Know Your Opportunity Costs

Immunity to Change

A couple years ago, I attended a 4-day seminar in Seattle about Robert Kegan’s and Lisa Lahey’s Immunity to Change model, which has been researched and validated extensively for personal and organizational development.  What the Immunity to Change model does better than any change management process that I’m aware of is that it places a great deal of focus on a person’s (or team’s) competing interests in making a change.  For example, if you want to start exercising more Immunity to Change would allow you to consider what you might be giving up in order to be successful with that effort. So if you’re a parent, you might be giving up 30 minutes or an hour per day that you would otherwise be spending with your kids, or if you have a favorite TV show, working out might cut into the leisure time that you would use to watch your show.

There is more to Immunity to Change than this, of course, and it does go very deep into the emotional commitments that may get in the way during a change initiative. If you’re interested in learning more about this, I highly recommend Kegan and Lahey’s book called Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization.

Opportunity Cost

But aside from this model, I find that it is highly beneficial to consider opportunity costs in personal development. I was first taught about the concept opportunity cost in freshman economics about 13 years ago and then lesson struck me as a very real and useful one.  In economics, we say that an opportunity cost is whatever you have to “give up” when you decide to buy something. So the opportunity cost of having chocolate ice cream is that you can’t have vanilla ice cream. And when we factor in the standard economic problem, which is that have limited resources and unlimited wants, you can see how opportunity cost can be big deal. If I take a vacation to Rome, I won’t be able to afford to take a vacation to Paris for a few years, etc.

Bringing it back to personal development, it is really important that you understand your opportunity costs before you begin a change effort because those things will come to the surface sooner or later.  I find that it’s really beneficial to know the odds, to know what you’re up against, because it allows you to gauge your response to certain stressors and helps to keep you calm and cool.  If you’re expecting stress, then when stress happens, it’s no big deal, right?

So you don’t necessarily need to work your way through a change management model like Immunity to Change (although it would probably help), but you do need to consider how your life will change, how your life will need to change in order to accommodate the personal development that you wish to manifest.  Anticipate the struggle, the cravings, the weak moments when you want to give up, the lack of understanding from people around you, etc. 

Give it some thought and write down what you’ll be giving up and how you expect that loss in and of itself to affect your life.  Not only does this set you up for success by predicting the struggle and preparing you for it, it also will help you to decide if the change effort you have selected is even worth it to you.  I mean, working out for an hour every day sounds great, but if you have to give up things that are really important to you, then would you really expect this effort to last a long time? It’s all about what you want and what you value, so be real with yourself. You got this.

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