Transformational change.. or simply the power of Habits

Transformational change.  The two words seem extraordinarily coupled in all sorts of guises.  Many organisational gurus and business thought leaders no longer talk about ‘change’.. they automatically couple ‘transformational’ in front of ‘change’.

But surely ‘transformational’ is either superfluous (by its nature, all change ‘transforms’?) or we’re at risk of making change a super tanker, when often a skiff boat is a more appropriate version of what’s needed?

Sarah Kelleher spoke to leaders and managers at Three this week on the impact of a skiff-boat like change… the change to daily habits.  Three have embraced the concept of small, incremental marginal gains (a term made famous by the work Dave Brailsford led with the Sky cycling team in the early 2000’s) in their ambition towards more valuable performance focused conversations.

The thought provoking session by Sarah took place just a few days after I returned from a fabulous break in South Africa, where I re-learnt the lost art of swimming front crawl.  (Last practiced over 35 years ago!)  But if I only practice this new skill in warm waters in foreign lands, I’ve very conscious the ‘gains’ will be quickly eroded.

I’ve committed to a couple of small new habits in service of the change.  One session of early morning swim a week in Bicester’s leisure centre pool.  (Ticked off for this week at 7am yesterday 😊)

But in recognition of James Clear’s advice (Atomic Habits) to create 2 minute habits as the ‘gateway’ to the ‘big habit’… my pre-habit habit is to pack the swim bag the night before, and place it by the front door, ready to grab and go in the early-morning light.

Would others call my future swimming habit be transformational?  (Let’s not peak too soon, I have only done Day 1 so definitely not a ‘habit’ yet!) Maybe not.

But the small habits have the ability to build up to a big change for me.  Being able to do something that I haven’t felt able to do for many years.  The excitement of learning and practicing a new skill or technique.  That’s not ‘big and audacious’ transformational.  But it is an exciting positive movement that feels achievable by the smallest change of habits.