Embracing Creative Change

Ever notice how people and organizations love creative ideas, but hate to change? We all have been in situations where change is needed, but executing the change seems too hard.

In her book, Creative Change: Why we resist it . . . How we can embrace it, Jennifer Mueller writes about her research and learning on the subject of creativity. I apply it to the job search. At one point she writes:

People make creative change only when they realize their current definitions are blocking them from achieving what they want. Our current definitions have to fail in some respect. When the status quo is unacceptable, we have no choice but to broaden our thinking

Hope for the future necessarily means that you want something better than what you have right now. By challenging our conventional wisdom, we open up ourselves to that brighter future.

But we face roadblocks to that brighter future in our own thoughts. “I’ll never find a job that pays as well as this one”. “I hear it takes months to find a new job, I can’t do that.” “I am only a (marketer, or accountant or project manager, etc.)”. “They will never consider someone like me”. “I don’t even know what I want to do or who to talk with.” Every one of those statements, and the hundreds more we create, can be challenged and creatively changed. While they represent the status quo, that is simply “the existing state of affairs”.

If you look at the phrase “status quo”, neither “reality” or “destiny” are synonyms.

Where you are, and what you do, today are simply fixed points in time. Your current state can change!

She goes on to writes this in the next paragraph. This is the really hard part:

Even people who are entrenched in their status quo beliefs – beliefs that have existed for a long time  – can still redefine and embrace creative change. But when people hold fast to a given definition about the world, they don’t change because they want to. They don’t change if they know change is the right thing to do. They don’t change if they know the benefits and costs of staying put. They only change if they feel something. They change when they feel embarrassed, frustrated or ashamed of the status quo. 

I have met and talked to a lot of people who are “not where they want to be in life”, but seemingly cannot move away from it. This paragraph gets at a key point that may explain why they don’t change. Intellectually, people may recognize the need for change, but it takes more. Logic may clearly point to change as the reasonable course. Even a cost/benefit analysis may lean towards change. But none of those may drive the needed change.

I believe the author is arguing you have to reach that emotional spot that demands change, you have “felt something”, to use the author’s words. The emotions she mentions – embarrassment, frustration or ashamed – are very strong emotions. But it is the strength of those emotions that allow us to overcome our intellectual mind. That is not easy. But it is a path out of the jungle for those struggling with a career or a job that is unsatisfying.

So how do you make progress?

She poses a simple question to ask ourselves – and maybe also ask our friends and colleagues about us: “What definitions or assumptions are holding me back?” It might be your definition of “job” (“oh, it is just something I need to do to pay the bills and give me benefits”). It may be your definition of your skills and talents. Sometimes it is the assumption that whatever else that I want to do is too hard to get to. It may be your assumptions about what’s out there and the fear of the unknown. But those are all simply assumptions.

“What definitions or assumptions are holding me back?”

To break through those very strong, intellectual assumptions takes something equally strong. Perhaps the time has come to confront your own definitions and assumptions. This confrontation may be enough to create those emotions so essential to creative change.


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