Saturday, March 05, 2005
Changing habits of a lifetime
'Habits are at first cobwebs then chains.'
Change is really about confronting the power of habits.
Everyone has no trouble in articulating what ought to be done but putting ideas into action is a different thing all together. Transformational change is not easy. Every year principals all around the world go an annual educational crusades (Conferences) to seek the ‘holy grail’ of educational reform, but on the way back most of the enthusiasm for new ideas are lost and little changes.
Even if the ideas reach the school the chances of implanting new ideas are still low.
What gets in the way of change are unexamined habits. If we have been doing things in a certain way long enough it becomes the only way. Breaking these habits needs a concerted effort not just by an individual by everyone involved.
Change is both simple and not easy. It is simple to say, ‘I must give up smoking’, but giving up an addictive habit is difficult. There are all sorts of reasons why it is hard to a change even a simple habit like smoking.
The simple part is recognizing the need for change but the hard bit is actually changing habits that we are often unaware we use. Until we are prepared to uncover our hidden assumptions and habits and face up to current reality little will change. Facing up to reality is never easy.
To ensure change sticks we need to be held accountable to new ideas and this requires we listen to feedback from others. More often than not we soon slip back into old habits if there is no pressure. It is also important to realize that our failures are part of the process and need to be seen as learning experiences and not excuses to give in. Real change is never going to be easy. As they say ‘no pain no gain’.
The key to real change, once the need has been defined, is to work with others to keep us on track. In a school this could mean defining agreed teaching beliefs and then being held accountable through mentoring, class sharing visits, and agreeing to some form of observation of indicators of change. We all need to be held to the new ‘story’ to resist slipping back into old ways.
It is very important to be clear about the changes required.
Being open to others help and support is not easy. It is said that changing the culture of any organization is ‘a journey of 1000 days’. It is far easier to find reasons not to change.
So if new ideas brought back from a conference are to implemented time will be needed to share the ideas so all see the purpose of the changes.This will require leadership. Real leaders are people whose actions align with their beliefs and who can articulate a better future for their organization – one that can be seen to benefit all.
The power of habit (or the current culture or ‘status quo’) is so strong that it will require more than integrity from leaders; it will also require determination and courage. Change comes with a price and people who have been ‘successful’ in the old ways will be reluctant to change, no matter what they say.
Change is about challenging the power of unexamined habits.
Until this is done things will never change.