How to make positive change
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If only personal change was as simples as “Comparethemeerkat.com”
Unlike Aleksandr the Meerkat from the TV adverts, people use all sorts of reasons to explain why they can’t make changes happen. You know the sort of thing ‘I am too set in my ways’, or ‘You can’t change your personality’, or even ‘I am too old to change’. Then there are the subtler versions like ‘It is him (or her) that need to change’, or ‘I will change if they do’, and finally ‘You don’t know how hard it is’. As harsh as this may sound, these statements have one thing in common – they demonstrate a fixed and defensive mind-set.
I tried typing ‘self-help books’ into Amazon today and a range of options appeared, offering me help to solve issues such as anxiety, stress, panic attacks, low self-esteem and lack of confidence. If I suffered from any of these things I would welcome the support but let’s be clear here, changing ourselves is not easy no matter what a blog or a book claims it can do for you.
Over the years, I have become very aware of what causes me to be stressed and how best to manage the thinking and emotion that drives it. You see our behaviour is rooted in our mind-sets and mind-sets can be quite resistant (but not impossible) to change.
In my last blog, I talked about the rider and the elephant – the elephant being a metaphor for the intuitive, emotional part of us and the rider the rational, objective part. I made the point that rather than the rational part of us being in charge, in fact we are driven (often unconsciously) by our emotional, intuitive side. This starts to explain why change is so difficult and not easy or simple as portrayed by some.
How do I get the best deal for me in life?
No matter what your personal goal might be, e.g. greater personal resilience or improved working relationships, you may believe that making the change required is hard.
I don’t disagree and that is perhaps not the answer you might expect from a coach. However, positive personal change can be attained but we must first acknowledge that changing ourselves requires CONSCIOUS EFFORT!
Both of those words are important, because to change something we need to bring it into the realm of consciousness. If we have an unconscious blind spot for something then it is impossible to change it. You may be thinking ‘Well that is blindingly obvious!’ however we must also recognise it is our unconscious values, beliefs, preferences, etc. that drive our behaviour and interactions with others.
Ask yourself this question – What are my values, my beliefs and the stories that I buy into that run around inside my head. These things are ingrained in us (often from childhood) and they drive your behaviour in certain ways at work and other aspects of your life. How often do you think about your instinctive reactions e.g. to a domineering or bullying manager, or to delivering your opinion in a large meeting?
With most of us, we won’t be aware of our behaviour and its impact on others around us until a friend or colleague gives us some feedback. In my experience the giving of helpful, constructive feedback doesn’t happen very often in organisations so rather than wait for a healthier culture to emerge, our best bet is to search inside ourselves where a wealth of useful information is often waiting to be discovered.
Is there a better way?
Reflective practice – your very own personal comparison website!
In the last blog, I talked about two ideas that can help effect change in us:
Reflecting on what we have done (there are many techniques for this)
Receiving feedback from the people we interact with (see above – it only works if it is actionable! – more on this in a future blog)
Let’s consider point 1 - Effective reflective practice is something that is relatively rare and our rushed, hectic workplaces are not conducive to it either.
Taking time out to think can seem like we’re slacking or being lazy when we should be working, but evidence suggests that people who engage in regular reflective practice are more likely to be successful in both their effectiveness and their developmental endeavours. In my world, research has shown a strong correlation between successful coaching and regular personal reflection.
Working flat out 100% of the time isn’t healthy for most people. Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi recognised this and created a psychological concept he called “flow”. Flow is a highly focused mental state where we seem to be very productive, yet even this requires us to take some down time (some lazy time if you like) and it is in these moments that we can find time to reflect and re-charge. Remember the two key words here are CONSCIOUS EFFORT.
But this all sounds like hard work.
If you think this sounds difficult be wary, a fixed mind-set is getting the better of you. Engaging in reflective practice takes a degree of dedication and effort, but the good news is there’s nothing inherently complex about the process itself. Why do it? Two reasons;
- You make the unconscious, conscious
- You make the subjective, objective.
Once you are conscious about something then you can choose to do something about it. If you’re subject to it then you can’t change it, but if by reflection it becomes an object that you can examine and hold out in front of you, so to speak, then you can change it. ‘Simples’ as the meerkats would say.
If you would like a helping hand to understand your values, your beliefs and/or the stories that you buy into that run around inside your head then please get in touch.
In my next blog, I will introduce you to some reflective practice tools that can help with this. In the meantime, I encourage you to take time out, to think about situations where maybe things didn’t go your way and to notice what thinking and emotion was behind your behaviour. A “lazy” 10 minutes won’t do you any harm.