How long is it going to take?

Opportunity, rise and improvement concept

I am in the change business. I have been most of my life. In my work as a transformational coach, I help individuals move from where they are in their personal and professional lives, to where they want to be. As a business consultant, I help develop start ups and initiatives. I help my clients develop powerful, ethical, effective marketing that boosts sales. As a communications consultant, I help my clients become better communicators. As a technology specialist in the broadcast, AV and Media Centric IT world, I help clients built breaking edge facilities.

One of the questions that I am almost always asked is “How long will it take?”

When we want change, real change, we are often anxious to make that change happen, and happen now. The problem is, substantive change takes time.

One of my coaching clients recently challenged me on this. “But you can change a habit in 21 days!” he told me. And that is true. It just is not the whole truth.

We can change habits. We can change methods of working and workflows, but just making the changes does not create the full fledged change we want to happen. I don’t care if we are individuals or mega-corporations. Changing habits. Changing how we do things. Changing technologies is only a small part of gaining the substantive, transformative change we want.

The problem is human nature.

We resist change. Even when we say we want it, it’s hard. Part of us likes the comfort of the old ways. And if we as individuals like the safety of sameness, how much harder is it to overcome that part of human nature when we have an organization of ten, or a hundred, or a thousand individuals. We resist change even as we want it. And so we may change what we do, but part of our minds are still pushing back. We have to give change time. We can change everything, anything we want, but try and change too fast and something in us revolts.

The secret then, is to make the change in slow, steady steps. Give our minds and hearts time to absorb the changes, to internalize them. It takes time, not just for a habit to change, but to have that change become…. comfortable.

It also takes, consistency.

Too many clients, in all of the venues I work, stutter step their way to change. Two steps forward, resistance, one step back, repeat. They ignore proven processes that work. They get lazy, or afraid, or just plain stubborn. (I do stubborn really well, alas.). Because of that old friend, resistance, we self-sabotage. We find ways to be too busy to do what we need to do. And all of that slows the process down. Sometimes, it kills the transformation altogether.

It takes faith

It takes the faith to keep at it. Because at first, the going is slow. At first, there seems to be little progress. Transformation takes time and builds on itself. There is a tipping point, a point where everything starts to come together and suddenly, the changes transform us – people, organizations. Once that tipping point happens, it’s dizzying, exhilarating, and a little scary. But it gets us where we want to be.

Here’s what I have learned in over 35 years of being at the center of transformations in technology systems, companies and individuals. When someone asks me how long it will take, the answer is always the same.

Six months to a year…. If.

  • If we invest in the right pre-planning and defining the vision.
  • If we commit ourselves to the process of change.
    If we work regularly and consistently
    If we keep the faith and don’t give up.

Do those things and the answer is six months to a year. That’s what 35 years has taught me. Do the right things and that is how long it takes. Don’t and it takes longer, or it simply doesn’t happen. Which leaves us with the question of how we see that timeline. Do we moan and say that’s too long? Or do we say “That’s all? Let’s get going!”

Which way do you react?

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom“>Magnetic compass on a world map

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