Its Always Hard to Leave Home: The Challenge of Change
Change always comes bearing gifts.
—Price Pritchett, PhD Change Management Expert
Five months into the “New” year how many of us have broken promises to ourselves? New research suggests that it is not due to inertia, laziness or lack of willpower. Harvard professors Kegan and Lahey have discovered an emotional immunity system in play, which hinges on competing goals. The problem is that most change is adaptive, requiring us to change our thinking and perspective AND our behavior. When we only focus on changing behavior, the competing goals that come from the old mindset will always win.
One of the main reasons why we get stuck in reaching goals is that we approach the problem with the wrong remedy. If you have tried to accomplish something important in your life and have not been unsuccessful, consider the 2 different kinds of change challenges.
Some challenges are technical challenges– learning how to land an airplane or to suture wounds. There is a reliable, paved road in which you know nothing and through study and training you can achieve mastery. Technical challenges require learning new procedures and are accomplished with valuable content and skills. They involve new ‘apps’ or files, but not a new operating system. They require information.
Adaptive challenges on the other hand require transformation and changes in the capacity of the operating system itself. The mind must grow in order to meet adaptive goals. hey require risk and some discomfort at leaving the safety of our psychological home.
Established habits must be broken and one must venture out into new unfamiliar space in order to transform and meet the challenge. Adaptive challenges will never be met by information alone. Hence the low success rate in meeting New Year’s resolutions. Trying and not succeeding is an important sign that you have an adaptive challenge you are trying to meet with a technological solution (new skill set such as a diet, or forcing willpower). What we often experience is one foot on the gas and one on the brake. What’s the remedy? Unearth your competing (self-protective) goals Such as,
- ‘I am committed to not appearing selfish, therefore I can’t make my wellbeing a priority’.
- ‘I am committed to not attracting attention to myself and getting to my goal weight will do just that.
Sinister in their singularity, these competing goals hold us captive. Once you consciously release these ideas, your potential can be fully unlocked. Liberation awaits.