How to Create Change -- Even When Nobody Cares

If you're one of the bold ones who has ever set out to lead an innovative project -- introducing co-workers, clients or customers to something new, attempting to ask people to do or think a little differently than they usually do -- you've confronted the "nobody cares" moment.

It doesn't really matter whether you're an employee, an entrepreneur, a freelancer or a manager. The feeling doesn't discriminate. It is familiar to changemakers in a variety of environments.

Usually, it goes like this. You've completed most of the creative aspects of the project. You -- and maybe a small team -- have refined the idea. You've thought about what it will look like, how it will work, why it is needed. You've also considered how exactly you'll implement, who you'll need to confer with to solidify your prototype or to create your first draft. Your vision is clear.

Deep down, you know you have a really good idea on your hands, and it's energizing. Man, is it energizing!

2015-07-06-1436154416-1402475-jumpingonrocks.jpeg

Of course, no good idea is without relevant concerns. You wonder: can I actually pull this off? What if X, Y or Z goes wrong? But you believe in the concept so much, you just know that your doubts and questions should not dissuade you -- you need to work through them.

Then the time comes when you're ready to share your idea with someone who has no prior knowledge of what you're working on.

You explain your vision, give it your best shot, hitting all the points about why your plan is valuable, how helpful it can be. You want the other person to see the possibilities you see. You want them to get it.

You realize, it might take some discussion to get there, a few questions etc. Realistically, you understand, they might not see the full picture immediately. But they'll totally see where you're going with this. Change is hard, you remind yourself.

So things keep moving. You finish revealing the idea and the person you're explaining it to just kind of stares back at you for a second. "Wow, that's interesting," they say. They ask a few questions. You go back and forth for a bit. And actually, it seems like they get what you're trying to do. It just doesn't excite them. They're not that into it.

2015-07-06-1436154932-7102179-sadmeme.jpegThe "nobody cares" moment begins to set in.

At first, you try to shrug off the lukewarm reaction. One person wasn't captivated with your plan. Big deal! You know not everyone will love what you're trying to do. Intellectually, you know that.

But then hours or maybe even days later, the self doubt creeps in. You start thinking that no one else is as excited about this as you are, and you begin to wonder, what if no one ever is? You look around and think, "nobody cares."

When that thought lingers, the confidence in your idea begins to erode. You start thinking that maybe nobody cares because the idea isn't very good, and if you begin to convince yourself of that, it becomes very, very hard to stay motivated.

'Nobody Cares,' Now What?

Let's take a step back. At the core, you were excited about your idea because of what it could bring to other people. You were excited because it was a way that you could help others do things better, improve their lives -- even in a small way. But there's no joy and no excitement when you start to become convinced that no one else is going to buy into your vision -- at least as much as you do.

People will do two things when they get to this point:

  1. They'll give up; or
  2. They'll realize it's time to get the hell out of their own head.

The epitome of the changemaker's struggle is how to get from feeling like "nobody cares" to figuring out what will make someone care. How do you ensure you have response #2 if your self-doubt often (understandably) leads you towards #1?

Like most things in life, there are no magic bullets. That's the tough truth. This is really about an outlook and attitude adjustment. It's about recognizing the moment when the "nobody cares" feeling starts to creep in, and then it's about how you respond.

You can train yourself to have response #2 by noticing patterns in your thought process and then making decisions about how you deal with them. This is all highly individual and frankly, I don't want to insult your intelligence with cookie-cutter advice. So no "Three Easy Steps to Kick Ass" follow. But I offer a play-by-play and some resources to hopefully inspire your thinking about how to better deal with the "nobody cares" moment and to sideline it ASAP. So here's how that might go:

  • You begin to feel like "nobody cares" again. Recognize it.
  • Try to understand where the feeling comes from. What caused it? Is it a specific conversation or a collection of recent experiences? Over time, you might detect a pattern, and you can start to anticipate situations that you'll find discouraging and prepare accordingly. Learning about mental rehearsal can help a lot. Knowledge is power!
  • Make a decision to put the feeling aside. You understand what might have prompted the feeling, but you decide you're not going to fully engage it right now (and apparently some psychologists are really into this approach of not engaging the bad thoughts).
There's no one better to rev you up about the power of decisions than Tony Robbins. This is his TED Talk from 2006.
  • Channel your energy toward understanding what will get people excited about your project. Get into their heads (and out of your own)! Go where they hang out. Talk to them. Ask them about the things (big and small) that they hope to achieve over the next year. Read the stuff they read. Find the blogs and websites they really like.

Truly understanding your audience/customer/follower is like a full-time job. So if you are immersed in it, you should find yourself with very little time to meditate on "nobody cares." And the great thing is, if you're able to get yourself away from "nobody cares" and into the mind of your potential funder, target customer, ideal reader etc., that's a pretty good indication that you're moving your vision forward.

Now of course, there are lots of times when it completely makes sense to throw in the towel. I am not suggesting you move forward at all costs. But the reason should NOT be because the "nobody cares" moment sneaks up on you and derails your plans.

This post was originally published on Medium. If you found this piece interesting, check out Pangea's free webinar series, "Thinking Critically About Doing Good."

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