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The Change House: How to avoid complacency, denial and confusion.

When things are good and going well, why change? Isn’t change only needed when something needs to be fixed? If we see personal growth as an ever-lasting process or a journey of development, then change, renewal and reinvention are with us all the time. The Change House is a popular model that brings this to life using the metaphor of a house with four rooms first developed in the 1970s by Claes Janssen. John and I experienced and worked with this model when preparing for a recent Challenging Coaching seminar for the Association for Coaching in Edinburgh.

Claes Janssen developed the model for change representing four rooms of a house:

  • Room of contentment: in this room there is a mindset in which the individual is happy enough with their lot and there is little desire to change. Everything feels good, there is no desire to learn new skills or try new ways of working. There is a sense of being relaxed. This is a positive feeling of not needing to change, such as “If it’s not broken – don’t fix it”
  • Room of renewal: This is a room for creative change. There is a positive energy and radical ideas emerge. People support and are committed to new approaches. Thoughts and feelings are expressed openly without inhibition and ideas of change flow. This is a positive energy towards change, characterised by expressions such as, “I am going to try this.”
  • Room of denial: In this room people are aware of the change around them, but decide that none of it applies to them. There is a focus of defending the status quo and blaming others. This is a negative experience of not seeking change, for example, “I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work.”
  • Room of confusion: Something feels wrong, but there is not a clear sense of what is causing this. However, change is required as people recognise a need to develop new skills and knowledge. These may be feelings of doubt or inferiority, a negative attitude towards change and this room can be characterised by people saying things like, “I wish I knew where I was going.”


So how does the Change House link to Challenging Coaching? Over the years, our Challenging Coaching seminars and master classes have developed into a format that works well. There is positive feedback from participants, and as the format has taken several years to develop, why change it now? When considering our seminars and the Change House, we were in the room of contentment. The seminars were comfortable and enjoyable. There was a feeling when delivering a seminar that we were in the groove; there was a flow of energy. However, was this place too comfortable? Were we at risk of being complacent? Was there the risk of us being bored and seminar participants not having the best experience?

The answer to all of these questions was yes. But then there was a move from the room of contentment to the room of denial, “Well, we don’t need to change as this is the first time we’ve presented a seminar in Scotland, so the material will be new to these participants.” Next there was a visit to the room of confusion, “OK, maybe we do need to do something different, but I don’t know what to do, I’m fresh out of ideas!” Finally, the room of renewal gave the answer. This dynamically formed a new agenda and format for the Edinburgh seminar that was a great success.

The change was fuelled by the challenge to try something new, to avoid presenter boredom, and offer something different. The room of contentment can feel comfortable, but that is exactly the point as it is our comfort zone. Personal growth and development comes from moving beyond our comfort zone. Through challenge, and allowing space and time for creativity, we can put one foot in front of the other when on our journey of constant improvement and growth. So when we feel comfortable, maybe that tells us it’s time to change!

When we are working with coachees, the Change House gives an interesting way to provide understanding and context to thoughts and feelings; “Which room do you think you are in as you make that statement?” As a coach, can we spot when a coachee is in the room of contentment or the room of denial?

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