Since I feel like we’ve come to know each other, I’m going to share something personal with you. I’ve been suffering from a condition known as homeostasis. Yup. There I’ve said it. They say that half the battle is admitting that you have a problem.
Not familiar with this condition? I must admit that my recollection of sophomore biology class is more than a little bit sketchy. (Sorry, Mr. Landry.) If yours is too, allow me tell you about it. In fact, you may also be suffering from it, and just didn’t realize it.
Homeostasis refers to stability, balance, or equilibrium. Physiologically, it’s the body’s attempt to maintain a constant, balanced internal environment. Your body, brain and behavior have a tendency to stay the same, and to snap back when changed. Think about your body temperature and blood sugar levels. You wouldn’t want wild fluctuations in those numbers. So homeostasis, or resistance to change, is quite necessary – physiologically.
But in other areas of life, and in business in particular, homeostasis can hold you back. And that’s where it’s been a problem for me. Homeostasis in your career or business is often synonymous with a rut.
Creating a significant shift in your business, or an inflection point, can be really scary. You’re letting go of the old, of what’s familiar and comfortable, and hopefully what no longer serves you. And you’re embracing the new, the untried. This can feel vurry, vurry risky. But the biggest risks of all are complacency, stagnation, and yes, homeostasis.
In working with senior leadership teams, I see this resistance to change frequently. But even teams that are already really successful need to realize that they can’t afford to get comfortable and rest on their laurels. To continue the upward trajectory and stay ahead of the curve, they’ve got to continue to change and grow.
Recently as I’ve realized that I needed to eat my own dog food – to practice what I’m preaching in my own business. I’ve been living in my discomfort zone. I realized that I have gotten in a rut in certain areas of my business, and dreaded the hassle of making updates. I’m pushing through that discomfort, though, because I know that without pain, there is no growth.
Think about when you want to make changes in any important area: losing weight, strengthening, or ending, a relationship, heck, even remodeling your house. You have to put in the work and make sacrifices so that you can enjoy the sweet rewards of your efforts on the other side.
My coaching client, Mike, (names have been changed to protect the typical), found the truth in this not long ago. He came to me when he was being considered for a promotion. Technically, his skills were solid. Relationally, and in the areas of people skills, well he sucked. (His words, not mine.) It was so bad that his boss advised him that it would be career-limiting unless he got some help.
To his credit, Mike was willing to making the necessary changes. Willingness to change always helps. I’m kidding. It’s obviously a pre-requisite. If someone is only engaging in coaching because their boss mandates it, they’ll (maybe) make a change to fulfill a requirement, only to revert to previous behavior, a la homeostasis.
So back to Mike. He did it. He did the heavy lifting and made major, lasting changes in his leadership approach and got the promotion. Mike deserves full credit for all that he’s achieved, because he was willing to be uncomfortable.
So if, like me, you need to make some changes in any area of your business or life, try some of these strategies:
Leadership Lessons to Push Past Homeostasis:
- When we push to the edges of our limits, our limits expand.
- Ask yourself, “Why resist change when it’s the main source of my growth?”
- We all need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- Dopamine is crucial to achieving your goals, and it is released when you really push beyond your perceived limits and do things that are difficult.
- It’s so much better to fail trying than to not even get into the game.
- Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and wonderful at the end. You’ll have such a feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment because you were brave enough to go for it and to risk being uncomfortable.
- Don’t wait to be hit in the head before you make changes. Arianna Huffington (of Huffington Post fame) collapsed from exhaustion (literally had a concussion and all), before she realized she needed to create some margin in her life for stuff like sleep and self-care. Dang. That’s pretty bad. Don’t be like her.
If you’d like some help pushing through the homeostasis and making some changes in your leadership, career, or team, give me a shout. The best way to look at it is to remember that a bend in the road is never fatal – unless you fail to turn.
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Jennifer Ledet, CSP, is a leadership consultant and professional speaker (with a hint of Cajun flavor) who equips leaders from the boardroom to the mailroom to improve employee engagement, teamwork, and communication. In her customized programs, leadership retreats, keynote presentations, and breakout sessions, she cuts through the BS and talks through the tough stuff to solve your people problems.