The Change Challenge!

Wow!  Hard to believe that 2011 has already begun!  And with a New Year, comes New Year resolutions.  New goals and challenges for the fresh year to come.. some to better ourselves, some to challenge ourselves, and some just to make ourselves feel better by acknowledging that a change needs to be made.  Many of us can’t be bothered with resolutions.  Why make a promise we have no intention of keeping?  So much easier to just ignore it.  For those who do make resolutions, how many of you actually stick to them?  And what is it that stops us from committing to these changes we set out to make?  AND what is it that prevents us from making those changes in our every day lives and requires a “new year” in order for us to challenge ourselves to make them?
Over the holidays, I started reading a fantastic book called “Immunity To Change”by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey.  It got me thinking about how we often forget to test our assumptions when wanting to make changes or setting new goals.  Often, we assume by just simply committing to the challenge or change that we will achieve it.  The most common New Year’s goal is to lose weight – eat less/ healthier and start exercising; a tried and true equation, right? Yet how come so many of us have a hard time just doing it?  What is it that makes it hard for us to change our eating habits and increase our daily activity?  What is it REALLY that stops us from changing our behavior and what assumptions are we not challenging in order to do so?
Normally when wanting to make changes or set new goals, we first identify the change.  Then we identify how we are going to make the change, achieve our goal and/ or identify new behaviors needed to achieve the goal, i.e. What we are and are not going to do (I am going to eat more carrots and less chocolate for example).  This is where we stop.  Now, we challenge you to take it a couple steps further.  Now that you have identified what you want and how you are going to do it, let’s now think about what’s stopping you from making this change or achieving this goal.  Why have you not done it?  What is getting in the way?  Once you have reflected on this, identify what assumptions you have around the change that you are trying to achieve.  Before we are truly able to make sustainable change, we must identify what behavior is preventing us from actually making this change.  When we become aware of what is standing in our way, what our assumptions are around the change that needs to happen, then and only then can true change actually happen.
For example:  I want to be more open and curious with my friends and family and less of a telling problem “solver”.
Let’s break it down:
1. Identify the change
I want to be more open and curious with my friends and family and less of a telling problem “solver”.  More about them, less about me.
2. Identify how you are going to make the change – what I am going to do/ not do.
In order to do that, I am going to listen more actively, ask more open questions, and be less focused on solving, more focused on listening and supporting.  I am not going to “tell” people what I think they want to hear to make them feel better about themselves, or what I want for them.  I will ask them what they want and support them in achieving itThis is about them, not me.
3. What is stopping me from actually making this change, why haven’t I already done it?
I like to feel needed by my friends and family and solving their problems or making them feel better about themselves makes them happy, making me happy.   If I am not telling them what to do, then what will they need me for?
4. What assumptions are you making around this change?
I am assuming that my friends and family want me to solve their problems and tell them what to do – it makes them happy.  I am also assuming that if I have nothing to tell them or solve for them, then I won’t be needed in their lives, and I like to feel needed.  I guess I like to feel like the one in control – the go to problem solver.
Now that the person above has a greater understanding of their need to be in control, be the problem solver and feel needed by friends and family, combined with greater understanding of their assumption that their friends and family want all of this from them, it is easier for them to understand and change their behavior in the moment.  How can they do this?  Test their assumptions, ask their friends and family what they want from them.  How often do they like it when someone tells them what to do, and what are they solving anyway?
    When looking at the 4 steps above, you will see that this behavior is more about them and what they want, rather then about their friends and family.
So, what challenges, goals, changes are you setting for 2011?  For you, what could get in the way that prevents you from achieving them?  What assumptions are you making?
We love to hear from you – what’s working, not working, and how your Change Challenge is unfolding for you.
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