If we wish to find out what works, we must start with our
own values and personal situation. Marvin Weisbord
Change is all about learning new ways to feel, think and act. I am always seeking simple analogies that inspire me to understand my personal reactions to the world around me. In a stimulus-response world, particularly when the stimuli are coming at me fast and furious, I find it very helpful to have a framework or thought model within which to analyze my experiences. My friend and co-author, Carolyn Ordowich, recently reminded me of a simple and elegant model of change. Claes Janssen’s 4 Rooms of Change provides a relatively simple self-awareness tool, which is applicable at a personal, interpersonal and organizational level.
In interpreting Janssen’s theory, everyone lives in their own 4-room abode and, like any home, each room has a name that depicts our state of mind in response to some external situation—contentment, denial, confusion (chaos or conflict) and renewal (inspiration). Of course, we continually circulate from room to room as our external circumstances and energy change. Thus, we change rooms as we learn and grow.
When people’s energy is that of Contentment or Denial, the best response from any change agent is to support them where they are for as long as they need to be there without pressing for change. If people’s reasons for not letting go of the past are wrapped up in their feelings and perceptions, rational problem solving typically does not move them. Losses of identity, certainty and meaning create profound change and require patience more than persuasion.
We are all subject to anxiety and craziness under stressful conditions. People
need support to stay where they are a while longer under those conditions, not
admonitions to hurry up and change faster. Marvin Weisbord
On the other hand, the energy and focus for change abounds in Confusion and Renewal. As most of us know from personal experience, anxiety and crisis are huge motivators of change. Channeling the anxiety of uncertainty through an exploration of the unknown often inspires us to take action in new directions, which is where our greatest opportunity and success awaits. Confusion and Renewal are where change agents will get their biggest bang for their intervention buck. In time, even inspiration and innovation energy (Renewal) subside into the comfort of accomplishment, which returns us to Contentment where life is deemed good.
With a little modification, gratis of Carolyn Ordowich, the table below provides a framework for considering our personal reactions to change relative to our feelings, thoughts and actions. Keep in mind that our feelings give birth to our thoughts and actions so let’s start there. Imagine or recall an external circumstance in your life where change was required of you—a death in the family, a divorce, a job threat or loss, a merger or reorganization, a new leader, a new system, an economic or financial crisis. Use this circumstance to recall and record your feelings, thoughts and actions as you moved from denial and possibly anger through anxiety and confusion into new possibilities.
In the process of analyzing your own energy for change, what deeper awareness did you uncover? How can you apply this deeper learning to your present circumstances?
For more information on personal and system change, click here.