Managing Personal Change
Managing personal change is inherently tricky.
We usually make the flawed assumption that it is skills based, in other words that we can read about it, go to seminars, watch videos and be taught to change.
Whilst it is true that we can be taught, generally we won't change.
Immunity to change
We can't change because of what Professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey in their latest book call: "Immunity to Change" or inner resistance.
So what is the source of our inner personal resistance that lies beneath and sabotages our best attempts at managing personal change?
Research undertaken by Kegan and Lahey has led them to define inner personal resistance to change as a "hidden commitment", with a hidden underlying root cause, and this "hidden (or unconscious) commitment" is in direct opposition and conflict with our stated commitment to change.
So what this means in practise is that our best intentions, for example a New Year resolution, to lose weight or stop smoking is sabotaged from the outset by another unconscious part of us that actually likes and wants to smoke and over eat.
The knowing doing gap
So quite clearly, any attempt at managing personal change starts with a clear understanding of what our unconscious or hidden commitments really are.
This is often referred to as the "knowing doing gap", or as Kegan puts it:
"... how to close the gap between our intentions, things we actually want to carry out, and what we are actually able to do".
Further information: "Immunity to Change"
Your inner map of reality
As we are all the product of our own ethnic, national, social and religious backgrounds we quite naturally have an inbuilt inner map that see life from the perspective of that background and that has a tremendous effect on our attempts at managing personal change.
This inner map applies a whole range of filters related to the profile and characteristics of our environmental background. We develop our own personal beliefs that are based on this inner map of reality, to navigate us through life and primarily to keep us safe. For most of us, most of the time, this is largely an unconscious process.
These inner beliefs are very strong and have a very strong emotional (or energy) element and it is this unconscious feeling, based on an inner belief, that is the root cause of our resistance to our best attempts at managing personal change. The inevitable outcome is that it is this unconscious belief and associated powerful feeling that causes us to not do things we commit to doing.
These inner beliefs also act as very strong filters and stop us seeing or hearing anything that conflicts with those beliefs.
How we build our own personal (and unconscious) inner map of reality
Here’s the big picture of how your internal map of reality operates to generate your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours:
- First, you experience something through your senses. You see something, hear something, touch or feel something, smell something, or taste something. In other words, you have an experience.
- Then you automatically create an internal representation or association – or to put it another way – you adjust your inner map of reality with an internal picture, an internal sound, an internal smell, and internal taste, and internal feeling or touch sensation, or an internal dialogue (otherwise known as thought).
- All of these vast numbers of incoming sensory impressions first pass through a number of filters, which delete huge amounts of it, distort it in various ways, and create generalizations. These filters are hugely important in determining how you create your reality and thus your resourcefulness in managing personal change.
- With what is left after this filtering process, which happens almost instantaneously and almost totally unconsciously, you then create some sort of internal representation of reality.
- We string all of these internal representations or associations into sequences or strategies.
- Everything you do and everything you feel is the end result of a strategy, or a sequence of these internal representations string together in a certain order.
- These strategies (or sequences of internal representations all strung together) ultimately end up as a behaviour or a state of mind.
It is these sequences of internal representations and associations all strung together that create your experience of life, internally in terms of how you interpret it and how you feel about it, and externally in terms of how you experience it.
The problem is that this internal representation that you have created, and that shapes your thoughts feelings and behaviours and all of your attempts at managing personal change is a very poor copy of reality, and it interferes with your all of your attempts at managing personal change.
This is because so much of what came in through your senses has been deleted, distorted and generalized in a number of ways.
You’ve made a map that represents your perception of reality, but that perception isn’t reality, and it isn’t really very accurate.
If you change the internal representations and associations that you make, if you change the meaning that you attribute to them, and if you change how you string them together you get a different outcome – i.e. you feel differently and behave differently.
Also, this works on reverse, if you change your behaviour you change how you think and feel, so:
- If you change your internal representations and associations, you change your behaviour and your state.
- If you change your state, it changes your behaviour and your internal representations.
- If you change your behaviour, it changes your state and your internal representations.
This is the key to understanding the dynamics of managing personal change.
Further information: Why we think the way we do
A summary of how inner your inner resistance to change occurs
Based on the descriptions we have just examined, here is a summary of how inner resistance to managing personal change develops and why, and how it manifests:
- From early childhood onwards, we all develop our own inner map of reality
- As we develop, we understand, interpret and relate to the world "out there" through this inner map
- Our capacity to be conscious or aware of our own inner map and especially how we create our experience of life through it is determined by our level of self-awareness
- However, for most of us, most of the time, this is an unconscious process
- In accordance with this inner map we have our own inner commitments to our own personal priorities
- Our inner hidden commitments have a high priority and will over-ride any counter intentions that conflict with them
- We assign this high priority because the hidden commitment is inextricably linked to an inner hidden perception that we have of our own physical, psychological, social or emotional safety
- This hidden commitment is (nearly always) outside of our conscious awareness
- The quickest and easiest way to identify our inner resistance is to observe our reactions and our behaviour in our attempts to change
And here's how we all get stuck in the mud with all this
Part of the way our minds work is that:
- We get very attached - or stuck - to our thoughts and emotional states
- They arise automatically
- They are repetitive
- The repetition causes reinforcement – making us more attached and thus more stuck
- We are largely if not totally unaware of this process
- We mistake the state for who we are
- We identify totally with these states – we are immersed in them – "I am angry" – "I am happy" etc
- After the passing of a certain amount of time these states recede or pass and we are "normal" again
- After the passing of a certain amount of more time these states arise again and the whole cyclical process repeats itself
- Again and again and again…ad infinitum
This is the tragedy of the "natural" human condition and why we fail at managing personal change.
If you can take charge of these things, you CAN succeed at managing personal change as you choose how you do them instead of having them just run on automatic pilot.
By taking charge, you can make huge changes in how you experience life and the kind of outcomes you get.
Further information: The filtering mechanism
How to change the way we think.
You can waste years of your life (as I have done) and spend a fortune in various forms of introspection, analysis and therapy digging and delving into how and why you think and feel as you do - and becoming very well informed.
Please don’t get me wrong, there can be value in doing this – for a while. But ultimately there comes a point when we want to move beyond all the information about why we think and feel as we do and we just want a practical solution - we want to change.
2 practical solutions to change the way you think
Here are 2 practical solutions that I have used to change the way I think and that I can recommend to you if you really want to change the way you think.
Read my personal experiences and reviews of these resources here:
Self Talk - How We Change The Way We Think - and
NLP - How to change the way you think
And finally, you may also find these resources to be of interest from
Bradley Thompson's Self Help Street.com
How to think - Main Themes
Self improvement and motivation
Self motivation tips
The power of positive thinking
The following articles develop and support the main themes and should be read in conjunction with the main pages under the relevant theme. Please see: