Slow change is the enemy

It’s easier to accept disappointing results than it is to modify behaviors to adjust to circumstances

I just came back from a funeral. A friend had lost her youngest son to bone cancer. I saw people I hadn’t seen in 12 years or more. In fact, I hardly recognized some of them, including her. I knew her quite well, as we had dated in the mid-‘90s.

Yet, as I approached her, I was five feet away and still wasn’t sure it was her. I figured it had to be and spoke her name expecting to be wrong, but I wasn’t.

No doubt the aging process changes all of us. I certainly don’t have as much hair as I used to. Even so, I can still fit into suits I bought 20 years ago. The battle of the bulge is the toughest battle I fight, and I have to keep fighting it every day. 

Some things we can control, while others we can’t. So let’s pick on weight for instance. 

I’m told it gets harder to keep the pounds off as we age. That certainly makes sense and requires changes in our habitual behaviors, if we want to stay as healthy as possible. 

When we’re young, we expect to look as we do forever. As we age, little changes take place, and we often accept them a little bit at a time, never realizing what the cumulative outcome might be.

If we put 20 or more pounds on in a week, it would get our attention, but a pound or two a month, well …

I’m reminded of the oft-told story of the frog. If we put a frog in a pan of water on a high flame, it will jump out as soon as it feels the heat. If, on the other hand, we put the frog in the pan on a low flame, it will comfortably and slowly boil to death. We might be a lot more like frogs than we’d like to think.

Thinking about all this on the way home, I was reminded of a client I had recently visited. Like my friends, who had probably never planned to look like they do now, this company never expected to be in the shape they’re in today.

They’re not bad people or even bad managers. They’ve just made minor
tradeoffs over the years. A little here, a little there. Hardly noticeable in our day-to-day world. No doubt, the economy has been terrible, despite all the propaganda. Everything costs more and more. What can we do?

Sound familiar? I love nachos and potato skins just as much as anyone, but sometimes we just have to say no – no matter how good it tastes or how desirable it is.

The enemy in business or in our personal lives is slow change. Put on 20 pounds in a week, and you’ll want to see your doctor ASAP. Do it over a few years, and it’s, “Why do I have to see the doctor at all?”

Slowly eroding market share or profitability is disturbing, but too many of us can live with it. Sudden drops in either category are far more likely to bring some sort of action, but it’s often the wrong kind. We’re just not great at making the best decisions when we’re scared.

Unfortunately, it’s much easier to accept disappointing results than it is to modify our behaviors to beneficially adjust to slowly changing circumstances. Denying reality doesn’t change it or fix it.

We all have hopes and dreams for our personal and professional lives. Some even have specific goals. But how many actually become reality? Are there far fewer than there really should be?

Whether we’re letting that belt out another notch or adjusting our revenue goals downward, it’s the cumulative effect we have to keep in mind. What will we or the company look like a few years from now if we keep this up? What can we change? Are these results unavoidable? 

We can’t control everything, but I’m always amazed at some of the things that could be controlled but just aren’t.

It’s so much easier to see the problems in other people and other companies than to see our own. As mentioned earlier, I may be doing better in the weight department than some other folks, but I know I’m not doing as well as I should. 

That’s what I have to focus on. 

Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or

Categories: Business Advice