When You Can’t Be a Whole, be a Half – Story of a Change Agent-at-Large

Are you trying to juggle the world in your hands?

Do you feel like you are trying to juggle the world in your hands?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to be a Change Agent. 

  • What does it really mean to be a Change Agent? 
  • What does it take to drive lasting change?
  • How much physical, mental, and emotional energy does it take to make changes and truly make them stick?

Let’s be honest, it takes a lot of energy to change.  It can be an enormous amount of energy, especially when you are trying to project positive energy into a group.  The more places in your life you are working to make changes, the more people you are trying to impact, the more energy it takes.  I’ve recently determined that I’ve been trying to be a Change Agent in too many places at once – juggling too many balls at once.  I had hit my personal “change fatigue” wall.  I had lost my energy and was feeling like a Zero (O).  (For more information about what I mean by a Zero, refer to my first blog, The Revolution of One).  I was concerned about my ability to remain upbeat and positive.  How had this happened?  I didn’t want to be a O.  Yikes!

After talking with a colleague the phrase “coming from a place of hope” suddenly ran through my mind.  What the heck?  I realized that I was feeling more optimistic than I had the last several days.  I started to analyze (what, me analyze something?):

  • How did I feel mentally, emotionally, and physically at that moment in time?
  • What did this phrase mean to me?
  • Why had it come to mind?

I realized that I had unexpectedly had a “state change”.  While I was still feeling tired and overwhelmed I was now a bit more optimistic.  Not the “light at the end of the tunnel”, rather from a glass half-full rather than half-empty perspective.  It’s the place I want to be.  I believe that we can add or subtract energy from others around us individually and in groups.  That how we feel and the emotions we project affect others.   As I talked with my colleague, I’d been talking about the business environment, my views on change, and my sincere desire to have a positive impact on those around me and on business at large.  There have been huge amounts of stress in the work environment this past year (and at home too) for almost everyone. 

I wasn’t trying to execute anything, just talk about my perspectives and beliefs.  I explained that if I have a personal mission to have a positive impact on others.  That I believe in cascading impacts.  That if I could positively impact one person, they could have a positive impact on someone else, so on and so forth.  That we could together have a large, positive impact on the business environment.  Our own Revolution of sorts.  I think we need it in the business world.

In describing my fundamental beliefs, I had found some new energy.  I remembered the “root reasons” (vs. root cause) that I am a Change Agent.  By simply talking with me and validating my thoughts and work, my friend had been a Change Agent for me – providing some much needed positive reinforcement and new energy. 

It can be hard being the person that rattles cages, raises red flags, and points out the elephants in the room.  Candidly, it’s stressful and exhausting.  I don’t enjoy raising the flags or talking about the elephants, but someone needs to in order to drive long-term, sustainable change.  

Talking about problems, challenges, and pink elephants often raises fear and worry in others.  This can take excessive amounts of emotional energy to help manage effectively.  It’s something that most people are afraid to do, but something that must be done to make real and lasting changes.  You can’t drive successful change if you aren’t willing to discuss problems and history.  If you are not honest and “real” about situations, there will simply be some head nodding in the room when you discuss new or desired behaviors.  When people leave, they will go back to their old behaviors – quicker than you might think.

What my friend had done for me was to validate that while I can’t please everyone and might feel personal stress about acting the “troublemaker,” what I was doing was important.  I had left the conversation with a renewed sense of purpose and personal hope.  “Coming from a place of hope” described how I was feeling at the moment.  It struck me that this too was a powerful thought.  That where there is hope, there are possibilities.  Where there are possibilities, change can happen.  That having a feeling of hope had actually helped counter my feeling of exhaustion (no, not all of it, but some). 

I stepped back from myself to acknowledge that I can’t be “on” all the time as I had been trying to do.  That it’s not realistic to think you can always be a One (1).  While I do want to drive a Revolution, (see The Revolution of One), there are times I might need to be a O, at least for a little while, so that I can go back to being a 1 later on.  That in the real world, unlike my technological metaphor, there are in-between states – ½, ¾, 5/6.  Those are also ok places to be. 

So I decided that for the next several days I’ll focus on the idea of hope, recognize the bumps in the road, acknowledge that there are day’s I might need to be less than a 1.  I’ll remind myself, work on feeling, and believe that I am coming from a place of hope and that’s good enough for now.  I’ll accept that it’s ok to be a ½, neither a O or a 1 for the time being.  I’ll be a ½ with hope for a better tomorrow and the belief that with some rest and sleep (not always the same thing) that I could go back to being the 1 that I want to be. 

So my personal lesson for today was to hold tight to hope and possibilities.  To accept that when you can’t be a whole (1) it’s ok to be a ½.  Give yourself partial credit. 

Change is hard.  Being the Change Agent can be even harder.  Change is tiring and never happens all at once. 

So my wish and hope for all of you is that you too find a piece of hope today and each day forward.  That you give yourself credit for what you have accomplished, rather than focusing on how far you still have to go.  That you find your own place of hope, piece of inspiration, and some renewed belief.  This can come from the smile of a colleague or a child, taking time to stop to look out a window at the flowers and trees (or the snow if it’s winter).  Find something in your environment around you that you can draw inspiration and hope from.  Stop, Look, and Listen not to understand others better, but to pause for yourself.  To give yourself a break and some personal recognition. 

I ask that you can continue to join me as we make our own Revolution at whatever level you can, one day at a time, one person at a time, one situation at a time.  For today, I’ll continue to focus on being a Change Agent-at-Large, even only at half-strength.  I’ll keep my hope for better tomorrow.  I absolutely believe that together we can change many things.  A little bit at a time isn’t simply good, it’s GREAT.

So here is my “true confession.”  I actually drafted this article several months ago.  Life (and all the winter flu varieties) simply got out of control and I never finalized this post.  Some days I felt a bit guilty, but I worked to remind myself that any forward progress was good and 1/2 was ok.  I asked myself if it really mattered if the story went up in October or in January.  You, the reader don’t really care do you?  As I start the New Year and seek to post articles and stories more actively, I pulled the draft of this article out and made the final edit.   

So what are the key messages I hope you take from this article?

  • Being a Change Agent is hard work.  It can be stressful and exhausting.  But if you don’t do it, who will?
  • It’s critical to rattle the cages, raise flags, and point out the elephants.  If you don’t talk about them and address them, it is unlikely that change with “stick”.  Again, if you don’t do it, who will?
  • There is a great level of stress that comes with always being “on”?  A simply analogy is a light bulb.  It gets hot and burns out quicker if it is always on.  When natural light is available or no one is around, shutting it off prolongs the life of the light bulb.  We need to do the same for ourselves.
  • Have you thought how “change fatigue” applies not just to change programs, but to yourself also? 
    • Are you planning appropriate breaks for yourself and within your change program? 
    • Are you taking care of yourself physically, recognizing how your health impacts your ability to create change?
    • Are you giving yourself appropriate mental breaks?
    • Are you giving yourself the credit that you should?
  • Are you recognizing that any forward progress is good, even if it took longer than you had initially planned or scheduled?
  • Are you familiar with the concept of diminishing returns? 
    • Can you recognize when you have reached that point? 
    • Can you tell yourself it is ok to step back and not work on something for a while?  Regain your energy and start again.  You will likely get farther.

A huge THANKS and virtual hug to my friend Ron for providing positive feedback in a time of need.  A shout out of THANKS to my spouse, Bruce, for his on-going support of my efforts big and small, including providing feedback on this blog.  He rocks.


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