Uncomfortable. Different. Progress.

I turned down a client today. That’s kinda rare.

He had an interesting project. It would have been a good stream of work for several months. I’ve known the client for years and I know I’d enjoy working with him. But there was a problem.

He’s working for a new company (new to him) who desperately needs to make changes to their marketing. They know that what they have done for the past four years has not worked. “Something,” he told me when he first contacted me, “has to change.” When he ran the numbers by me, it was clear he was right. This is right up my alley – change, growth, all the stuff I love to do and am good at.

But the problem started this morning when we began mapping out strategy to begin. I’d make a suggestion and he’d say “We can’t do that. They don’t want that to change.” I’d make another and he’d say the same thing. After half an hour of this, it became clear. What they wanted was a change in results, without actually changing anything.

That doesn’t work. If we want change, be it in our business, our lived or our faith, then we actually have to change something. We have to invest in the change. We have to rethink what we do with our time and resources. We have to look at different approaches. We have to upset a few people’s applecarts and sacred cows. We have to allow ourselves or our organizations become….. uncomfortable.

That uncomfortableness comes from being in unfamiliar territory. It comes from not knowing if our changes will work or not. It comes from fear of failure. It comes from being afraid of upsetting someone else. There’s a long list of fears that make us uncomfortable, and change stirs them all up.

And man, we hate to be uncomfortable. But sooner or later, if we want to grow, either in numbers (companies, churches, other organizations) or personally (grow professionally, more creatively, in faith) we have to allow that uncomfortableness. If there is no uncomfortableness, there is no change.

I have learned, in my roles as a consultant, a life coach, a pastor and a parent, and in my own life, that being uncomfortable is part of growth. It’s kind of like when a kid is in a growth spurt. Suddenly they become a little clumsy. Their legs and arms and feet aren’t where they used to be, so they stumble. They run into things. They trip up the stairs until their mind catches up with the physical growth. It’s not a good thing, but it’s an inevitable part of growth.

And it is the same when we want to grow ourselves or the groups we are part of. It’s just plain uncomfortable to deal with. And often that uncomfortableness is rooted in fear. So the question is, what are we going to do about it? Is the change we want worth walking through the valley of fear for a while?

For many, it is not. They put in all their restrictions and things that are sacred and narrow the path so narrowly that there is no path, no real path, to change. top whatever they say they want. And for those, one of two things happens. Either they simply stay where they are, flatlined as a business or flatlined as a person, or living with a place where everything stays the same, or (and this is more common), there is a slow erosion in their life or their work or their business and at some point, it all collapses.

Here’s a freebee – Having it collapse is way more than merely uncomfortable.

In a month, we begin the new year. The New Year is traditionally a time of reflection, of rethinking, or beginning again. It is the right time to ask ourselves what we are going to do DIFFERENTLY this year. How are we going to move past the things that have held us back.

If we are a company does that mean change in focus, change in marketing, change in processes, change in what we do or the target markets we go after? Does it mean a change in personnel . or what different people do inside the organization? Do we need to help our people grow? How? Do we even know what change would make the most difference? Do we have a clear picture of how to figure it out, or do we need help?

If we are an individual, does that mean a change in attitude, in moving past fears, in re-sorting how we spend our time or our money? Does it mean a sustained period of reflection? Are we clear-eyed enough to know what needs to be worked on, or do we need someone outside to help us sort through it? Are we willing to make an investment in growth?

What we can’t do is the same old thing. That gets us nowhere. But that’s what most of us end up doing. If that’s what we choose, we’re in good company. That’s where most of the world lives. That’s why companies slowly die. That’s why people lose their passion, their creative spark, their joy, their progress.

So, as we enter the Christmas Season, and head towards the new year, spend some time being honest with yourself. Do you want things in your life to change? Or not? And if so, what are you willing to do differently?

Happy thinking! (And you can be sure I’ll be looking at the same thing in my own life and work.).

Wish me luck. And a client who gets that change means…. change.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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