If you are a change practitioner, it is unlikely that you will actually gain many new insights from Change Happens, by Kathryn and Ross Petras. It’s not that kind of book. Instead, it is a collection of quotations regarding change, catalogued alphabetically from “A: Accepting; Adapting” to “Z: Zero Hour.” Those quoted range from comedians (e.g. George Carlin) to writers (e.g. Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Gilbert), to musicians (e.g. Patti Smith) to politicians, philosophers, and more.
One of the ongoing mysteries of change for me is why so many people, when experiencing, it, feel like they are alone in how change affects them. That is one of the reasons why I love this book. Whatever a client is experiencing, I can find a quote that says, “you are not alone.” For example, I am working with a client now who is fighting to break the habit of being victim to life’s circumstances; my invitation to him is that he refocuses his attention on creating a habit of taking charge of his responses to what happens around him. Quoting gymnast Dan Millman, “the secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” In Managing Transitions William Bridges made clear to us that new beginnings also require endings, letting go. Yet so often the leaders we serve fail to include the important parts of letting go in their thinking; project managers fail to address it in their planning. It is up to us to ensure that letting go is addressed both. “Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable, you will never be able to truly change at all, because you’ll be forever in the control of things that you can’t give up,” (Andy Law, writer).
I find this a great “desktop” book. Sometimes I’ll pick it up and just randomly open it. Just now: “Really there is no normal. There’s only change, and resistance to it, and then more change,” (Meryl Streep, actress) …and “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving,” (Terry Pratchett, writer).
Change Happens is a great compendium of reminders for those of us who are in the change professions. And, it can be a great companion for those who are experiencing the disruption of change.