Consider This

The last blog addressed the first step towards sustainable change: developing awareness. This blog is about the next step, Contemplation of change. This is when you decide if the benefits of changing your behavior provide enough motivation to deal with the costs. 

Sometimes this process is barely conscious, with no deliberation. For instance, your boss comments that it would be helpful if you returned emails faster. So, you quickly decide to set aside 10 minutes, three times per day to devote for checking for, and responding to, emails from your boss.

At the other end of the spectrum this step may never end. Adopting healthy habits is a common example. You know you should be more active. You want to start a regular exercise program. You even set a New Years Resolution to go running before work three times a week. But… 5:30am is early, dark, cold... and it cuts it close for getting the kids to school and getting to work on-time… and running shoes aren’t in the budget right now... and… and the change never happens.


Contemplation Equation

I approach this phase as balancing an equation for motivation. In order to create sustainable change the pros on the left side of the equation need to outweigh the cons on the right:

Desire + Opportunity + Reward  >  Effort + Barriers + Cost


Let’s break it down by asking some important questions:

Desire: Is this something I (client) actually want? It may seem like a silly question, but when change is initiated by others’ needs/values instead of our internalized needs/values, it is harder to accomplish.

Opportunity: Do I have the time and resources available to make this change?

Reward: What benefit am I going to get as a result of making this change? Also, is this a reasonable expectation? Example: “If I show up an hour early for work and leave an hour late, I will definitely get the next promotion.” What evidence supports this conclusion?

Effort: How much additional energy will I need to expend to make this change? Switching out of habit and into deliberate action takes energy, even in the best circumstances.

Barriers: What external factors in my life could impede my efforts to change?

Cost: What am I sacrificing by giving up my old behavior? After all, we did things the old way for a reason.


Example: Factors

Lets go back to the example in the last blog in which an employee would benefit from improving their collegial relationships. I would like to add that the employee has good relationships outside of work. They also have a preference for Introversion.

Desire: Collegial relationships aren’t an inherent need/value for this person.

Opportunity: The workplace has features that promote collegial interaction such as a pleasant lunch room, company sponsored social events, and non-mandatory department-wide innovation meetings. Although the employee is busy, getting away from the desk for lunch or optional meetings is possible.

Reward: Improved personal effectiveness and increased chance for promotion. The evidence comes from feedback from the team lead who has addressed team cohesion, and concerns about instances where the employee was clearly out of the loop on important changes that affected the team.

Effort: With a natural preference for Introversion, additional interactions with groups are going to require expending additional energy.

Barriers: The employee’s workspace is in a more secluded area of the office.

Cost: Depends on the adjustments made by the employee. For instance, a reduction in recharge time lunch, or loss of boosted productivity when everyone is in the de-wide meetings.


Right now there are two factors that facilitate change: Opportunity and Reward. There are three factors that impede change: Effort, Barriers and Cost. Change is unlikely. Adjustments need to be considered to tilt the equation towards change.


Example: Change Adjustments

Desire: The employee could look for ways to directly connect collegial relationships to personal work values (e.g., Competence, Preparedness).

Effort: A natural preference for Introversion is not likely to radically change. However, one-on-one lunches with colleagues may require less energy than going with the group to the lunch room.

Barriers: Is workspace location negotiable?

Cost: The employee could talk with the team and/or team lead about other ways to decrease distractions in exchange for attending the optional meetings. Instead of sacrificing solo-lunches, make an appearance at an occasional work sponsored event.

Final Decision: The employee expands their definition of workplace Competence to include collegial relationships. They decide to talk to the team lead about exchanging some distraction-free time for attending company-wide meetings. The employee also identifies two members of the team with whom they have easier rapport. They decide to invite one of them to lunch once a month. They are also considering making a brief appearance at the company picnic... maybe.


Now the facilitating factors include Desire, Opportunity and Reward and the impeding factors are Barriers and a smaller amount of Effort. The motivation equation has shifted to favor change.


The next stage is Preparation, in which actual steps are taken to adjust problematic factors in our equation. However, I'm going to wait for a week, so that I can address Contemplation in a group context. Next week, team change motivation.