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We live in the age of instability, which escalates change across many environments. The potential for change raises a variety of responses. Even beneficial
change requires those involved to give something up. The greater the personal sacrifice, the more likely it is that people will drag their feet in making
the change (Heath & Heath, 2010). The inevitability of change is particularly acute in nursing and health professions education, where faculty members are
bombarded with changes in the health care environment. To be an effective educator in this environment, faculty must think of change in a different way.
The Happiness Hypothesis by Haidt (2006) provides a metaphor that gives direction for moving positively through change. The author suggests that managing change
can be compared to riding an elephant. The rider, who is very small compared to the elephant,
represents the conscious, verbal, thinking component of a person undergoing change. The rider provides the necessary facts to drive the direction
for change. In contrast, the elephant can be compared to the emotions stimulated by the potential change—huge, automatic and verbal.
These emotions provide the energy to respond either positively or negatively. Haidt (2006) suggests that when there is a conflict between the direction of the change
(the rider) and the source of the energy (the elephant), the rider can only override the
elephant for some period of time. Ultimately the rider becomes exhausted! As a result, unless emotions brought
about by change are dealt with, the change will ultimately fail (Haidt, 2006),
Heath and Heath (2010) suggest that change is hard because people are reluctant to change habits that have previously been successful. When we believe that we are going
to be required to change something we value, negative emotions are inevitable. These negative feeling, in certain situations, may be helpful to confront problems and avoid
risks. However, when there is a need to focus on a wide spread change, positive emotions, such as hope, optimism, and excitement, are necessary to broaden our thinking.
Learning to move toward positive emotions is critical in the adoption of a specific organizational change (Heath & Heath, 2010). The following strategies can be used to
accomplish this positive approach.
Haidt, Johnathan (2006) Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Wisdom in Ancient Wisdom. New York: Basic Books: Perseus Books Group.
Heath, C., Heath, and D. (2010) Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. New York: Broadway Books.