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The Neuroscience of Change

Everyone goes through seasonal changes in their lives: jobs, leadership, homes, marital status, loss, tragedies, or choices. How our brain processes change to cope is essential for mental health. The best methods to move on and succeed are critical for starting a new job, career, or leadership position.

Change is paramount as it guides us to retain that vital edge over competitors. Metamorphosis is an exciting process that promotes innovation, develops skills, and leads to more profitable business opportunities. Self-change is difficult, but it is not impossible to accomplish. The experience does not need to be traumatic, either.

The feeling encompassing change is that it is inevitable and necessary. However, you can successfully achieve the results you desire. If organizations fail to remain clear about their objectives or communicate the plan to their team, issues will arise from the outset.

Applying Neuroscience to Change Management

How one processes the mental aspects of their life is complex. However, many studies have identified four stages of change resistance and offer ways that leaders can address them. So when you are processing your thoughts and feeling, it helps you understand why you might be feeling or thinking the way you are in the moment.

While the process is written in a linear fashion of stages 1 -4, remember processing change does not always occur linearly. Your awareness of your current place in the process might even be in stage 3.

The essential component is bringing awareness to where you are in the moment.

Stage 1: Denial

Employees deny a need for change and try to prove that the new method or solution won't work. Leaders should approach this stage with what might seem like excessive communication. Creating a vision for the future is essential, as maximizing face-to-face communication and reiterating everything at least ten times.

Do not just send out an email announcement. It would help if you had a dialogue with others. Think of this stage as a marketing campaign in which you must sell the idea.

Stage 2: Anger

Employees complain, become bitter, and blame others. Leaders should brace the storm by having an empathetic ear. People need the ability to vent. Even if the leader does not consider every complaint seriously, allowing people to approach and speak openly fosters trust and openness.

Stage 3: Exploring

Employees try to negotiate favorable outcomes and offer alternatives to the proposed solution. Leaders should facilitate involvement in the project and encourage employees to provide constructive suggestions. Leaders will recognize when this stage begins because employees will complain less and focus more on optimizing the solution.

Stage 4: Acceptance

Accepting the change is necessary to engage with the new solutions or processes. Leaders should reward employees for their dedication and acceptance and recognize the change initiative's success through ROI, anecdotal evidence, etc. Leaders should also look ahead to future improvements on the change that has been implemented.

All Behaviors Are Complex

Research by psychologists has repeatedly observed change occurs in stages. The division of each portion needs us to dive further into different aspects of the thought processes. The increased probability of success in changing our thinking process occurs through examinations and actions.

You can break down almost all behaviors. Therefore, you can separate your desired behavior into smaller, self-contained units. Here I will provide you with ten examples of how things might experience.

Change Is Frightening

We oppose change, but dread of the unknown can force us to cling to our status quo behaviors. No matter how badly we do not want to behave in a specific manner. Personal differences, loss, divorce, promotion, moving, or becoming an empty nester invokes the fear of the unknown.

Compare all potential consequences of both your status quo and preferred behaviors. If more positive results are associated with the new behavior, your fears of the unknown are unwarranted.

Unrealistic goals increase fear. Fear increases the probability of failure.

Change Must Be Positive

One item we must remember is reinforcement is not punishment. It is necessary for enduring change. Reinforcement can be extraneous, extrinsic, or intrinsic. One manner of reinforcement must be present for self-change, two would be better than one, and three would be ideal.

Extraneous reinforcement does not directly connect to an act's completion. An employee may loathe his manufacturing job but will resume working for a good paycheck.

An act does not need to be enjoyable when the result is extrinsically reinforcing. I hate cleaning the kitchen, but I do it because I like the sight of a clean kitchen.

Intrinsic reinforcement happens when there is a reinforcing act. I enjoy dressing well because I like the way I feel inside.

Change Requires Structure

Numerous people view structure as restrictive, something that hinders spontaneity. While spontaneity is lovely for some activities, it's a surefire method for sabotaging change.

Classify all activities and materials you use as helpful, neutral, or unhelpful in accomplishing your objectives. Eliminate unhelpful ones, and create neutral activities to develop more positive outcomes.

Keep the positive activities that help you obtain your goals.

Inspect how and why you are adjusting every day and the consequences of success and failure. Repetition increases the probability of success. It is essential to sequence the aspects associated with learning a new behavior.

Be Rather Than Become

Discomforting change becomes punishing, and reasonable people do not continue activities that are more painful than they are rewarding.

Researchers observed participants were more successful when they gradually approximated their goals. Write down the behavior you would like to modify. Then to the right, compose your strategy. Draw four lines between the two and form a progressive action on each line to take you closer to your destination.

Processes of change are often unnecessarily complex and desperate. Through simplicity, clarity arises.

Slower Is Better

Everything has its natural progression. When adjusted, unpleasant feelings tend to happen. Change is most productive when it happens slowly, permitting behaviors to become intuitive.

Life is similar to a stirred-up lake: Allow it to calm, and the mud will settle, clearing the water. The same is true for change.

The More you Know, the Better you Do

Surprise spells disaster for people seeking change. Knowing more about the process allows for more control over it.

Some therapists demand awareness of both present and preferred behaviors. However, research suggests it's sufficient to be aware of just the new one.

A British Journal of Psychology study found that reflecting on personal experiences with others is key to successful change. But complimenting new behavior implies that the observer disliked the old one, making observers uneasy.

If, for example, you were once critical of individuals, few would now say, "It's nice chatting with you since you discontinued being a jerk." Observations of changes take a while to receive feedback as others might not believe there has been real change.

Success is gratifying, and if you understand why you succeeded or failed, applying matching strategies can occur with changing other behaviors.

Practice Is Necessary

Practice is another critical approach to change, suggests one study on changing conscious experience published recently in the British Journal of Psychology.

I've discovered that many disappointments ensue because of ignoring this principle. Routine automatically reinforces new behaviors and is a natural part of our identity.

We can not learn all behaviors on our own. Sometimes it's practical to enlist the support of a trusted friend. If you desire to employ a new behavior in various environments, rehearse it in those or similar settings.

Must Protect New Behaviors

Even when we perform the new behavior flawlessly, new behaviors are still fragile and disappear if unprotected. Environmental cases such as noise and attention status may hamper remembering new behaviors. After pinpointing what assists and hinders, improve the helpers and eliminate the rest.

When a new behavior is neither familiar nor automatic, it becomes easy to forget the behavior. Anything that helps memory is beneficial.

Small Successes Are Big

Unfortunately, methods for great success often result in significant failures. Focus instead on a series of small victories. Each small victory produces your reservoir of self-esteem. One consequential or inconsequential loss could quickly ruin it.

Approach each step as a particular task, and you will ultimately reach the end goal.

Switching from what you are to what you desire to become can be challenging and frustrating or easy and rewarding. The action required for both pathways is the same. Choose the first, and you will likely be stuck in an endless cycle of the status quo.


The expectations of changing behaviors have a belief to occur immediately. Our knowledge base in our minds has dramatically changed over ten years. However, the programming of the feelings within our brains stays the same.

The changing of the programming in our minds must apply new knowledge. Therefore it takes time to acquire accurate information. We all are individuals, and how we experience the world may differ from person to person.

Therefore there is no one size fits all model for learning the behaviors we want to implement for success.

In conclusion, remember to be kind to yourself. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for yourself is to give yourself a break. We might feel we must force a situation to fit our specific narrative of how things work. However, if we step back and look at the situation from a different perspective, we may observe other answers to the problems.

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