Transitions Suck

We don’t resist change. We resist transitions.

Change is exciting. There is the possibility of something new. There is the possibility to fix something that is not working. There is the possibility to make improvements. The reality is that when most people or organizations are presented with the possibility of change there is uninformed optimism.

Then, as they start to change, they experience informed pessimism. Why? Is it because change is hard? Is it because they think they were lead to a place because of lies, spin or misinformation?

Here are some thoughts for you to consider:

  • You tried to change people. People cannot be forced or coerced to change – over the long term. They cannot be bribed or bargained with to change – over the long term. If change is going to last and have benefits, people can only choose to change. That comes from facts, appealing to personal values, and assessing needs. They must feel the change is important to them, and they must feel they are ready to make the change.
  • You had a great plan. But you forgot to socialize it with people. Or, you neglected to invest in training to help them understand how to achieve what you wanted done that is different. They see the change as representing you, not representing them or their skill set/knowledge.
  • You forgot that misery loves company, and that one person disgruntled by change tried to find others feeling the same way. In the absence of finding other disgruntled people they tried to create some resentment. You failed to create a safe space for people to air their dissenting opinions.
  • You failed to realize that there are existing commitments that are stronger than the commitment to make a change. Think of the person that is more committed to high-calorie foods than healthy food, or more committed to sleep than getting up to go to the gym. It’s not that they do not like the idea of being fit and healthy, it’s just that they are more committed to things that get in the way of that.

If you look at all of the bullets above (which are not exhaustive) they lead to one point – people resisting transitioning to something new. Transitions suck. Yes, we are hardwired to consider the hypothetical. But we are also hardwired to be protective of our way of doing things and routines. If we want people to be malleable and consider the possibility of difference, we need to start from realizing that if change were easy accomplishing great feats and wrestling complex issues to the ground would be a piece of cake. It isn’t.


If this intrigued you, consider signing up for the OrgCode Leadership Academy on ending homelessness. You can get more info about it from the homepage of our website.

About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.

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