This is a guest post by Ruth Tearle.
I have always had a belief that if you keep doing the right things, for long enough, the rewards will come.
It has certainly been a long time. 16 months since my knee operation. I’ve been working hard at the gym. 20 minutes alternating running and walking on the treadmill at a 7% incline was hard work. So were the weight machines I used to strengthen my calves, hamstrings, and quads. But the hardest part of it all was motivating myself to go to pack my gym backs and commit to going to the gym. What seemed impossible before is now a habit.
Now, six months later, I am amazed by how easy it has all become. Getting to the gym, slipping on my barefoot running shoes, dealing with people’s comments about my funny shoes, running and strengthening my legs is now just a routine. Today, I went back to my surgeon for a check up. My surgeon spent a lot of time questioning me about the knee injury I had a few months ago, and concluded it was the way I had jumped up from a sitting position that had caused the injury. He looked at the tread on the back of my barefoot running shoes and commented that I’d got the new style of running right. He examined my knees. But then he said something that took me by surprise. “Frankly, I was surprised when you sent me photos six months ago of doing the waterfall hike in Tsitsikamma. I thought that you would only manage 20 minutes, and then turn back in pain.” He then showed me the photos of the inside of my knee showing a groove in the bone which should have been covered by articular cartilage, and compared it to another patient’s photo. And then, like a true scientist he said. “I’d just don’t understand your progress. I’d love to be able to go back inside your knee to see what is happening!” Since that would involve another operation – it is not something I am not going to volunteer for – so unfortunately for him, for now, we both can only guess why I am doing better than he expected.
All I did was what my surgeon and physiotherapist told me to do.
My guess is that I was smart enough to find two professionals who keep up to date with the latest medical research : my surgeon and a physiotherapist. I then followed their advice on rehabiliation, dietary supplements, and exercise. So why were they so surprised that it all worked? My physiotherapist told me that very few of her patients actually do the exercises she recommends. Most patients come back to her over and over again with the same problem. The surgeon had a similar story to tell.
Which reminds me of a woman I recently met. She is someone who has never studied formally. Her work involves cleaning offices. She told me this story about her son.
All you have to do is listen and think! How hard is that?
“My son is always complaining about college, and telling me how difficult it is. So the other day I went there. At the lecture room, my son didn’t want me to come in. But the lecturer said it was okay for me to sit there. So I did. What I saw was that it was so easy. The lecturer explained everything. All you have to do is listen. And then when exams come, you think. You just have to listen and think. But the other people in the group weren’t listening. They were on their mobile phones. Looking at one another. When I asked my son why they weren’t listening, he was embarrassed and told me to keep quiet. Other students didn’t even come into the lecture. After the lecture I asked some students why the others were bunking. They told us, they weren’t bunking. They were just late. Or that they were at college smoking. I don’t understand why they make it hard for themselves, when it is actually so easy.”
So I wonder – is achieving success at most things, easier than what we say? And why do we like to make things more difficult for ourselves than they actually are? Whether we are dealing with an individual achieving a personal goal, or an organization involved in change management, organizational development or transformation,I wonder if we are focusing on the wrong things? If we were to focus on doing rather than analyzing or measuring, would we be more successful?
For example, one of the questions I get asked the most in change management is ‘How do you sustain change?’ Leaders and change managers then want to talk at length about stakeholder analyses, stakeholder adoption, steering committees, readiness assessments, impact analyses, recognition plans, and dashboards. Yet the real question that I think we should be asking is this. How do we simplify things? How do we get people to do what they know they should be doing, for as long as it takes for them to experience the results they want? How do we ensure that people reap the rewards for the work they do in any change? And how do we ensure that they not only make the change a habit, but that they are motivated to go onto the next level.
Back to running. I am so excited. This afternoon, I get to run in a forest. On a sunny spring day. My reward for the work I did in the gym, is that I get back into nature where exercise is a treat rather than a discipline. And once I’ve mastered the forest, I can build up to running in the mountains. So I am celebrating.
Ruth Tearle is an international strategy and change management consultant and author. Visit the Change Designs website on www.changedesigns.net for more articles, practical tools and inspiration.