When I was a kid, I noticed that there were two types of people when it came to swimming: Those who started in the shallow water, taking their time as they slowly waded to the deeper area, and those who jumped right into the deep end.
I was a jumper. In fact, for the first part of my life, I’d say I was definitely a dive in head-first girl, gobbling up new adventures and opportunities as though they were Girl Scout cookies.
Wading just wasn’t for me. The prospect of a slow entry into the water (or any change, for that matter) equated to torture in my book.
As an adult, I began to recognize the merits of the wading approach. Here I got to test the waters before taking the plunge.
This approach offered the opportunity to coarse correct along the way, and there was always the option to change my mind and get out of the water before having to fully commit to a full soaking.
Both approaches have their merits, and both have their drawbacks.
Sometimes a thoughtful approach makes sense, but the hidden risk of over-thinking, stagnation or a complete stall is a frequent lurker.
Whereas a leap-of-faith prevents us from overthinking, but can also lead to disastrous outcomes. The faster the decision the more potential for mistakes, and the bigger the change the greater the risks.
Why does it have to be one way or the other?
It seems our culture promotes the idea that we must subscribe to one preference or the other; however, as I am a big believer in the power of context, I propose that when it comes to our own changes, a both/and instead of an either/or approach is the way to go.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re married with two small children and you want to take a trip to Rio De Janeiro.
In the past, when you were single, you might have taken advantage of inexpensive flights and traveled with little planning or foresight, figuring you could just stay at a hostel.
But with a family, and especially young children, it might make more sense to, at a minimum, plan ahead by finding a decent hotel, reliable transportation to and from the airport, and perhaps the most direct flights to minimize disruptions.
If you’re traveling to Rio on your own, however, leaving the family at home, you might decide on a hybrid of these two approaches. You might want more adventure but perhaps not to the same extent as when you were younger. You might want the comforts of a nice hotel, but getting there from the airport isn’t as big of a concern.
Even if your change has little to do with that example, the point remains; sometimes it makes sense to be more planful and slow the pace of your change down, and other times it might be better to act first and deal with the details later.
Which approach is best is very much determined by you and your specific situation.
How well do you know your hidden drivers?
What it really comes down to, however, is knowing yourself well enough to realize when slow is good and when fast is good, as well as the potential pitfalls of each as they apply to you.
These things will help you as you design your test drive to change, which is the topic of our next post.
When we take a car for a test drive, sometimes what surfaces is an inner conflict between should and want.
For example, let’s say we decided to test out a Prius, but we do so because we think it’s practical and makes the most sense for our lifestyle. But what we secretly want is the fast, slightly dangerous, high performance driving experience of a Ferrari.
So when we take the Prius for the drive while dreaming of the Ferrari, it’s pretty likely the Prius experience will fall flat.
Same thing goes if we find ourselves behind the wheel of a Ferrari when what we really want is something we can drive safely in the winter. If you’re not accustomed to winter driving, let’s just say the Ferrari is rarely anyone’s go-to vehicle.
How preferences can inadvertently drive us off a cliff.
Now let’s take a look at how this works with change.
Let’s say you think of yourself as a jump in head-first sort of person and you’ve decided you want to lose some weight.
So you abruptly change your diet, join a gym, buy workout clothes and new food. You’re motivated at first, but as most of us know, losing weight is a long-term project, not something that will garner positive results in the first week, or even the first month.
Meanwhile, other aspects of your life stay the same, including all of your other habits and routines, your love of certain foods, things you do in your work and free time.
Your will-power is regularly put to the test, which drains you of energy and weakens your resolve. Your momentum soon wanes and you eventually ditch the diet in favor of a couch, television, chips and a beer.
Or perhaps you identify more with the cautious approach.
You decide you want to lose weight so you dig into the various diet options available, reading reviews, forums, and so on.
Then you research gyms in the area, the various approaches, what works what doesn’t and why. From there you research the various clothing options. You do a cost/benefit breakdown of the food requirements for each diet you’re considering to help you make a quantified, practical decision.
Except by the time you’ve gathered all of your research together, it’s March, and other priorities have slowly seeped in to the picture, demanding your attention.
Or if you do start the diet, you find your heart just isn’t in it any more all your efforts are lost by the wayside.
The merits of taking change out for a spin.
This is where test driving our change comes in.
It can work with both fast and slow decision-making styles, as long as we can convince ourselves that we don’t have to do everything all at once or in a specific sequence. More about this and how to do it in our next post.
How to get a handle on your change preferences.
For now, here are some tips to increase your awareness of your preferences for change, as well as under which contexts they mainly apply:
Most of these were decisions I made to change, and for the most part went smoothly. Decisions for change that were made for me, however, not so much.
One of the things highlighted for me when doing this exercise, was how often I would have preferred to go faster but couldn’t because others wanted to go slower, or the other way around.
This is good information to document too, because most of our changes in some way affects others, and if they have a different preference than ours, it is something that can be incorporated into the test drive.
Coming up next, how to design a test drive that works for you.
If you haven't already signed up for the free PDF Preparing For Change, grab the opportunity while it lasts!
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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