"A body at rest will stay at rest unless a external force acts upon it"
First Law of Motion ~ Sir Isaac Newton
Although it’s the middle of summer, many times when I arrive at my office in the early morning I find that it’s almost a bit chilly due to the overnight cooling that has taken effect the night before.
Therefore, I rarely find a reason to switch on the air conditioning first thing.
As the morning continues, the overcast skies begin to give way to sunshine and my office begins to warm up with the ambient temperatures outside.
Now, the thermostat that controls the HVAC in my office is on the other side of the room. So this means that I need to get up from what I’m doing at my desk and make the trek across the room to switch on the air conditioning.
As I begin to think about getting up from my desk, the phone rings and I take a call.
After a few minutes on the phone, I hang up... thinking only about the new task that the caller asked to complete... forgetting completely about how warm my office has become.
After a short time, I begin to feel a bit warm again and I think that I’ll now go and turn on the cool air... as soon as I’m finished with the e-mail that I’m working on...
This process continues until one of my coworkers opens the door to my office and exclaims how hot it is and how can I possibly work under such conditions.
I tell her that I am indeed uncomfortable but I wanted to finish this task first as not to get sidetracked. She gives me a wry look... takes three steps toward the wall... and switches on the air.
"Was that so hard?", she asked, "sometimes I can’t believe how lazy you can be".
She was right... it wouldn’t have taken more than 15 seconds to walk over to the thermostat and get back to my desk... but I just couldn’t compel myself to act... even if it was to change an uncomfortable situation.
The Change Formula
Why is it that we have this great inertia toward change?
Several years ago, two professors, Richard Beckhard and Rueben Harris, while at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, developed a mathematical formula to predict change both in individuals as well as in organizations.
Their findings created a very simple algebraic equation that describes how change works:
C = D x V x A > R
Change will occur when the product of Dissatisfaction multiplied by Vision multiplied by Action is greater than the Resistance.
Dissatisfaction x Vision x Action > Resistance
In order for change to occur... there needs to be a certain level of dissatisfaction with the way things currently are...
When I first walked into my office, I was not necessarily dissatisfied with the temperature of the room. Therefore I had no reason to change the current status quo.
Later as the room warmed up... I became dissatisfied with my comfort... but I still didn’t act to create change in my environment.
Vision is imagining how things will be after the change occurs...
As I sat at my desk feeling uncomfortable, I could imagine what it would be like with a cool office.
Action is about having a clear path and taking a first step. It is overcoming the inertia of doing nothing.
I already knew the process of relieving my discomfort and creating my vision of a cool office. I could get up... walk over a few paces... and turn on the air conditioner.
I had the resources... (there was a working air conditioner waiting for me to turn it on)...
I had the knowledge... (I knew what to do)...
I had the ability... (I am able to get up from my desk and walk freely to the HVAC controls)...
I needed to take action...
Although I had all of the change elements present, I still didn’t make the change because the product of those three variables were not greater than my resistance (or in my case... laziness).
Since Dissatisfaction, Vision, and Action are a product of one another... if any one of those variables is zero (or a very small fraction)... the entire product becomes zero (or approaches zero) and the resistance to change will never be overcome.
Change will only happen when all of the factors are great enough to overcome the resistance (or when one or two of the factors become extremely large as to cancel out the other factors).
Now if you’ve read this far... you’re probably saying to yourself... yeah but the overly simple example of changing the temperature in one’s office is rather silly and inane... no one really consciously goes through this decision formula to figure out whether they will turn on the air conditioner in the morning.
Okay... so let’s look at some larger decisions that we might end up making in our lives...
How about some bigger life decisions... such as the decision to go to college and selecting a career path... to get married... to have a child... to change careers... to buy a house... to place your parents into an assisted living residence... to terminating a life support device for a loved one...
These are big decisions that have life altering ramifications...
In these cases the resistance to change could be great... to overcome this resistance... there has to be a certain level of dissatisfaction with the status quo... there needs to be a vision of what the future will look like... and there needs to be a plan of action...
Changes are occurring around us every minute of every day...
We can choose to embrace the change by lowering our resistance or eventually our dissatisfaction, vision, and actions will help us to overcome the resistance... and allow us to make the changes we need to make.
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse, where we hope that you decide to make the right changes in order to live a better life.
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