By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist
Authors Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey reference a study in their book, “Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization,” that found that even when doctors told heart patients they would die if they didn’t change their lifestyles, only one in seven complied.
Change is hard.
As a holistic health coach, I see this firsthand. My clients are smart, driven and successful people, yet many of them struggle with a change they’ve been trying to make in spite of knowing what to do and having a strong desire to do it.
Here’s the rub: changes that we can’t make stick are what Kegan and Lahey call “adaptive challenges,” meaning they are caused by unidentified beliefs, fears or values that block our efforts and make us immune to change. Instead of using an “adaptive solution” and discovering how hidden beliefs are holding us back, we use “technical solutions” that don’t work and leave us feeling bad about our seeming lack of discipline.
For example, if losing weight was a simple technical challenge, then following technical solutions like a diet plan and exercise routine would work easily and permanently for everyone. But they usually don’t.
Instead, we have to discover the hidden beliefs that are keeping us from change and appreciate that the subconscious has rooted them in our psyche in an attempt to protect us.
If you have an adaptive challenge that’s keeping you from change, here’s a New Year’s gift: a simple writing exercise that will help you discover your underlying blocks.
Draw four columns on a piece of horizontally positioned paper. Label them as follows: 1. Desired Change 2. Doing/Not Doing 3. Hidden Competing Commitments 4. Big Assumptions.
Fill in the columns as follows:
1. Write the change you seek and list the actions that will help you achieve this, i.e., that you want to exercise every day.
2. List all the behaviors that you’re doing and not doing that keep you from this change. You don’t need to explain or understand them. Define your actions, not your feelings. For example, one behavior might be that you don’t make time to exercise.
3. Here’s where things get exciting. Look at each behavior listed in column two and ask yourself what fears you have about doing the opposite. Go big here. Write worst-case scenarios. This is where you identify your hidden commitments. You can now see how you have one foot on the gas (column one) and one foot on the brake (column three). This is the immune system “protecting” you from undesirable outcomes, i.e., if you make time to work out every day, you fear your work will suffer and you’ll let your clients down causing them to quit working with you.
4. Identify what’s at the heart of your competing commitments listed in column three. Use “if ____, then ____” statements to help you identify your big assumptions, i.e., if you exercise every day, you’ll fall behind on work, lose clients and won’t be able to pay your mortgage, and ultimately your family will be homeless. No wonder you haven’t been able to make you exercise goal stick!
Now that you’ve identified your blocks to change, create small safe tests that allow you to discover if your big assumptions are true.
If you’d like guidance and accountability in discovering your immunity to change and support along your change journey, I’d love to hear from you.
Happy New Year!
Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, culture consultant, TEDx speaker and podcaster. For a complimentary health consultation, visit her website, corcoranhealth.com and schedule your meeting today.