It’s Friday night. Sally is out with her friends. They have sushi for dinner, drink a few glasses of wine. A little further down the sushi line, there are two guys, Fred and Freddy. Sally and Fred keep glancing and smiling at each other. When Sally is done eating, she excuses herself from her table and gets up. She looks great in her little black dress and silver high heels. Her long blond hair moving up and down while she walks down to the table towards Freddy. Fred and Freddy talk about how great their jobs are and what they want to do for vacation. Sally approaches Fred and Freddy, bends down to Fred and starts kissing him widely. He is startled, pushes her away. She falls to the floor and will never get up again.
What could have been the start of a great love story turned into an awkward, never to be repeated, worst idea ever, kind of situation.
What Sally forgot to do was taking the first step. Which is – in most cultures – to talk to him. Maybe they’d be married by now if she did.
Sally is not the only fool in the room though.
How you are Sally
When you try making change happen, you often act like Sally. You take the second step before the first one and probably don’t even know it.
Let me give you two examples.
Example #1: On a personal level – Eating Healthy
This is a very common goal for so many people. I kind of have to take it as a first example.
When was the last time you made the decision to change your diet.?
You might have read a great book using a new method. Your best friend lost 10 pounds in three days and you want to do the same. You saw a TV commercial that convinced you.
It’s Thursday and of course, you decide to start on Monday. You go grocery shopping to have everything that you need available. You are prepared when Monday comes. Or so you think.
Monday comes sooner than expected. But nonetheless. It’s going great. On Wednesday you doubt if what you are doing is right. On Friday you ditch the idea.
What did you miss? Spoiler alert: You missed the first step.
Let me give you another example.
Example #2: On an organizational level – Switching to self-organisation
Recently, there has been quite some fuzz about self-organisation. In volunteer work, it’s been common practice for quite some time. In organizations and companies, this is pretty new. The idea is to be free of hierarchy. No one is superior to another. People do what they consider important to do and do it. No single person is steering the boat, but everyone is steering it together.
Frederic Laloux describes companies that have started to put in place a self-organised structure. Brian Robertson’s Holacracy is one of the most known forms of self-organisation. Zappos are one of the most famous companies who applied it.
They stopped. It didn’t work for them. A lot of companies go back to the old way. The problem is that like Sally, the first step is missing. Maybe by know, you can imagine what it is…
The missing first step
What is missing, and you might have guessed this by now, is the necessary shift in the mindset.
If you want to change something. No matter if it’s on a personal, on an organizational, or on a systematic level, the first step you have to change, is the establishment of the “right” kind of mindset.
It all comes down to people and their way of thinking. Scientists confirm that out mindset determines how we think and act.
Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, distinguishes between two mindsets. A person with a Fixed Mindset perceives her skills and personality as unchangeable. If that person sucks at something, he or she will think it’s forever, just not good at it and will stop trying. A person with a Growth Mindset perceives her skills and personality as something that can be changed and trained. When these people suck at something they’ll think about what they can do to improve.
It doesn’t take rocket science to see that a Growth Mindset is the better choice.
But what are the mindset characteristics that make change come easy?
Three ingredients that make change easy.
“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who does not want to carry is own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” Eleanor Roosevelt
The key to making change happen is to take the responsibility of what is.
Responsibility is something you were trained not to take. It starts in first grade when you are made to learn. It goes on when you cross the street and you pay more attention to the traffic light than to your own judgment. When you are fat, you blame the foot instead of taking the responsibility and eat less. When you are sick, you rely on pills instead of on yourself. In the way, our system works we are trained to shift responsibility. And that’s why we keep complaining and have no idea how to actually change something.
We all know people who keep complaining about themselves, their organizations, and/or politics. Chances are pretty good that you are one of them.
If you are serious about changing any of those, start by saying “I am responsible, I’ll take care of it.”
This brings you to a position of possibility.
I’ve heard so many excuses from people not doing something because ____ fill in the blank. “because my partner eats crap, because my boss doesn’t want to, because the government is stupid”.
Things are not just happening to you. No matter how shitty the situation, make it your habit to believe that you are responsible. Because when you had the power to create the situation you have the power to change it, right?
Trust that what you do matters
If you believe that what you do doesn’t matter, you will stop trying before you started. The greatest people strongly believe that they have an impact and that their actions have consequences. Just believing in it is one thing. But it’s even scientifically “proven”.*
In “the Now Effect” Elisha Goldstein describes it as follows:
“When carbon atoms are arranged in a specific way, they make a diamond, but the diamond is not in each carbon atom. In the same way, each of our roles in mindfully engaging life can create a much larger social effect that is greater than each of us alone, having a significant influence on shaping our culture for the years to come and providing enormous healing.” The Now Effect
Social scientists ** conducted a study to look at the effect of real life social networks (so Facebook wasn’t included). They wanted to find out if there is a connection between obese people.
They mapped the relationships of 12k people who had more than 50k connections to other people. These 50k people were assessed repeatedly between 1971 to 2003. We all know that the kids of obese parents are more likely to be obese, too. And that often obese people tend to hang out together. What they also found in their research though was that it doesn’t stop with friends and family. Obesity was “contagious” to up to three degrees of separation. The same goes for loneliness. Every person in your life that feels great will increase your chances of feeling great too by 9%.
In other words: the way you behave can cause a ripple effect across your friends of friends of friends.
Give without expecting
You reorganize the whole office – nobody notices. You were awake all night to finish the flyer for the next demonstration – nobody will ever know, maybe nobody cares.
Stop blaming politicians, decision makers, or bosses for not asking your opinion. Say your opinion without being asked and take responsibility for the consequences.
If you really want to change something be willing to give in without receiving anything. Not even a thank you.
“Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.” Frank Clark
If you want to change the world, you have to make a shift in your mindset. You need to start taking the responsibility, you need to trust that what you do matters and you need to be willing to give in without necessarily receiving.
*Science doesn’t actually prove anything. It just gives an idea until this idea is disproven.
**Nicholas Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., and James Fowler, Ph.D