Challenge Your Status Quo

By February 14, 2013Millennial

This simple sentence published by Ali Davies in Google+ stuck with me.

“Being willing to challenge your own status quo is an essential part of getting on the path to creating change.”

A very true statement and a very challenging one, too. Personal change can only happen if a person wants to change. Leaders can only facilitate change if they first start with themselves. It takes personal motivation and a lot more.

Change fails often.

Change becomes a fad. A moment embraced quickly and fades just as fast.

Change becomes like a new piece of clothing. It looks sharp at first glance but then gets pushed to the back of the closet.

We see the data. It shows trends going in the wrong direction, ratios out of sync, and surveys with bad results.

We stare at change. It is an icy stare. We can see it, feel it, but cannot make it happen. The reality is we are entranced with the status quo.

We get caught up in daily routines. We get stuck and keep stuck.

Change feels uncomfortable. We like being comfortable.

Change seems to belong to someone else. We like to point fingers.

Real change can happen if we move to the levels where we really need to go.

Change succeeds when embraced more deeply.

Change takes hold more successfully if done from an emotional, social, and spiritual level. True change takes a deeper look and true engagement at each of these three levels.

Challenge Your Status Quo

Emotional. Feelings play an important role in change. Our emotions can hold us in a status quo state. Even though we may be in an unhappy emotional condition, other emotions may hold a stronger grip on us. Fear is one. Comfort is another. Our disposition to our various emotional states play a role in whether or not we discard the status quo and move in a new, better direction.

A few key questions to answer may be helpful:

  1. Which emotions do we hold to a higher value? Do these emotions enable change or prevent it?
  2. What is our emotional commitment to our current ways?
  3. What emotion is driving us to change? Or, what emotion do we need as a driver to achieve the required change?

We need to be emotionally committed to the desired change. It takes self-control. It takes getting our emotions in the right priority order. We need to tap into the right emotion that is going to enable us to change.

Social. Our social community plays key parts in our duel between the status quo and change. Friends, family, and co-workers participate. Some, for whatever reason, may hold us back. It could be intentional or unintentional. In many ways, it doesn’t matter. We need to ask ourselves whether or not our social interactions and relationships are really helping us or not.

For me, this really boils down to two key questions that I have highlighted in previous posts:

  1. Do the people around you make you a better person?
  2. Do you make those around you better?

A mutually-beneficial relationship is the best kind. At times, it may be more challenging to support someone in the change they need to make. It could be due to a change in our relationship with them or just a tough, but needed, change to make.

We need to ensure we have supportive, challenging (for the right reasons), and mutually beneficial relationships in place. Strong relationships challenge. Strong relationships care. Strong relationships make us better and interrupt the status quo when required.

Are people holding us back or down or enabling us to move up and forward? We need the latter to engage meaningful, worthwhile change.

Spiritual.  Our core beliefs matter. Our life philosophy matters. How we approach change depends on how we view continuous learning, improving ourselves, serving in our community, and other values. In many ways, it depends on how we view our humanness. Do we view it as a static state? Or, do we view it as evolving and growing?

It is not forgoing key principles. It is ensuring we have defined our values, principles, and philosophies to drive our live in a purposeful way.

The key questions to answer in the spiritual dimension may be:

  1. What do we really hold dear and close to how we live and lead our life? What are our life and leadership drivers?
  2. Are our core beliefs and values aligned with the change desired?
  3. What values are tripping us up from moving forward in new, better directions? What values do we need to embrace to lead and live in a balanced change-purpose way?

We need to spend the time as early in our life as possible to explore our spiritual side and determine our core empowering beliefs and philosophies. It prepares the foundation for a life well-lived and a leadership model well-formulated.

Challenge your status quo.

“Challenge your status quo” is the statement that sparked this. As I thought more about it, it dawned on me that we need to go deeper to do this in a proper and real progress-oriented way.

The new reality, I believe, is this:  Change can only happen from within and enabled through the right social and emotional conditions. We stare at our status quo, and we freeze. It is a stalemate, unless we go deeper and understand what we need in our living and leading capabilities to change and proceed in good, purposeful directions.

How do you challenge your status quo effectively? 

Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders.
Jon Mertz

Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • Ali Davies says:

    Thank you for quoting me in your post Jon. Honoured that what I said inspired this thought provoking piece and all teh great food for thought you have outlined here. I think part of the challenge is that people often mistakenly believe that the status quo is the safe option. But it isn’t safe at all because, more often than not, staying in that place is costing people what they really want.

  • Great post, Jon. I believe change is the essence of life; if
    we need to grow, progress, and prosper – we need to change. This thought needs
    to get embedded in your deep self. I think it is important to first have an
    understanding. And this as you mention, happens at the emotional and spiritual
    level. I agree when you say, “Personal change can only happen if a person
    wants to change.” One needs to have the attitude of change, and be
    fearless of change. Fear of uncertainty, getting uncomfortable, and of failure
    grips us and stops us from challenging our status quo.

    You rightly mention that leaders can only facilitate change
    if they first start with themselves. You need to have role models and be that
    yourself for others.

    Thanks for presenting a good analysis of factors that help
    us to change. I believe the spark of change has to begin at the very core of
    yourself- you need to strongly believe that change is good for you, and that
    you can better it every day.

    • Jon M says:

      Thank you, Harleena. Your added insights help the conversation. I like how role models can facilitate the change. When we see behaviors and changes in a person we admire or work with in a collaborative way, we may be more likely to adopt their approach. Thank you for adding your voice to the conversation! Jon

  • Alli Polin says:

    Great post, Jon! Changing a an organizational or personal process is not change…. it’s trying something new. Great points on how true change happens on a much deeper level and without making the inner shifts, the outer change won’t stick. Challenging the status quo not only happens within the org but in our lives as we strive to keep growing, learning & evolving. Thanks for breaking it down and pointing us where to look.

    • Jon M says:

      Great points, Alli. Growing, learning, and evolving are all essential to keep on the new path we are seeking. Thanks for adding your perspective! Jon

  • This is an excellent article Jon! I have bookmarked it as a resource. You ask some great thought-provoking questions here. Thank-you!

  • Great post, Jon! We humans underestimate how much we are creatures of habit and how much social environment supports/inhibits our ability to follow through with desired change. The 3 elements of change you included in this piece made me think of what Alan Cohen said, “Pain pushes, while vision pulls.” We often don’t change until the pain of the status quo becomes greater than the comfort of staying in it. Even then, without a vision–aligned with the core values and life philosophies you wrote about–that inspires us to follow through, the pain itself (purely emotional) isn’t enough to fuel lasting change. That’s when we fall back into (the misery of) our status quo. Nice series of questions you included here, Jon. Thank you! Alice

    • Jon M says:

      What a great quote, Alice. We need to focus more on the “pull” items or, at least, the items that will “push” us forward on a new path. For real change to happen, it needs to be more than just emotional. Great additions to the conversation. Thank you! Jon

    • Ali Davies says:

      Love the point you are making here Alice. Often people don’t realise that the pain of staying stuck is more than the pain of creating change. It is easy to overlook that the pain of change is a temporary part of going through the process and the pain of staying stuck is permanent. Shows the importance of awareness and mindset in these situations

      • Thanks, Ali! I like how you talked about the pain of change being temporary. The pain of being stuck actually grows and worsens in time. Besides, when our soul knows we’re ready to change but we resist it, we’re pushed to change unceremoniously sometimes.

  • SusanMazza says:

    Beautiful exploration of the challenge of the confronting the status quo. I especially love your two questions. They are similar to the questions I try to teach my daughter to ask about those she chooses to spend time with. Its also the path to garnering ghe emotional fortitude and spritual strength to change for tge sake of the future we want vs settle for the way things are.

    • Jon M says:

      Thanks, Susan. It is great to be asking these questions of our kids; it will help set in place good practices as they grow older. Thanks for jumping into the conversation! Jon

  • Change, like motivation, is an inside-out job. By questioning our questions, observing ourselves from outside ourselves and taking a Kaizen approach to life we can challenge our own status quo ongoing. Cheers! Kaarina

    • Jon M says:

      Agree, Kaarina. Inside-out is a great way to look at it; this approach also helps prevent getting bogged down with some that may have counter purposes to our change. Thanks for joining in! Jon

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