not be too hard with yourself. Imagine if what you say to yourself was said by someone else, to you? What would you have done? Think about it. We tend to be the worst judges of our actions. Be aware of your thoughts. They have power and travel far.


So, ask questions and most important, be present. When you are in the frame you cannot see the picture. Seize the moment, and observe. Take a step back and get out of your frame.


Look at habits. For example, every Friday, at a certain time, you sit in front of the TV and have a glass of wine or some alcohol to drink. There is a habit here. A connection in the electrical circuits of your brain that, on this day, at that time/moment… automatically you open a bottle, you have a glass.


Internally you must understand and recognize this pattern. This plan of action predetermined by habits. At the same time when you observe, you look at your 5th why. Begin to notice what makes you unhappy and gives you the feeling of being out of control. But also what makes you happy and in control. And changed it. Internally first and then externally.


I like a poem by Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), that I heard in a documentary. It is beautiful and to the point.


“I may not be the fastest,

I may not be the tallest, or the strongest.

I may not be the best or the brightest.

But one thing I can do better than anyone else,

That Is to be me.”


Exercise

Before you look at what needs to change, look at what you should be grateful for, what you have, who you are. Think about what makes you happy, everything that you should be grateful in your life. Write the first 5 thoughts that come through your mind.


1.

2.

3.

4.

5.


How do you feel now; Write it down.


Externally

Here you observe at your environment. People close to you, your friends and even your family. Understand that you can change your environment but it is not your job to change others. You are responsible to choose whether you allow them to affect you or not. You are more important than anyone else. Like in an airplane, in case of an emergency, you first put your oxygen mask before you put one on to your child. Why? Because if you pass out, they will too.


It is not the ego from the selfish side, the one which causes guild, but the ego from your deeper, inner side, the one that helps you get stronger. The one that leads to realize what you want, what you feel, what makes you better. And again here you must pay attention and remember constantly. No guilt.


Other external changes may be your job and the way you work. How you spend your free time. Even how you live. Do you like it? If not, you can change. Slowly. Step by step. One thing at the time.


In the habit I mentioned above, an external factor is the bottle of wine. Do you have it at home? Taking control and making an external change will be not to have any bottles in your house. Make getting a bottle to require some work from you. Allow yourself time to double guess you. Let’s say you have to go to the supermarket to get some wine. Just the fact that you have to go out, or out of your way, will be a deterrent. If, however it fails and you do go, the moment you reach out to put it in the basket, stop and think. Ask yourself “will it make me really happy if I get drunk? Is that going to benefit me long term? You might fail the first time, but do not give up. It takes time.


So change your environment. Change your routine. Change your habits, especially the ones that do not serve you. What you see, what you hear, what you smell will lead you to what you feel and ultimately what affects you.



5. What can I do to foster change and for how long?



Now we have some ways to be present and find the why, let’s look at the how and what.


What

Everything can be done, but slowly. Find someone you admire and talk to them, have a mentor. Someone once told me “do not listen to the people you like; listen to the people you want to be like”. So follow and listen to the people you want to be like. Good people learn from their mistakes; successful people learn from others.


There are a few things to note here.


· A mentor is not someone that tells you good things, but someone that pushes you and is honest, even if it hearts.

· You need to look up to your mentor, not down. You must respect them. They have to have some sort of wealth that you inspire to have. It can be mental, physical, emotional, spiritual. It can be money, happiness, fulfilment, being content.

· We are the average of the 5 closest people to us. Environment matters. Choose yours wisely. And that includes work. Toxic environments are bad.

· Do not be scared to ask for things. Shy people die ¨poor¨.


Don't you have such people around you? Look for them. Use mentoring websites, they are fee. You can watch videos from YouTube, read biographies, watch inspirational movies especially ones with people who went through a lot but succeeded, in a similar industry or situations, even country or region as you are. Talk to friends, attend seminars, write to authors, YouTubers, TV personalities. Ask.


How

Put routines. Stoics, especially the emperor Marcus Aurelius’ was famous for his day and night routines, (see his book Meditations). Lots of successful people too have routines.

It is like the chicken and the egg paradox. Which one came first. Did routines come after the success or success was the results of routines. Believe and focus on what you can control. Put routines…and work on consistency.

My morning routines are tidying up, exercising, meditating, then working. My night routines are reflecting on the day and planning on next day. I have found this to help me a lot and it is simple. It takes little time. Find what works for you so you will do it.


