I spent several months living and working in Copenhagen this summer, and it’s given me new insights on navigating change.

I’ve long known that a lot of change — most change, in fact – in organizations fails. The stats say as much as almost 80%. That’s pretty dismal. So I devote my services to helping leaders change that.

But here’s what I’ve now learned.

I chose to be in Copenhagen. It was a positive change for me. And yet it proved challenging.

Day after day, I had to manage my way through the new and unfamiliar. Every aspect of my daily life was different. On some levels that was really exciting. I’m kind of predisposed to liking change. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I don’t even like going back to the same restaurant twice.

But all of that positive change proved exhausting. I was a stranger in a strange land. By the end of each day, I was worn out.

Finding my way through the city following Google Map’s garbled mispronunciation of Danish street names meant backtracking more often than not and doubling the length of travel at each wrong turn.

The scrapes from falling off a bike hurt more as an adult than they ever did as a kid because of the added embarrassment of being an obviously inept tourist.

I thought I was pretty familiar with Danish culture having been raised by a Danish mother. But I learned there’s a lot more to it than just fine food. Danish women, for example, are so independent that offering them assistance may actually insult them by implying that they can’t do it themselves.

I acted on countless assumptions that proved false. Simply buying butter proved a challenge when I bought yeast by mistake because it was packaged the same way

Every day, I proved inept at something.

Now I’m not complaining. Living in Copenhagen was a phenomenal experience overall. And I’m very grateful to have been able to work in Europe.

But I have a new appreciation for dealing with the unfamiliar. And that’s what change means. It’s not what you know – yet. So you may stumble, falter, and even fail.

And then you have two choices. You can retreat back to the familiar. Or persevere — until the unfamiliar becomes familiar, and you find your grounding again.

But here’s the thing. To be successful with change, you have to be able to navigate your way through it. And be willing to persist, no matter what.

I was. I not only chose to be there. It was highly meaningful to me.

And therein lies the difference.

When change is meaningful to us, we are more willing to navigate our way through it. 

No matter how challenging.

And when it’s not, it’s just not worth the effort or the trials and tribulations. So we go back to what we know. And change doesn’t materialize.

Whatever change you’re going through right now, how meaningful is it to you? What difference does that make to your willingness to navigate it?

And is the change you’re leading as meaningful to others as it is to you?

If not, illuminate it for them if you need them to help you realize it. Ensure they can see why navigating your change is well worth the effort.

Otherwise, they’ll resist and retreat back to the familiar. And your meaningful change will just become another dismal stat.