Change Choices & Questions

If life is perfect for you, please STOP READING! On the other hand, if there are bits really not quite right, then DO SOMETHING, perhaps starting by (or continuing, to be exact) reading this page.

If you are still reading, I’d like to point out that you took a decision, the maximum negative consequence or which is a lost 5 minutes and the maximum potential gain, is a life transformation for the better. That makes it a good, and safe, decision. If only they were all as easy, especially when it comes to personal change.

Whgen facing the potential or necessaity to change, you have a choice – change or don’t. It’s your choice. Neither choice is fundamentally more risky than the other and yet FOR YOU, one choice will be ‘right’ and by ‘right’ we mean lead to a better outcome for you. The challenge you face is that this is a bit like advertising, in which it is commonly regarded that 50% is wasted… we’re just not sure which 50%. Unlike advertising, where sticking with 100% of it just costs you money, the wrong choice on personal change can wreck life, careers, relationships and more. THAT is why it is so stressful and why we so frequently get it so wholly wrong. This page is about simplifying the process of making sensible, advised changes. We hope it helps.

The Decision to Change

Surprisingly, change happens instantaneously, in the moment of COMMITMENT to a DECISION. That decision can either be to change, or not to change but regardless of which, the SENSIBLE decision is an active. The decision to change is always active but the decision not to is more frequently passive, taking the form of procrastination, wait and see, simply not taking an active decision etc. This is about RISK, which we’ll discuss more further down the page, but it is ill-advised because we so frequently associate it with LESS risk than changing when in fact not changing can be as catastrophic as the wrong change. Moreover, a passive ‘no change’ leaves you at the mercy of circumstance…

ADVICE: All change and especially no change should be ACTIVE.

To approach change actively, we break it down into 3 basic questions, which in reality could also be classed as levels of engagement in change:

  1. Should I change?
  2. If yes, to what degree?
  3. How should I tackle that to maximise upside and limit downside?

CRITICAL ADVICE: Minimum risk comes from assessing 1 i.e. should I change, independently of the others. It’s a binary choice and if you are doing it right, it’s a basic but authentic assessment of the risks and consequences of staying the same over the potential opportunities, as well as risks and consequences, associated with an alternative.

Whereas it’s a decision that is influenced iteratively by your potential choices, in reality the single biggest component should be the consequences of continuation i.e. no change. Sadly, I know individuals who are currently at severe risk of health decline, divorce, burn out and litigation from errors who are still ‘worried’ about the consequences of changing. That’s not a criticism. It’s an illustration of just how our neurobiological make up runs contrar to our own wellbeing. I hope that this isn’t you but if it is, STOP and just think about that for a moment.

Crocodiles & Cortexes

Risk is our friend… and our worst enemy. At the friendly level, it is designed to improve our survival chances by alerting us to the potential for harm, historically from a creature with a different time horizon for our longevity. In the presence of such a creature, it returned a fairly binary choice – run or fight – depending on a micro-assessment, more subconscious and instinctive than conscious, of the attributes of the threat. Even back then, no change (freeze/paralysis) was frequently associated with becoming something’s lunch. This reptillian part of our brain, the oldest in evolutionary terms, was designed to cope with simple, binary choices of one particular nature – physical threat. It’s brillaince was its simplicity. No active reflection, no chance of procrastination, no real gap between decision and implementation, just a near-instantaneous survival system for a simple world.

Enter complexity…

Your crocodile is now actually your greatest risk. Why? Because it mishandles the one of the most important dimensions of personal change because it was never designed to handle it. That dimension is the change versus no change question. It mishandles it for the following two reasons:

  • Risk from ‘no change’ is rarely immediate or physical, whereas ‘to change’ is seen as a present time event
  • Because you have survived (in the basic physiological sense) in recent times with your present, it pretty much always judges the unknown as more risky than that known present

Our risk choices are not simply fight or run, be eaten or not. If we take work-place risk, associated with say overwhelming load, we derive both risk (collapse, burn-out, MI etc) AND benefit (salary, pension etc) from the very same source. Of course, the crocodile mishandles that by telling you that you already get the salary and the pension, wheres the divorce is only a ‘might’ event. But surely that is real? True, but what it doesn’t account for is that you might actually be about to be handed a divorce, in reality, and you don’t necessarily ‘risk’ your salary and pension by making a change.

