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Blue Monday: why change is so hard (and how it's still possible)

In our previous blog we helped you look back on the past year. Now we're looking ahead! A new year often begins with sparkling plans and many (new or old) good intentions for a new you on a personal or professional level. Resolutions that you may have already lost sight of within a few weeks....  

'Blue Monday,' the third Monday of January, is also known as the most depressing day of the year. The holidays are over, summer is still far away, and most good intentions have already been forgotten. There is no scientific basis for this phenomenon, but research shows that up to 80% of people fail to keep their resolutions by February. Changing habits just isn't easy. 

For change in other contexts, in organizations and companies, the numbers are not much better: previously we wrote that 70% of change initiatives fail. The question arises: why is change such a challenge? And how can you ensure successful change? 

The human brain likes to hold on to what is known and familiar, because it is safe. Even when it comes to habits and patterns that actually harm us. And the same thing happens in organizations: there, too, we often find a tendency to hold on to how things currently work. Resistance to change is everywhere. 

At Learning Connected, we engage with this question on a daily basis. We help organizations and individuals within those organizations learn and embrace new ways of working and thinking. And we know that there are a number of critical factors that are the most important key to successful change, whether in a company, an employee or your personal life: 

It is essential that there is a clear vision of why the change should take place. In an organization, it must be clear to employees why they have to put time and energy into it - and it's no different for yourself. Why do you want to learn this new language in the first place? It helps if you visualize the end goal: How about speaking in fluent French a croque-monsieur order from a terrace on the Champs-Élysées? An inspiring vision provides direction and creates motivation and commitment. 

Step by step
Break the change down into small, achievable steps. If your goal is to be able to speak French, a concrete step might be learning five new words a day. By breaking the change into smaller tasks, you not only create clear milestones, but you also make room for 'quick wins'. These are benefits or improvements that can be seen quickly, which increases motivation and belief in the feasibility of the change. 

Change is not a one-time event, but a process. It is crucial to continually reflect on what is and is not working and to be prepared to make adjustments as needed. The foundation of successful change is a continuous cycle of learning and improvement. As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus put it: the only constant in life is change.  

Better together
With change in organizations, it is important that all employees are on board. One of the founders of change management, Kurt Lewin, demonstrated that changing groups is easier than changing individuals. Why? Because people in groups talk to each other about the change and its benefits. We can apply such exchange in our personal lives as well: share your good intentions with others, motivate each other, or go to language class together. 

Fortunately, the - indeed - depressing statistics do not mean that change is impossible. Let's use Blue Monday as an opportunity for reflection, to clarify our next steps, make adjustments where necessary, and share our journey with others. Change may be difficult, but your future self on the sunny French terrace will be proud of yourself!