Are you the sort of person that welcomes or resists change? Are you always setting new goals for yourself and thinking about hopes for the New Year? Lose weight? Be kinder? Save more money, or any money for that matter? Enjoy life more? Learn a new language?

I have been thinking recently how bad I am at implementing change, and yet the more I am in leadership the more I realize how vital it is to the life of the leader and the organization to learn both how to respond to and initiate change.

I can name only a few people who have really changed their lives recently. Most of us put up with things for far too long; we do not initiate change, and we are not great at responding to it when it is forced upon us. And when change does take place it seems to be taking for ever to be really visible and worthwhile.

I have realized that change is a part of life and I must not resist it; I must learn to respond to it well and even sometimes to initiate it myself. Maybe Heraclitus was right: “There is nothing permanent expect change.” And if this is true then we better learn to live with it.

Leading an organization has taken a toll on my health. Two years ago I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, prescribed meds and told to lose weight. Two years on, I have only lost a tiny amount of weight, I am still on meds, with my blood pressure dangerously high and other complications this brings with it. Many leaders are putting their health at risk because of the way they work and deal with stress; their schedules are too full, they do not know how to rest when they have opportunity, and most of all they do not know how to change.

Why is it so many of us cannot implement lasting change even though we really want to? Why do so many New Year Resolutions fall to the ground? What takes place (or doesn’t take place) in us, in our thinking, perceiving and acting?

In this blog series we will explore the need to change, the practical ways in which we can change, and how to enjoy the lasting impacts of change.

I found this book very helpful: Immunity To Change: How to overcome it and unlock potential in yourself and your organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. Here is a quote from it:

“Not long ago a medical study showed that if heart doctors tell their seriously at-risk heart patients they will literally die if they do not make changes to their personal lives—diet, exercise, smoking—still only one in seven is actually able to make the changes. One in seven! And we can safely assume that the other six wanted to live, see more sunsets, watch their grandchildren grow up. They didn’t lack a sense of urgency. The incentives for change could not be greater. The doctors made sure they knew just what they needed to do. Still, they couldn’t do it.

“If people cannot make the changes they dearly want to when their very lives are on the line, then how can leaders at any level, in any kind of organization, expect to successfully support processes of change—even those they and their subordinates may passionately believe in—when the stakes and the payoff are not nearly as high? Could it be any clearer that we need some new ways of understanding what prevents and enables our own change?

“As with the heart patients, the change challenges today’s leaders and their subordinates face are not, for the most part, a problem of will. The problem is the inability to close the gap between what we genuinely, even passionately, want and what we are actually able to do. Closing this gap is a central learning problem of the twenty-first century.”

Joanna has a passion for mentoring female leaders to become mentors for a new generation. She is a founding director of One Rock, a board member of Renovare UK, a lecturer with Westminster Theological College, and is studying for a doctorate with Asbury Theological Seminary. She has written a biographies on Hudson Taylor and Amy Carmichael.

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