Over the 100,000 plus years we and our brains have been evolving. During that time, our minds have grown past our primitive lizard brains and as such have brought us intelligence; which in turn has allowed humans to accomplish some fantastic things. Even with all that time and evolution, we and our brains are still guided by these four most important motivators: avoiding threats, minimizing energy, seeking certainty (reducing risk) and obtaining rewards (increasing pleasure).
It is easy to see why these four conditions motivate us not to change, because change usually involved reducing certainty while simultaneously increasing risk and expending energy, often without any guarantee of obtaining a reward. Essentially, due to in a large part to our primordial past, when we find ourselves confronted with change, either on a personal level or say at your company, all the fears from our lizard brain are triggered.
So, how can we get past those fears and anxieties that our genetic makeup makes it so hard to accept change on a personal and group level? Well, lucky for us, intelligence again offers seven (7) ways to make change more readily acceptable and addressable to our ‘fear factors.’
1.) The first is to normalize resistance to change. We have to explain to ourselves and others in our group, that although our brains are naturally wired to resist change, we can take steps to help our brains make changes more easily. We are NOT slaves to our genetics, instead we, each of us, have the power to fight that resistance if we chose to.
2.) Next, believe it or not our brains are motivated and take action when perceived rewards are greater than perceived threats. Not only do we have to see that the risk-to-reward-ratio is tipped on the reward side, but when we are trying to get others to see so too, we need to Invite everyone affected to explore the benefits of the proposed change, and make sure their perceived fears are mitigated and their possible rewards are maximized.
3.) While change always has a certain amount of uncertainty associated with it, as best is possible, you need to meet yours and others brains’ need for certainly throughout the change process. The best way to do this is to break change down into manageable, small-step milestones, time-lines and action items that can be checked off as they are accomplished. These “small victories” can appreciably reduce the risk associated with any change and add certainty as you measure the progress of change.
4.) Attitude is everything and emotions are contagious. You must first believe in and be enthusiastic about your own change if you ever expect to be able to change the hearts and minds of others. When you lead change, do it with as much passion, excitement and enthusiasm as you can muster.
5.) While some of us are more reward-focused, there are others who actually will only be motivated in knowing that not changing is actually riskier than the change itself. To change these minds, including your own, you will need to clearly explain the risks of NOT changing to those who are more threat-oriented or who appreciate threat avoidance as a priority.
6.) No matter how much we fear a thing, or want to avoid risk and pain, or desire rewards and accolades, our brains are conditioned and wired to celebrate and be rewarded with accomplishment. These rewards have to be both on a psychological and physical level. To institute and secure a long-lasting change, it is imperative to recognize progress and wins as the change is underway and completed, not only on an individual level, but also as a team.
7.) Finally, this might sound a little be pat, but the actual experience of the change is its own reward. These rewards come as we grow through a challenge, bond as a team, discover our unknown strengths and abilities, and begin to see our world in a different light. Yes, change is hard, if it were easy, everyone would do it without trepidation. Sadly, it is those lonely few of us who have the ability to seemingly easily and effortlessly implement change. But even with them, it took practice to make accepting change readily.