Important….it is not easy, it is a challenge. At times you will feel like the last thing you want to do is exercising, or meditating, or planning. I personally play a trick to myself. And even though I know it is a trick, it works. I just say …. do this for just 2 mins and then stop. But I never stop.


How long

Do all the things I mentioned in this blog for at least 3 weeks, until your brain makes electrical links and connections, creating routine, which will become habits. Just do it, plain and simple, without overthinking and analyzing, your demons or others affecting you. Become good at ignoring them. Realize that you hear them but you know better because you are going to change. It's not about how much you try; it's about how you do it. I have three tricks that work for me and hopefully you will find useful.


  • I put small notes, in key places of my daily routine, in my house. In my desk. mirrors, mobile, bathroom. I mark on those notes the consecutive days that I push for a change in order to form a different habit. This gives me a feel good factor.

  • In each month there are two days that I can be lazy, do nothing and feel not guilty. But never 2 times / days in a row. I know it will make me feel better when I do it. I tell this to myself, even loud.

  • I set small goals. 7 consecutive days. When I reach 7, I push for 10, then 14, 21 and 30. Then I start from zero again. Every month and a new beginning. I do the same with the day. I break it down to morning, noon, afternoon, evening. For each section I do different things. Do it until you do not have to think about it. Like when you brush your teeth, or make your bed.

  • I put reminders on my calendar. Even on my computer screen saver. What is my main focus for the day?I aim to have 3 things per day that I want to accomplish. NO MORE. It then gets overwhelming. When I do those things, then I take a long break. And I break my hour into 45 mins and 15 mins rest. This gives me focus.

6. How do I develop a mindset for sustainable change?



In question 4 we saw the two dimensions. Internal and external.

Now it is time to take a deeper look, using your 5 whys / insights and see what makes you not, like in the example I gave, be happy or feeling in control.


Write down the answers to the following questions.

  • If you could have what you wanted, for example $1m. in your bank account what would you change in your life? Do not just think material.

  • Can you create any of these things without the money?


Mental changes

The most important and the beginning of every process. Why; It is the basis for everything you build. Like when you learn something, for example dancing, you do the basic steps continuously, almost until you get bored. You repeat and repeat them again and again. Only when you no longer need to think, or see what you do, you learning tricks and add extras. This is where the true pleasure starts, when you do not have to think, but just feel, and enjoy.


Exercise

Think about your past. Remember moments when you were “in the zone”, time flew, you were just in another place, absorbed and deep into something.

What did you do? How did you feel?


Ask the 5 why’s if it is not something you understand or comes to you immediately.


1. Why did I feel “in the zone” - …….

2. Why:

3. Why:

4. Why:

5. Why:


What do you notice?


Physical changes

When you felt good about yourself, how were you feeling and looking physically? Did you exercise, did you run, did you go for walks? Did you watch your diet?


You may not have the financial comfort, or time, you might even have started by saying it is not possible, I do not have this or that. Now, get those negative words out of your mind and just ask … what do I need. When you change, carry the mental changes to support your physical changes.


In one of the countries I lived, in my apartment there was a gym. At the push of a button, I was in the gym. In my next place I moved, I do not have this possibility. So what happens? I knew I needed to exercise because it made me feel great and cleared my mind. So, I started walking, exploring, running in nature. At the same time, when it was raining, I downloaded applications for exercises. I found one called 7 minutes. I read, learned about the style of these exercises and added those to my daily routine. I have the same results and because I like it, I do it almost every day. And it is only 7 minutes. So I save 50 and 60 minutes going to a gym, which is 5 hours a week. In a year 260 hours. Now I spend 1/10th of that. And of course I save money. And I have the control, as I can do it anytime and anywhere I want to.


If this is not applicable to you, for sure something else is. It is always like that when we change our mind-set from what is not possible to what can be possible. In the end we always do well. It makes us stronger, better and fills us with confidence.

And exercise is not the only physical change. It is also the way you stand, walk, what your face says, if you smile. There are many studies that say that you can change how you feel, just by changing your body first. And the way you talk.


Think of an actor. How does it fit into the character it presents? How does it make you see him/her? It's not what they say only. It's how they say it. What their body language says (body, face, posture, etc.)


