Death and Change
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by Eddy Parham, SPHR OD Consultant
Alan Deutschman, in his book Change or Die notes that 90 percent of heart bypass surgery patients return to their bad habits that caused their health problems within 2 years of surgery. As an OD practitioner and change instigator, I find it interesting that even when faced with the deadly consequences that an unhealthy lifestyle brings, people will not change – or at least an overwhelming majority will not change.
Rather than focus on the 90 percent that revert back to their old ways, I’d like to focus on the 10 percent who do change. Now, I’m making an assumption that what holds true for bypass patients is reflective of society as a whole, which admittedly is a big assumption. But humor me for a moment because I do believe that a correlation does exist.
Those folks who change and stay changed have several qualities in common. First and foremost I believe this 10 percent has a different thought process. They can see the “Big Picture” and know how they fit into it. They think about how things can be; not dwelling on the unknown, but rather they allow the “how it can be” to guide their thoughts.
This 10 percent is also very optimistic. They are not Pollyannaish but can see how a change impacts them in a positive manner. If there is uncertainty, they will work through the uncertainty and again rationalize how things will be after the change. If there is a perceived negative outcome then this 10 percent develops a plan to mitigate the negative or they view the change as “the lesser of 2 evils” and are satisfied that this is actually a positive course of action to undertake.
The other factor that I’ve noticed is that this 10 percent questions popular thinking, which can be unpopular with the other 90 percent. History abounds with change embracers – people like Wilbur and Orville Wright and others who imagined human flight, Henry Ford who saw a motoring public, and more recently folks such as Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame, Larry Page and Sergey Brin – Google those two, or many of the social entrepreneurs who have a vision for things such as clean water throughout Africa, those who are engaging solutions to end hunger, and so on.
I’m reminded of a quote by John Maynard Keynes – “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from the old ones.” Yes, change can be uncomfortable, but I imagine that dying from a heart attack isn’t very comfortable either.