As humans, we have a special relationship with change, one that touches every facet of our lives. Whenever we imagine something bigger or better than the status quo, we are calling for change. Too often, this call is left unanswered.
It’s not our fault; we are biologically hardwired to resist change. Our amygdala — part of the brain’s primitive survival system — interprets change as a threat and releases hormones that trigger the fight-or-flight response. These neurological mechanisms explain why we long for change far more often than we create it.
Your brain is designed to focus on problems, not possibilities. The great irony is that the times we fear change the most are very often the times when we stand to benefit the most from it.
Any real conversation about change must begin with the acknowledgement of its purpose: to create a better future outcome for ourselves in some way. The changes you desire will vary, ranging from the desire to trade long hours for financial success and freedom, to having time to think about the big picture.
People ask me what the “spark” is that separates those who experience greater success and happiness from those who struggle and suffer. To put it simply, change is born in the decision to expect more of the future than you are experiencing in your present.
Why then, do we desire change and yet fail to bring it about? Gleicher’s Formula, popularized by Kathleen Dannemiller in 1992, offers keen insight into the invisible forces at play when we seek change. The formula essentially says that our discomfort with the status quo (D), multiplied by our vision for the future (F) added to our steps (S) must be greater than the resistance met. Gleicher’s Formula is expressed as: (D x V) + FS > R.
In simpler terms, your commitment to a better outcome must be larger than the resistance you face in seeking it. The Latin root of the word “decision” literally means “to cut off.” A genuine decision, notably different than wishing for a different outcome, draws a line that cuts off the possibility of any other outcome.
To help get the tongue in your mouth and the tongue in your shoes moving in the same direction, consider these tips:
Make sure your “why” is bigger than your “what ifs?” Your brain is hardwired to focus on problems over possibilities. The forces motivating your desired outcome are the same forces that decide your fate.
Be clear on what’s really holding you back from making the change. Most of the time what’s holding you back from making a change is fear of some far-fetched negative outcome or, worse still, the dreaded unknown. There are rarely any real dangers beyond the walls of our imagination. Acknowledge what’s holding you back and ask, “Is it really true that saying no to a requested fee discount will mean I never retain another client, file for bankruptcy, get eaten by a hungry tiger and die?” Doing so helps your brain more accurately assess the threat, allowing for more rational analysis that prioritizes long-term success over avoiding short-term stress.
Take small, big steps in the direction you wish to go. Facing major problems and decisions shuts down the cognitive and motivation centers of our brain. Taking a micro action shifts your brain from survival mode into a more positive, empowered state, enabling your conscious, creative brain. From there, most everything is figure-out-able.
Whether it’s choosing to serve a narrow swath of clients more deeply (a niche), charging fairly for the value you add (knowing your value) or donating to the Association of African American Financial Advisors to promote long overdue diversity in our profession, the time for change is — as always — right now.
None of us could have imagined times like these when we made the change that fueled our entry into this profession. Now we are called by these times to lead it into a new and brighter future.
I hope you will join me in answering the call for change.