Exercise

Think of a movie which has a confident character inside. Even better if it is someone you look up to and like. Observe their body language and their tone of voice. Now it is your turn.

Stand up, high, as if someone is pulling this invisible thread that passes through your spine. Spread your arms to the side, stretch them. Now take 3 deep breaths … hold them and slowly take the air out of your mouth … with noise.


If you want to feel even better, repeat some words of affirmation (avoid statements that include not, no … just state what action you want to happen). Loud, clear, with confidence. E.g. I will have an amazing day, I will close this deal, I will be present, etc.

How do you feel now;


Psychological changes

I believe we are what our thoughts and psychology tells us we are. So pay attention to what your thoughts say about you, what you think. Because thoughts as I already mentioned have power, they live inside us and travel far.


Listen to what you have to say about yourself. We all have a little Gremlin in us as I call it, personal demons. Just understand that he/she is present. And it does not help you, with their always critical comment, but…do not get angry with him/her. Learn to listen, understand what it does say because it tries to protect you from what you do not know, from new habits. It gets power from programming that has been engraved deep inside you, over many years. Conscious and subconscious programming.


This programing was scripted from the time you were born until when you were around seven years old. Phobias, insecurities, compulsions, guilt. Things you saw and felt around you that you may not have understood, or remember now, but you just accepted. Imprints on your subconscious which became part of your character.


Here you must be wary. A common mistake is that we blame others for those imprints. It might be easier to do, but this blame stops us progress to the next level we are meant to be. To say that it the fault of others, parents for example, is a statement that can be true of course. But how does it serve us? Yes, it is their fault, but give them the good with the bad.


Both their good and not so good actions, served us. Understand everything they did, was because they had to, because this is what they knew, they had their own issues and demons to deal with and probably … they just copied what they had experienced in their past. However, most do what they do with love.


At the end of the day, they made you who you are. You are as you should be. Accept it. Just do your best. Do not dig and look in the past too much. You can if you want. But it is easier to just accept it and move, work from where you are now. Life gave you these cards. And; The past does not change. Only the present … and the future. As Bill Keane said; “the past is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, which is why they call it the present.


Forgive, appreciate the moments, accept that everything is as it should be, because you have something to learn. Maybe how to say and believe that… it is possible.

And do it with love. For you, for others. For everything. Isn't that what all religions and spiritual teachings say after all?


Exercise

Think of something that lifts you up. Close your eyes and imagine that you are there. Beach, sun, forest, around people you love. While you are there, in your mind focus on 3 things you see, listen, smell, feel. Become present in your imagination, in your escape.


How do you feel now;


Spiritual changes

Now we go even deeper. What do you believe is the reason you are here? In this life, this country, this family, this situation. It is strange how many people have this self-imposed mentality and belief that life is about suffering. Maybe religion, dogma plays a role here.


So why are you here? For me, to become better. To grow up and develop. We are energy after all. Deep inside us, all our molecules are connected with energy. Energy is what our brain sends to our muscles. Energy is how our brain functions. Alas, we eat and breath and convert energy. To move, we need energy. To think too. But do your own research. Look, listen and above, all feel.


Everything happens for a reason. Many times this reason will not be revealed for a long time, maybe years. Accept it, appreciate that you have and whoever you have and move on looking ahead. You can. It's hard, but change the “hard” word with challenge and then you have changed your mind-set already.


Start being appreciative, for what you have, who you are, even little things. Someone once told me, if you are feeling down, read the obituaries from a paper. You are a lot better than all the people mentioned there.


Ask for the answers, write things down (diary), get out of yourself and your frame and see the other side. Learn to congratulate yourself, not to be so hard and appreciate your life. This is all you have any way… until you change. So things will change.


Exercise

Close your eyes and think of 5 things you are grateful for. See them, listen to them, smell them, feel them. Write them down:


1.

2.

3.

4.

5.


How are you feeling now?



7. How do I help my team change?



When something happens, a change is required, people are too full of emotions and fear to think. There are 3 ways that they go about it. They can be:


1. Negative,

2. Interested,

3. Positive.


Being human, we are full of emotions. So how people go about change, is linked to emotions. Here is a list of each action and its emotions/feelings associated with it.

  1. Negative: Scared, angry, betrayed, feel stupid. Even everything else is a variation of those four.

  2. Interested: They feel they kind of knew it was going to happen, their instinct was right but trusted it poorly,