How do you make a positive change?

Updated: Jul 18, 2018

I recently caught up with participants from our February “Driving Your Life” small group coaching program for a six month check in. I was very keen to see how they'd gone with implementing the goals they'd developed during the program. Could they achieve the changes they'd committed to? What successes had they had? Where did they struggle? What was different? Or were their lives and challenges still the same?

And for me, as the program facilitator, was it worth these people taking two days out of their busy schedules to reflect on what was working and what was not working in their careers and lives?

The great news was that most people had made significant positive changes over the past six months in career, business and life. Devoting two days to reflect, learn, plan and create plus talk to and hear from other people who were similarly motivated to change seemed to have given people a real kick start. They felt happier and were making better decisions.

We all know that making change isn't easy. We often have the best intentions, set a goal and then the change just doesn't stick. Why did this Driving Your Life group have success with some of their goals?

The fact these people spent two days undertaking a program that took them through processes of self-examination and reflection is one possible reason. For those who dismiss these practices as "naval gazing" or a waste of time, Harvard professor Lisa Lahey and her colleague Robert Keegan have done years of research that shows reflection can help make change stick.

As an example I might have identified that being more assertive will be a positive change for me to make for my career and life. So I identify this as a goal and go and do some training. And then I don’t implement what I learnt. What is going on?

Lahey and Keegan have identified that successfully making this change will require both a change in behaviour and a change in mindset (adaptive change). They say that by undertaking self-examination and reflection I will uncover other underlying beliefs I have that prevent me from making this change (making me “immune” to change). I might believe that if I become more assertive then people won’t like me or I believe that I’ll make others uncomfortable. These hidden competing beliefs are running at the same time as the belief that being more assertive will benefit me and so the status quo is maintained and I don’t change.

Often our beliefs remain unexamined and yet they drive our behaviour. Lahey and Keegan’s Immunity to Change model provides a self-reflection process to identify our hidden competing beliefs so that we can begin to challenge them.

I believe it’s worth doing the hard inner work to uncover beliefs we've developed in the past that just aren't serving us anymore so that we can let them go. In being more aware of ourselves we can challenge the often unconscious ways we sabotage ourselves, despite our best intentions.

If you'd like more information on Immunity to Change this article is a good start: