Learning to change
Learning to change

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Learning to change

4.5 What might help and hinder you

Kurt Lewin (1947) developed a theory called Force Field Analysis to think about the way in which changes made at work succeed or fail. You can also use this concept to think about changes that you are trying to make in your life. Lewin suggests that whenever we are trying to change things there will be forces in favour of change and forces against. For change to happen, the forces in favour must be stronger than those against.

Described image
Figure 33 Kurt Lewin

It is rather like a tug of war (or more strictly – in this context – a push of war), as indicated by Figure 34 and the case illustration in Figure 35. If the forces on the left-hand side are stronger than those on the right, then the vertical line – which represents the current situation – will move; the change can go ahead.

Described image
Figure 34 Forces in favour of change, forces against change

It might not seem much different from the familiar ‘pros and cons sheet’ but pictures often express ideas more clearly than words. The diagram lends itself to thinking about how you can weaken the ‘team’ on the right, or bring in heavyweights to add to the one on the left.

There will almost always be forces in favour and forces against the changes that you are thinking about. For example, your dream job might be better paid – but also involve more travel to work; you might really enjoy doing the work – but you might not really trust the childminder to look after your child as well as you do yourself; and so on.

Some forces will be quite significant; others might not have much effect on you at all. It is useful, once you have thought about what the main factors are, to estimate how much impact they might have on you – in a diagram like the one below, you can make the arrows representing each factor fatter to indicate this. The thin arrows indicate fairly minor hazards; the fatter ones indicate potential change stoppers (like hulks on the ‘tug of war’ rope).

Box 2 Case illustration

Jodi came up with the following Force Field Analysis …

Described image
Figure 35 Jodi’s Force Field Analysis

Shauna made the following list of helping and hindering factors:

Described image
Figure 36 Shauna’s list

Activity 47 What might help and hinder you?

Allow about 30 minutes for this activity

Now think about one of the goals that you are aiming for and the changes it will make to your life.

Write down all the things that might help you to achieve the goal and all the things that might get in the way. Use the following headings to help you organise your thoughts:

  • Things that could help
  • Things that could hinder


We do not know what your actual helps and hindrances are but they probably fall into three main categories:

  1. The resources you have available – for example, having (or not having) people on your side, money, time, equipment and so on. (Having these would lead you to list them in the left-hand column, while not having them would lead to them being put in the right-hand column.)
  2. Your current level of knowledge and skills in areas you would like to pursue.
  3. Your personal qualities/attributes – for example, having (or lacking) confidence and self-belief; being brave (or nervous) about facing new challenges; being extrovert (or introvert); being healthy (mentally and physically); having (or not having) the resilience to cope when things are turning out harder than expected.

We now move on to look at each of these categories in turn. Before we do, though, it is worth remembering that Section 3 and the second section of this section both highlighted the importance of social factors that can affect learning. Social factors can affect all aspects of our lives as they include racism, sexism, ageism, and other forms of oppression that lead to some people having more opportunities in life than others. While not wanting to dismiss or minimise these social factors, we are going to concentrate on things that are in your immediate power.


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