If you return to the last paragraph of the previous section, you will realise that the NHS is currently filled with individuals worried about the potential impact of changing, whilst, if we are honest, they are virtually guaranteed of adverse impacts of not taking action. THAT is how unhelpful the crocodile is.

ADVICE: It is imperative that you learn just how to determine true risk, including parking that crocodile and thus returning to authentic evaluation underpinning decisions made without emotion. That’s the cortex in play and unless we become overrun with fierce creatures, it will remain your friend from here onwards.

The Degree of Change

Having discussed the decision to change and what tends to stand in its way, let’s consider the degree of change. Addressing that crocodile again, the greater the potential degree of change, the greater the level of risk the crocodile brain will assign to it. Consequently, it is helpful to break change down into its degrees. We define these as:

  • In role incremental adjustments (almost all within your immediate control)
  • In role frameshift (for instance, changing hours, responsibilities etc)
  • Life frameshift (major life changes from a new employer to a new country or career)

Often the least risk is associated with the least level of change but we have to balance that with the fact that the least level of change also tends to limit the degree of opportunity. As an illustration, I know an individual who has considerably boosted their income, replaced snow and ice with temperatures that rarely fall below 20 degrees and radically transformed their work-life balance BUT who had to ‘give up’ a senior position, crystalise their NHS pension and move, a considerable distance. Former colleagues ‘admire’ the outcome of the change but why did this individual successfully ‘do’ what any of them could have? The answer is in the very first part of our page – FIRST decide whether change is warranted and THEN decide what that change needs to be. This individual assessed that continuation of the present represented the greatest risk, if not guaranteed consequences. It was then just more about the degree, which should be based on its ability to a.) address the risk and b.) end up with the best outcome.

Pulling these insights together, an authentic assessment of risk arising from not changing, which is underpinned by an unemotional and authentic evaluation of circumstances, data, evidence and signals, allows you to take a decision to change or not. It also allows you to address the degree of change by asking yourself:

  • Does this degree of change adequately address the risk?
  • Does this degree of change, actually produce what I want?

The answer to these helps elicit the degree that is most advisable (no point at all in making a change that doesn’t deliver what you want or adequately address the risk) and thus leaves you with a much narrower scope of ‘what to do’ choices that are ‘in the right range’ based on your circumstances.

Help & Support

We have some suggestions…

True Decision Support

If you know you struggle with that crocodile brain or would just find it easier to be hand-held through a robust process, have a look at our coaching programme designed to absolutely address that issue:

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Understanding NHS System Risk

We have two suggestions to help deepen your understanding. One is short, sharp immersion in the form of a 1-day programme and the other is a book, which will also help with better understanding the behavioural challenges too.

The Course
Comprehensive, always up-to-date, unbiased, with an emphasis on interpretation underpinned by facts.

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The Book
Although it was first published 2 years ago, it’s predictions have been remarkably accurate, its conclusions remain absolutely valid and its thinking is just as invaluable. In fact, in seeing how the predictions have unfolded and why, whilst you add in the new data from today, it provides a richness of understanding that few sources can match.

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Reducing Personal Risk

Our ground-breaking course can be literally life-saving. We all know what stress can do but faced with our current set of circumstances, few know how to address it. This is practical but hard-hitting. It results in real change irrespective of your circumstances. We get lots of gratifying feedback!

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Optimising Current Circumstances

Our time management programme has been recommended more than anything else we do. We regularly get letters and thanks for what it has done for people. It has a heavy focus on work-life balance and making real, practical changes to behaviour and approach that have lasting benefits.

NOTE: The course is on special offer at £165 + VAT until 19th January 2018 only