25% of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions within a week. As we are now nearing the end of January, I assume the percentage is increasing. The majority of the people who give up, will go after the same goals next year. What I’m wondering is if everyone who gives up spends any time thinking through why they they do or whether they just automatically add the goal to next year’s list. What if something within you was causing you to give up and that something was not obvious? What if finding what that was would be the only thing that could ensure you succeed next time you try?
Professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow of Harvard Graduate Business School found that when we are consistently failing to make a change in our lives, it is likely that some sort of immunity system is at work protecting us from what it perceives as a threat (i.e. the change we are trying to make). To succeed, they say, we have to uncover what is subconsciously opposing our goals. These hidden barriers to change are to do with the way we see the world so what is often called in personal development, a ‘limiting belief’.
In their book ‘Immunity to Change’, Kegan and Laskow present several interesting examples from the business world. In each of these, senior managers go through an exercise where they have to complete their immunity map. The really interesting thing is that once they find what is preventing them from making the change they are after, they find out that the limiting beliefs have as much been impacting their personal lives as they have their professional lives. So like you hear me say regularly: change at home and change at work are one and the same.
How can you uncover your immunity to change? Kegan and Laskow propose a 4 step process. Take a piece of paper, turn it sideways and split it into 4 sections.
Step 1 – List Your Main Goal
In the first column, list your main goal for 2014. Maybe you want to move to a bigger house in a the country, maybe you want to start working towards a change in careers or you want to write a novel. Underneath your goal, write down some actions that will help you achieve it. So, if we take writing a book, some actions could be: plan a regular writing slot in my diary, brainstorm my story arc or if non-fiction, my outline.
Step 2 – Identify the behaviours that stop you from getting it
In column two, list what you are doing (not doing) that is preventing you from reaching your goals. Our aspiring author may discover that she is consistently finding excuses not to write or that when she sits down to write, she is consistently getting distracted. She may have put no effort in clarifying what she would like to write about and not be entirely clear on the topic of her book or the themes of her novel.
You may now be thinking that knowing this is enough because, our author could simply eliminate all distractions. This is where most people would look for a solution (remember the technical and the transformation challenges from my previous post?) but as it is likely that consistent failure requires a change in mindset, this would not be enough.
Step 3 – Discover your competing commitments
Column 3 is where you need to conduct some self-exploration. Ask yourself how you would feel if you did the opposite to what you are currently doing? In the case of our aspiring author, this would mean asking herself how she would feel if she regularly sat at her desk and wrote non stop for several hours? Also, if she was to clarify her story arc in advance?
She may find that fear arises. What if her book is truly successful and her stable and secure life starts to change as a result? What is brainstorming her story arc upfront limits her creativity and her book is perceived as ‘mechanical’ rather than art? What if she is not creative enough to sit down for hours on end and write?
Step 4 – Identify your big assumptions or limiting beliefs
In column 4, uncover the limiting beliefs that are at the root of your conflicting commitments. Use If ___ then ___ type of statements.
For our author, this could be: If I don’t publish the perfect book, I may not be seen as a true artist or If I am successful, I will lose my work-life balance.
What is your one big thing? The one thing that could help you change your life?