A recent study in the Netherlands revealed that when people are confronted with a substantial loss or major emotional, physical, mental, or political event, they become more receptive to learning new behaviors. Researchers call these events “teachable moments,” and they believe an event like the COVID-19 pandemic falls into this category. The past few years have forced many of us to ask ourselves questions around what we offer the world, what we want from life, how we used our time, and what we learned that will allow us to carry ourselves in a better way.
In her book How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, Katy Milkman describes how fresh starts are a great time to initiate changes. For example, some people might joke about using the new year as a time to make drastic changes—after all, why would a change of the calendar suddenly make goals more attainable—but there’s some benefit to starting in the new year. It isn’t because the month of January is different from other months but because of what it represents—a fresh start. Other fresh starts could be a birthday, a new semester, or even a Monday. Fresh starts are special because they give us a new perspective. They place distance between the previous goals you may not have reached and the new ones you aspire to.
Working from home during the pandemic is a clear example of when a major event triggered change. For some of us, this was a positive experience where individuals and companies learned new ways to accomplish their goals. For others, the fresh start wasn’t a good one—the pandemic shone a light on our weaknesses and resistance to growth. Fortunately, there are solutions. In her book, Milkman shares strategies for identifying and overcoming common barriers to change. Through case studies and engaging stories, she explains why timing can be everything when it comes to making a change; how to turn temptation and inertia into assets; and how giving advice and asking for support, especially when you’re struggling with something, can help you to achieve more.
New beginnings are everywhere. And it’s up to each of us to make the most of them. It can be a new role, a new environment, or a new project. For management accountants, a fresh start can include the decision to pursue a certification like the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant). Organizations, too, should look to invest time and resources into the education of their staff. For many educators and students, a fresh start is approaching with the start of a new semester. In the following pages of Strategic Finance’s special education issue, you’ll read about strategies and methods accounting academics can use to teach the next generation of accounting leaders the important information they’ll need as they start their careers.
Life is full of teachable moments, whether you’re a student, a young professional, a seasoned executive, or a recent retiree. Be on the lookout for them!