What are your learning plans for 2012?

If you are reading this blog, I know you have an open mind and a willingness to learn and try new things. With that in mind, and as you give the tools and techniques discussed here like sleep hygiene and meditation a go, you may be coming across people who are not so willing to learn new things. You may already have stories of people you know who can be critical of your journey of life and your enthusiasm to seek excellence. To be honest, I do not come across many now. I choose to surround myself with a network of amazing, inspiring people who are on a similar path to me, who constantly remind me that life is too short to be average. See the Good People page for their website details.

But every now and then, you meet resistance or criticism, and to be honest, I really enjoy it. Maybe because it’s such a novelty, it’s a bit exciting. Or maybe I’m just strange in the head.

Mark Twain once said ‘Never argue with a fool, as lookers may not be able to tell the difference’. Criticism is not a chance to argue your point, but a chance to observe with curiosity the other person’s position on a matter. Ask open questions like ‘that’s interesting, what makes you think that?’ etc. Because, you see, you are on a journey to seek excellence, to learn and grow. You will not help the other person grow by using their tactics and arguing.

Adopt what can be called a ‘learning mindset’. This involves pausing for a second and maybe even taking a few deep breaths. I imagine putting on a new, imaginary hat (mine is purple velvet with red writing) entitled ‘Learning’. This reminds me that I should always be learning. A defensive mindset is often what comes to mind first, but can be easily dissipated with some deep breaths and a terrific mindset.

How much learning are you going to do in 2012?

Are YOU Ready to Change?

‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. Gandhi

Many people are involved in some kind of change. Whether it be large organisational change, personal transformation, a work project or a house or office move. Large or small, they all constitute change. One of the biggest challenges is influencing this change to achieve your desired outcome. It  could include getting people to change, wondering why they won’t, or worrying about the things that are not changing or working as you wish them to. These are all external stressors that challenge your ability to achieve an outcome. The common denominator in all this, of course, is YOU. You need to be ready to change yourself, just as much, if not more, than the factors surrounding you. Are you ready to change yourself to get results?

One of the most common reactions to any of these stressors is to behave defensively. Whether it be anxiousness or anger or something similar, they constitute the behaviour of a defensive mindset. Responding to a situation with a defensive mindset limits our options and can divert our attention away from our purpose. Focusing on the dangers posed, rather than the outcome, could indicate a number of issues that will need to be addressed if you wish to reach your goals.

These issues could result in a pattern of behaviour that leads you to be reactive rather than proactive, have a narrow focus, over-generalise and personalise situations leading to ego-based decisions. Recognising this pattern of behaviour is key to developing self-management strategies to overcome this, and change to adapt to the situation and get results.

Recognising these behaviours and being willing to change them is the first step. Developing proactive self-management strategies can minimise opportunities for a defensive mindset to develop. An example of a proactive strategy could be instead of personalising an issue, conduct a neutral diagnosis of the reasons for the negative outcome and look at the possible contribution of a wider range of factors. To prevent over-generalising, you may want to come up with a more constructive process of giving feedback either to yourself or others.

The most important thing is to make a commitment to yourself to practise a different and more productive pattern of thinking. Your willingness to do this, drop the defensiveness and activate an enabling mindset will allow you to change. If you have the ability to change yourself, you can change the world.

Why won’t people change?

I am passionate about getting the most out of people and helping them reach their potential. One of the key success criteria I have found is the acceptance of change. Having run a number of successful change programs in my career, one of the biggest challenges has been what I have become to know as a competing commitment or secondary gain. A client will be very keen to change, and on the surface, very willing. But, something about their behaviour is incongruent to what they are saying. Why? It looks like resistance, but is in fact a kind of personal immunity to change.

An example of this might be a person who has voiced a commitment or something they are keen to achieve, however, this person is doing and saying things that are not in line with what you agreed. It may be that what they are doing not only goes against what you agreed but is going a long way to sabotage them. Why would they do this? Your first reaction might be the thought that their actions reflect hypocrisy, unwillingness to change, or unspoken reluctance, when really there is a deeper reason, one they might not even recognise themselves.

Uncovering this competing commitment requires asking a series of questions. The first one could be ‘What would you like to see changed, so that you could be more effective, or so that work would be more satisfying?’ Responses might be in the form of a complaint, but complaints are okay, they often unearth useful truths.

The next question could be ‘What commitments does your complaint or response imply?’ In voicing this commitment, people can nearly always identify some way in which they are partly responsible for preventing them from being fulfilled. This leads to a third question ‘What are you doing, or not doing, that is keeping your commitment from being fully realised?’ This may lead to the person in question coming up with words or behaviours or acknowledgements of behaviour not congruent with their commitments.

It could be useful at this point to invite the person to consider the consequences of this behaviour, perhaps suggesting they do the opposite. And if they do, will they feel any discomfort or fear? There will always be fear, and that’s okay. The next step is to transform any passive fear into a statement that reflects an active commitment to preventing certain outcomes. Ask ‘By engaging in this undermining behaviour, what worrisome outcome are you committed to preventing?’ The resulting answer is the competing commitment, which lies at the heart of the person’s immunity to change.

Have some respect for this revelation, as often it is personal. Remember that it is not a weakness, but more of a self-protection mechanism that reflects some big assumptions. Understanding those big assumptions and challenging them in a positive, encouraging way is the first step in the journey of influencing this person to change and ultimately achieve their commitment to change.