Risk aversion and resistance to change have nothing to do with intelligence. So, let’s get that out of the way upfront. There is no correlation between fear and intellect. Some of the smartest people I worked with were stuck because they were raised in a corporate environment that was insulated from reality. They spent more time glad-handing and managing perceptions than getting meaningful work done. And they were comfy and content. Until they were “restructured.”
Resistance to change will always get you. Nothing really ever stays the same, so you should not expect it to. Work is no different. Nature is a turbulent force.
So, if you have ever thought or been around co-workers who have said, “When will this change end?” this post is for you. The reality is that change will never end and those who resist bold objectives and taking risks will stagnate.
The problem is that stagnation feels smooth and easy and can even be highly rewarding. It is easy to keep it comfortable when things are going really well and business is booming, but ultimately those who jump at new opportunities will be most satisfied and rewarded.
When you are trying not to “rock the boat” and are working hard “to keep it safe” you are hurting yourself — no matter what your boss might be telling you. You are damaging your short-term potential for a promotion and long-term opportunities for meaningful growth.
I interview a lot of smart people who are interested in joining Aha! and I look for one trait above all else: intrinsic motivation to be great. I want you on my team if you cannot leave well enough alone and are never satisfied with your performance today.
We reward merit over seniority and accomplishment over experience. We are drawn to people who pursue big and bold objectives and accept taking risks as what it takes to realize them. And we are not alone.
Every company you want to work for was built by people who jumped at the chance to embrace a new mindset and felt free to jostle what others thought of as reality. The founders viewed mediocrity as an atrocity.
So consider this a great opportunity to take a hard look at yourself and your own behavior. Answer these five questions with a YES or NO to understand how afraid of job change you really are.
- I would prefer to be bored than work on a risky new project.
YES  NO 
- I do not share new ideas because I am worried about being judged.
YES  NO 
- I feel stressed when I am asked to do something I have not done before.
YES  NO 
- When I make up my mind, I am reluctant to change it.
YES  NO 
- When someone else shares an idea with me, I start explaining all the reasons it will not work.
YES  NO 
I suggest that if you answered two or more questions with a YES, you are likely afraid to try something new and probably freeze up when you are confronted with confusion. The good news is that past anxiety does not predict future performance, but you may need a few role models to help with your own transformation.
Every day is a great day to take a look at the people you know. I bet that the most successful people in your life are impatient with the status quo, speak truth, and are flexible. They are constantly in motion and are working to build something bigger than themselves.
You too can challenge your stable routines, avoid freaking out when something surprising happens, and change your mind when new information emerges. It takes time to embrace a new mindset, but you can start with small acts right now. Start wearing your watch on the other arm, drive a different way home, or tell the boss of your boss about that crazy idea that you think would change everything.
The greatest achievers are change agents rather than being resistant to change.
What type of change will define you?