In order to create a shift, we must have a process for shifting. In fact, in order to accomplish anything, there must be a process. Regardless, our time-starved world keeps constantly looking for less process and more shortcuts. We have missed the point entirely.
Surrounded by pressure to change instantaneously, and pounded with promises of spontaneous fulfillment (fast food, instant messaging, on-demand classes, quick weight loss, immediate credit, and 5-minute fixes) it’s no wonder we just can’t wait. Yet high-speed satisfaction also demands a high price, ranging from a loss of privacy to serious financial or health risks.
In January’s “Shift” series, we are focusing on how to create meaningful personal and professional shifts. Surrendering to your process – and the time it takes – is the second shift generator.
Slow is the New Fast
The key to successfully navigating any process for optimal results is slowing down first, so you can speed up later. Master your method before you run with it. This is as true today as it was when the proverb, “haste makes waste,” was coined. Research shows that fast growth companies actually crash and burn at a much higher rate than their slow and steady counterparts (83% faster by some counts). That doesn’t stop so many of us from trying to “outpace the competition” every chance we get, however.
Today we are bombarded by constant messages telling us to speed up. Client project demands, go to market timeframes, delivery deadlines – all have real financial implications of we don’t deliver fast, efficiently and flawlessly. So, even if we are aware of the damaging cost of increasing our speed (e.g.: stress, compounding errors, skipping crucial, long-term strategy work) we still are tempted to try it anyway. The pressure to be the fastest at whatever we are doing is too great.
Recently I watched a young woman, well respected by her peers, move through her day, filled with intensely detailed work. She didn’t stop to eat. She seemed to be almost trembling as she raced through each task – talking out loud to herself as she checked her list, attempting to cut seconds out of each activity by grouping actions like a high-speed assembly line.
No one told her she had to operate at that speed. She chose to – and she did get an amazing amount of work done. Her peers gave her high praise for the amount of work she accomplished and how committed she was to her work.
Later I had the opportunity to tackle the same set of tasks she had been doing – only I did them slower. What was interesting was that, at my slower rate, I got done the same amount of work in the same timeframe – and sometimes more work. I even stopped to eat! How was this possible?
When we slow down, we have better focus. We are more fully present. Our bodies are not in a fight or flight mode, which actually damages our cognitive process.
So the irony is this: speeding up a process is not only less efficient, it has a diminishing return because of the physical toll it takes or the doer.
Enthusiasm for the Entire Process
Typically, we are all about the goal. The payoff at the end is what drives us. The in-between time required for getting to our end goal feels like “the price” we must pay for the prize we are after. But what if the process actually holds greater overall benefit than the goal?
The process is actually where the change happens. When we skip over the process, the change is unlikely to stick. Regularly clients come to me asking for a new brand strategy – which can often include a website. When we begin working on core, foundational work, such as clarifying company vision and values, identifying ideal customers, digging into strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats – they become itchy to “just get the website up.”
The process is actually where the change happens. When we skip over the process, the change is unlikely to stick.
These organizations want to leap over the strategic process, and get right to the tactical change. When they do leap past the foundation work, the result is typically just cosmetic. No real cultural shift has occurred – and branding is woven throughout the culture of any organization, not just the stylized face it presents to the world.
You can’t have the change you want, if you won’t surrender to the process. The change is in the process.
Enthusiasm for the entire process comes from two sources:
Understanding the importance of practicing new behaviors and perspectives for real change.
Believing that the end result is worth the investment.
If we don’t believe an end result is worth an investment of time and focus, then no matter how short the process, we won’t really show up for it. I’ve heard numerous clients tell me, when they looked at the steps to change, “I don’t know that I have the time for all that.” The issue is that to them, the objective wasn’t worth the effort. When that’s how we feel, we will be easily distracted and look for other, easier routes to satisfaction.
Likewise, if we think we can keep doing essentially the same thing over and over and will somehow get magically different results, then we have no clue of how change occurs. Change – real change – is an inside job. No one – no team member – no business coach – no outside consultant or agency – is going to be capable of changing you or your organization from the outside in. They can guide you or support you. But you must own your change, and get busy doing it differently. Change requires active participation.
The Process of Surrender
12 Step Recovery talks a lot about “surrender” – and many people initially confuse surrender with submission, or being beaten down, which sounds rather unpleasant. Nothing could be further from the truth. Surrender, unlike loss, is actually an uplifting and expansive idea.
When we surrender into any process – any change that is occurring – we relax. We are open. We are curious. We are willing to learn something new about ourselves, our motivations, and what we are truly capable of. We stop trying to control and manage what is essentially unmanageable, and we allow ourselves to become transformed by it instead.
That may seem like esoteric and heady stuff if you are in the middle of a departmental downsizing, or trying to launch your new software before your competitor does. But it isn’t.
When we are in the midst of change, reacting to the pressure doesn’t make us more efficient. Surrendering to it does.
Surrendering has two fundamental phases:
Phase 1: Acknowledging this [whatever situation is stressing you out] is simply the reality we are dealing with. In other words, it just is. We stop resisting what already exists.
Phase 2: Given the reality we are in, we then are empowered – yes, I said empowered – to make decisions and take appropriate actions that move us forward. When we are in this positive action mindset, we can own our process with grace and ease.
Resisting change does nothing to stop it. It only makes our own lives more painful and burdensome. When we can slow down, surrender, and do it with a glad heart, the change benefits us, and the process shapes us into bolder, stronger versions of ourselves.