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Is it time for change in your life? Here’s how to know

People continue to do what they have always done, or believe what they have always believed, because they never question it

David Rigby

Published: Updated:

In my good old days as a change management consultant, in order to understand what an organization did, we would talk to the staff and ask:

• What do you do?

• How do you do it?

• Why do you do it?

The last question usually got blank stares, followed by: “Because we always have.” Or they had no idea how performing one task fitted in with any of the other tasks. Ask someone in a supermarket why they chose a particular brand of soap powder, and the answer will probably be either:

• Because we always have

• Because my mother did (and probably her mother before her)

This is because you do not want to re-evaluate every time or even anytime you shop. Something has to cause you to change. It may be a good offer in the supermarket, or that what you are doing at work is no longer effective because the outside world has changed.

People continue to do what they have always done, or believe what they have always believed, because they never question it. Some people set their values in their teens and never change. Some just do what they are told without question - no personal responsibility. It gives them someone to blame - “just following orders.”

Businesses can continue to do what they have always done until they go out of business. For example, Kodak stuck by their core business of traditional photographic film, and could see no pressure from competing technologies. As Kodak executives could not fathom a world without traditional film, there was little incentive to deviate from that course. In 2012, it went bankrupt.

Disruptive technology in this case was digital photography - doing the same thing in a completely different way. Other changes created a demand for things that did not previously exist - first radio, then portable radio, then TV. Personal computers, phones and mobile phones are other examples.

However, they satisfied un-thought-of needs. Whether you need a device to tell you what has gone off in the fridge is questionable, at least for my generation. If inventions are solutions looking for problems, they are likely to fail. Change management can often focus on doing things right, rather than doing the right things. The same goes for real life.

What can you do?

• Understand, review or determine your goals, vision and beliefs

• From time to time, look at your ingrained habits and ask:

o What am I doing?

o Is this helping me achieve my goals?

o Why am I doing this, and for whom?

Quite often, people do things because they always have. They may be doing so to please someone else, without ever asking if it does. Take a mother who makes a specific desert for her son because he said he liked it when he was 14. He is now 40 and cannot stand it. He eats it to please her. Neither is prepared to talk about it.

Another example is a father who says: “You know it will please your mother” - he has no idea either. Just keep bringing your mother chocolates every week, even though she says she is on a diet. It can take courage to stop doing things for someone else, but sometimes it is right to focus on what you want.

This review can help you determine whether you are doing the right things for the right reasons, but are you doing them the right way? You may only have a hammer, so nails is your only solution. Identify the skills to learn, learn them and get new tools. For example, I learn new cookery skills by reading, watching others, watching TV and listening to the radio.

Sharpening the saw

This the seventh habit of Covey’s “seven habits of successful people.” Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.

• “I’m sawing down this tree.”

• “You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”

• “Over five hours.”

• “Why don’t you sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”

• “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says. “I’m too busy sawing!”

Sharpening the saw is about renewing yourself physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Take time out to review what, how and why you are doing everything. Ramadan is the perfect time for this.