Why smart people have trouble making a change

By Rajesh Setty | Published on:

(Even when they know change is good for them)

Change is hard. Change is hard whether you are smart are not smart. If you are smart, it’s harder, I guess.

What is change? Change in this context is to do different things than what you are already very familiar with. For example, if you are good at sales but now you are looking at a new way of selling ( let’s say you go from selling shoes to selling timeshare ) it is change but not the CHANGE that we are talking about. The fundamentals between the two types overlap a lot. But if you are now tasked with marketing those products too, then the overlap between the fundamentals of the two will shift – that is the CHANGE I am referring to.

Smart people know that the they have to embrace the CHANGE that I am referring to. It is a process of reinvention that they will be either embrace or they will be forced to embrace. This was NOT a requirement probably two decades ago when the velocity of change of external forces ( e.g.: economy, globalization, outsourcing, open source etc.) was not significant. Today the rate at which everything is changing is breathtaking. This means one thing – the rate of our reinvention has to be at the same velocity of the rate of change of external forces. Otherwise, how can we be in sync with the external world??

The good part is that smart people know all this. In fact, they know this very well. They know that they need to change and they need to do it now. Talk to them one-on-one and they will tell you what all they need to change and probably give you a plan on how they should do it. But still, they don’t change? Why?

You can think of many reasons for this resistance to change. My mini-research on this led to this simple conclusion – smart people don’t change because a change will cause them to have less control on the short-term outcomes. Now, let me explain that a bit.

The following graph will show two curves.

The “A” curve represents the level of control on the short-term outcomes if they continue to do what they are doing. It is quite high. Why? Simply because they know what they are doing and they are good at doing those things.Notice the word “short-term” here. While they have a good amount of control on the “short-term outcomes” it may mean nothing in the long term. Even if the long term outcome of continuing to do what they are doing is disastrous, they may end not changing because they are too busy fine-tuning for immediate short-term gains.

The “B” curve shows the level of control on the short term outcomes IF they change. As you can see, it is not a pretty picture anymore. Relative to the first option ( curve “A” ) the second option is not good at all. Why? Simply because it takes time to attain the mastery in a new field to the level and until one does that he or she will have lesser control as compared to the earlier case.

At a certain threshold, smart people will jump ship from curve “B” to curve “A” where they know that they can produce better short term results even if these better short term results are at the expense of producing mediocre long term results.

If you are one of the people stuck in this trap, what can you do to get out of it?

First, unlike the popular belief that you need to announce the change to the world so that the world will hold you accountable, you need to keep the change to yourself until such time that you are confident of producing reasonably good short term results. You can then announce the change to the world and get some external support to maintain the change.

Second, you need to set “reasonable” short term goals. These goals have to be based on the fact that you are an amateur in the new field. It will take a while for you to get better at this. The goals have to stretch you but they should not be so out of reach that you will give up.

Third, get a teacher or mentor and pay them to help you through this. Just because you are smart in one thing, it does not automatically make you smart in a whole other thing. A little bit of good help would go a LONG way to make this process smooth.

Wish you the very best.

Other mini-research projects that might be of interest to you:

1. Why some smart people are reluctant to share? (Dec 26, 2009)

2. Why nice people will win BIG TIME in the long run? (Jan 15, 2010)

3. Why some people work hard but don’t get appreciated for that work? (Feb 22, 2010)

4. Why some smart people don’t take action? (Mar 14, 2010)

5. Why many smart people are taken for granted? (Mar 28, 2010)

6. 9 Reasons why MANY smart people go nowhere (Mar 29, 2010)

7. Why MANY smart people take shortcuts and how you can avoid that trap ( May 3, 2010 )

8. 7 Reasons why MANY smart people have trouble communicating their ideas (May 5, 2010)

9. 7 Reasons why some smart people criticize others ( May 30, 2010 )

10. Why MOST smart people are better at solving other people’s problems.. (Aug 10, 2010)

Rajesh is a frequent speaker at conferences and companies on
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