If I told you there would be a dramatic change in your lifestyle tomorrow, you’d probably have a sleepless night. Your unrest would come from the uncertainty of tomorrow. You’d wonder, “Will I have a better lifestyle or a worse one?” It’s not the change that bothers you; it’s the uncertainty about the change that worries you.
We also don’t mind change if it’s for someone else, like our kids, spouse, or friends. In many cases we believe they need to make some changes, but we’re okay the way we are. Since there’s some discomfort in change, we resist change that affect us. We are comfort-seekers in most scenarios.
Perhaps we need to look at making productive change from a different perspective. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, said “If the rate of change outside an organization is greater than the rate of change inside an organization, that spells the beginning of the end.” Wouldn’t it also be true for us individually? The only way for us to keep up with the world around us is to change, grow, learn, and evolve into a better version of ourselves.
Most people discover there are two ways to experience meaningful change in their lives:
1) Inspiration, or 2) Desperation.
To be inspired to change requires a meaningful motive, or a desire to BE more, DO more, or HAVE more. It’s waking up with an idea about what “could be true” instead of what “is true” – and being willing to go for it. This could be an adult inspired to change a smoking or drinking habit. It could be a student inspired to change the amount of time dedicated to studying. It could be an entire family energized to spend more time together.
To be desperate to make a change means things have progressed to the point where the situation is so bad, a change MUST happen or there will be unbearable consequences. Desperation is when people stop smoking because cancer is showing up. Desperation is when studying increases because a failing grade is imminent. It’s when relationships within a family have deteriorated so much that serious repair is necessary to hold the ship together.
Richard Beckhard created a change model for organizations that holds true for families and individuals. It teaches that three things must be true before we will make a meaningful change.
Dissatisfaction with the current reality must be greater than zero
Your vision of a new reality must be greater than zero
Knowledge/awareness of the first steps to take must be greater than zero
The only way for the natural resistance of change to be overcome is for all three of these factors to be greater than zero. Even if two of the three are greater than zero, the status quo will be maintained.
What does this mean for you as a parent? You can teach your children what change looks like by how you recognize and implement the need for change in your own life. You can teach your children why and how to grow, learn, and change. Demonstrate it as a way of life. You can discuss the changes you have made and how you understand these changes in the context of Beckhard’s model.
What you can’t do is give your child YOUR level of dissatisfaction with their life. You can share how you feel, but your child will not make an inspired change if his or her level of dissatisfaction is less than zero! You can share your vision, but if your children do not have a new attractive vision for themselves, there will be no change. Helping them understand the first steps to change is the only one of the three conditions where parents can support a child’s effort. And sometimes that will backfire too because they want to do it their way.
In the final analysis, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is to teach them to be comfortable with the discomfort of change. Teach them that inspired change that honors their values will cause them to stretch and grow. There’s no downside to that journey, even if it’s uncomfortable.