Stories are all about change. The books and movies we enjoy the most are those that show people becoming stronger or happier or more connected with others.
And isn't that what we're after here at Calorie Neutral?
To become any of those things – or innumerable others that end in -er, like leaner or fitter – we must change something, somehow.
According to David Noer’s book Breaking Free, there are four basic character types when it comes to changeability in the workplace. I'm going to use the characters in the movie Kinky Boots (one of my faves) as examples.
At the beginning of the film, Charlie seems to be a classic Overwhelmed: when his world falls apart he is incapable of seeing any solutions, let alone implementing them.
“What can I do?” he hopelessly asks each factory worker as he lays them off, one after another.
Lauren is the only one who has an answer.
Change your product, she snaps at him. Find a new market.
Lauren is a Learner. She’s innovative, thinks outside the shoebox, and has enough optimism to draw others along with her.
Lola is Entrenched in her life as a very successful drag queen; we can see she’s no longer happy in her rut but she isn’t even trying to climb out of it. When Charlie and Lauren present her with a chance to try something new, though, she is more than capable of shoehorning herself into the job.
These three characters show the basics of Noer’s model. How does that help us change our eating/dancing/shoe habits?
Check this out:
Overwhelmed people need projects in which their old skills are useful, and to work with optimists whose energy can carry them along.
Entrenched people are more able to adapt, so they benefit from practicing new behaviors in safe situations, especially if they’re surrounded by creative optimists.
Learners are already creative, optimistic and energetic; they need to protect themselves from burnout, from being drained by others. (Lauren, for example, didn’t change much in the course of Kinky Boots – she didn’t need to. The journey was Charlie’s and Lola’s – Lauren’s role was to be a catalyst and guide.)
Although Charlie’s fiancée Nicola also remains the same throughout the movie, she isn’t a Learner. She is what Noer calls a BSer: comfortable with change, but not truly capable of it. She was happy to move to a new city and a different job, but she didn’t grow as a person.
“I can’t change what I want,” she told Charlie bluntly.
By the end of the film Charlie has stepped from the old sneakers of the apparently Overwhelmed into the brogues of a Learner, and Lola has climbed from her singin’and dancin’ rut to creative heights – wearing four-inch heels.
For us Neutrinos, it might help us individually to know what our change style is, in order to develop strategies that will help us get what we want.
If you're Overwhelmed, what old, comfortable skills can you apply? Stick to your usual menu, but adapt the recipes slightly, perhaps? Maintain your favourite exercise, but do it a few more times a week?
If you're Entrenched, what motivates you to try something new?
Please share – I believe we can all learn from each other.