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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Waiting On the World To Change?


People are naturally resistant to change. Why? A.J. Schuler, Psy. D., ("Overcoming Resistance To Change: Top Ten Reasons for Change Resistance," www.schulersolutions.com, 2003) offers ten reasons for change resistance:

1. THE RISK OF CHANGE IS SEEN AS GREATER THAN THE RISK OF STANDING STILL.

2. PEOPLE FEEL CONNECTED TO OTHER PEOPLE WHO ARE IDENTIFIED WITH THE OLD WAY.

3. PEOPLE HAVE NO ROLE MODELS FOR THE NEW ACTIVITY.

4. PEOPLE FEAR THEY LACK THE COMPETENCE TO CHANGE.

5. PEOPLE FEEL OVERLOADED AND OVERWHELMED.

6. PEOPLE HAVE A HEALTHY SKEPTICISM AND WANT TO BE SURE NEW IDEAS ARE SOUND.

7. PEOPLE FEAR HIDDEN AGENDAS AMONG WOULD-BE REFORMERS.

8. PEOPLE FEEL THE PROPOSED CHANGE THREATENS THEIR NOTIONS OF THEMSELVES.

9. PEOPLE ANTICIPATE A LOSS OF STATUS OR QUALITY OF LIFE.

10.  PEOPLE GENUINELY BELIEVE THAT THE PROPOSED CHANGE IS A BAD IDEA.

Since we are a social species, we respect loyalty and friendship, and we like to remain close to familiar people we trust in our comfortable surroundings. People who make a change must take a leap of faith. They must manage their feelings of risk and move toward a promise that something different will be better. Still, they remain cautious of the new, skeptical of anything that might threaten their trusted values. And, of course, some people align against change because they clearly, and in some cases correctly, view the change as being contrary to their interests.

When a change becomes evident, people engage in speculation that can easily turn into fear. The smallest doubts about the value of a change can lead people to channel into major streams of resistance against it. It doesn't take much for feelings of apprehension to turn into genuine fear.


Commitment To Change

We know of many reasons people resist change. So what about those who want to embrace a positive change for social justice? How can they help make a needed change a new reality?

Wading into the waters of effecting change requires activism. People must fight the tendency to believe that change does not require their personal participation or that change is inevitable despite their lack of involvement. They must take steps to become active parts of the movement and facilitate the outcome.

Many people on the sidelines of change simply mouth the words of others, defending ideas that encourage a needed modification. This is not enough to insure success. Cheerleading supports change but it doesn't engage in the real work needed to make a change. A million pledges of allegiance to a change mean nothing unless some people actually secure the transition.

When inevitable "bumps in the road" to a change occur, skeptics often jump ship. These people do not have the foresight and grit to look beyond anticipated resistance and keep moving toward greater outcomes. The folk song "Keep Your Eyes On the Prize," which became so influential during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, is a reminder that taking steps toward change and greater social justice requires great focus and steadfast commitment.

"Well, the only chains that we can stand
Are the chains of hand in hand
Keep your eyes on the prize

Hold on! Hold on!

Keep your Eyes on the Prize, hold on!"

The static masses, full of trepidation for change, refuse to accept "the prize" and cry, "You aren't ever going to change this, so quit trying!" With their negativity, the prophets of doom contribute to a sad status quo. It is true: negativity serves to kill. Negativity is a form of anti-living, a contagious cancer that can stop a movement toward a needed change. But, this plea flies in the face of those who understand the need for change. Naysayers and dream killers embolden dedicated reformers.

A.J. Schuler says, "The passive and negative position waits for someone else to make a bad situation better, perhaps faulting others for their inaction (we see this in offices all the time).  The positive and active position works to build a productive awareness among  those who can influence a negative situation so that all can take collective action to make it better.  Guess which  type of person others naturally follow - and then imitate?" ("How To Lead By Example...," www.schulersolutions.com, 2003) The answer to Schuler's question is evident.

Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist (1901-1978), said, "Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have." The course of human history has been positively altered by a few determined people who have doggedly worked for needed change. It is impossible to calculate the impact that these people have had on following generations.

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