It’s so easy to say. It’s so hard to do. During change it’s often missed, forgotten about, skipped over, avoided, or put on the back burner. Yet it’s so critical to succeeding at your change.
Why is “stop” so important? It’s simple. Nothing is infinite. Time. Money. Open-heartedness. Energy. Focus. Capacity to adapt to change. Everything has limits. And, unless you are in the unusual position of being blessed with everything that you need to achieve your change without putting anything else aside, you need to think about–and act on–STOP.
First, a brief history lesson.
One of the forefathers of change management was William Bridges. More than 35 years ago, Bridges published Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Changes. Among the topics he covered: “stops, starts, stays.”
Addressing what you are going to start doing is a topic we have discussed before in several posts. The same is true about your anchors, the “stays.” However, we have said little about the “stops” until now.
Without STOP, you may start, but it is unlikely you will achieve lasting success. So, how do you decide what to stop during change? This post focuses on personal change; the process for executing “stop” in organizations is quite similar. (If you are interested in learning more about this, let me know and I can walk you through it.)
First, it is important to know what you are going to need more of in order to succeed. For purposes of this blog, let’s say that your change is going to require time, focus, a financial investment, and ability to adapt to change. (Don’t forget this last one…it is vitally important!)
Quantify them: let’s say you will need 15 hours/week of absolute focus; virtually all of your adaptation capacity, given how big the change is; and to cut your discretionary spending by 25%.
Now you are going to have to decide where these things are going to come from. None is available in the hall closet or on the store shelf. So what do you stop to free them up?
Begin with the time-wasters; that’s an easy one. Most of us have things we do, whether in our work lives or on our own time, that waste time. Perhaps you take public transportation, and spend 4 hours a week playing Sudoko during your commute. If that is 4 hours that you can invest in your change–and playing Sudoko is not a mental or spiritual practice–you are a quarter of the way there; but if its you can’t invest the time in this change, keep Sudoko going. (You don’t need more change.)
If the change is very big, chances are the time-wasters are not going to free up the time, focus, and financial resources that are needed; and, they don’t free up any adaptation capacity. So, now you have to start looking at the important things that you are doing.
Begin by listing them all out. Perhaps you go out weekly with close friends. One of my clients refers to these people as his “heart friends;” they are the people who are there for him through thick and thin. You spend time every week reading; sometimes it is casual and relaxing, and at other times it is work-related. Then there is the weekly sports activity: softball in the summer, bowling fall through spring. Finally, there are the plans you have been developing to launch your own business. None of these are the big change you are preparing for as you consider your “stops,” yet each of them is important.
Again, look at each one in terms of the resources you need to set free. Some of them require time, but not adaptation capacity; planning to launch your business has been burning adaptation capacity as well as time.
You may find something, or things, to stop that will free up the resources that you need. Or, perhaps, you just slow something down; for example, you may decide to move to every other week dining with heart friends, and talk with them about rotating hosting the dinners rather than going out. In this way you are freeing up some of the time, and some of the financial resources.
You will also need to put your personal business plans on hold. Right now, they are eating up adaptation capacity, and you have determined that you will need all of this you can muster.
What happens if you have squeezed all of the adaptation capacity, time, focus, and discretionary dollars you can out of the important things in your life, and it’s still not enough?
Now it is time to get to the really tough choices. Do you make adjustments to the new change that you are trying to launch so that the resources you have freed up are enough? Do you cut back on the time that you spend with your family? Do you postpone the vacation that you have been promising the family (and for which you have been planning together) over the past nine months? Do you set aside your spiritual practice to free up that time? Do you turn down the promotion that you have been offered that will increase your income, but demand additional adaptation capacity, time and focus?
If it is imperative that you succeed at this change, all of the above need to be on the table. If you can’t find enough to stop in order to free up all of the things that you will need, then it is quite simple. Prepare to fail. You may get part of the way there; you may get most of the way. But, no matter how important the change, no matter how much you believe in it, no matter what success means, if you don’t have the resources and the adaptation capacity to succeed, success is not possible.
Don’t breathe too easily. If you have freed up what you need, you still can’t rest easy. STOP is not “once and done.”
Now it is important to maintain vigilance. Things creep in. Perhaps a family member comes to you with a request for piano lessons, or a gym membership. Maybe the office moves, adding to your commute time (and eating up some of the time you have freed up for this change). Your mechanic is recommending that you replace the car, rather than the transmission. None of these has anything to do with the change that is your imperative; each of them puts it at risk.
Set aside time on a regular basis to assess whether you need to reassess your”stop” decisions again, whether you need to rethink your change, or whether you are still on track.
Share what you have learned in your experience about STOP and its impact on your change efforts.