Happy New Year. I hope you’ve had a wonderful time over the festive period.
At this time of year you might, like me, get a little cynical about all the emails you receive from the personal development world advising you on New Year’s resolutions, goals or making this ‘your best year yet’. All of them are well intended, some of them offer some great insights, however most ignore a concept which is known as the Paradox of Change.
This concept would make most coaches and personal development specialists laugh (or maybe shout) at me for even talking about it. However with your permission I’d like to share it with you. But I want you….it is probably not what you are expecting. But I hope it offers you a different perspective at you think about 2016.
This time of year tends to focus our attention on what we would like to change as we start a fresh new year. Most of us start the year thinking about what we would like to change about our lives or ourselves.
The traditional approach to change is based on taking action to be different. It is about making change happen through focus, hard work, discipline and commitment. Now this approach to change can, and does, work. It is an approach that I used to work with my clients on and have helped them to achieve great results. But it doesn’t work all the time and often is unsustainable.
As many of us know our New Year resolutions and goals often fall by the wayside. You have probably seen the media citing statistics over the last week about the drop off rate of people’s motivation and achievement of their resolutions. A study by British Psychologist Richard Wiseman discovered that 88% of resolutions end in failure. So it would suggest that something is not working with the traditional approach to change.
So why is this? Where does the intention to change go wrong for most people?
Well the problem doesn’t lie in changing. The only constant thing in life is change. As the proverb says “Change is inevitable, progress is optional.” Change is not something we do or don’t do – change is the natural process occurring on a continual basis. It is in our approach to change that the problem occurs and there is an alternative approach to change.
Don’t try and be different!
What I hear you cry! A coach telling me to not try to be different – has she gone mad?!?!
Over the past few years as I have studied and trained more extensively in the psychology of coaching I have learnt a powerful (and at first counter-intuitive) distinction in how to create sustainable change. It comes from a school of psychology known as Gestalt.
The premise of Gestalt is:
“Change occurs when we become more of who we are, rather than becoming who we are not”
This seemingly counter-intuitive approach is based on the principle that when we accept who we are it opens up possibilities and opportunities for unplanned change to emerge. In the effort of trying to be different with willpower we block the natural process that brings about productive change.
When New Year’s Resolutions fail, it is not because change hasn’t occurred. It is due to the simple fact that we use most of our energy to resist the change to be different and we are trying to keep things the same. There is a deep internal resistance to the proposed change at an unconscious and unaware level.
This approach is known as the Paradoxical Theory of Change as it seems to be contradictory in what it is saying – change by not changing! Paradoxical Theory of Change was developed by Dr Arnold Beisser a medical doctor and psychiatrist
This approach to change means that to really be able to change we “must stay with the resistance. Until the nature of the resistance is experienced, understood and accepted, change cannot take place.” (Academy of Executive Coaching).
Put another way change comes about as a result of full acceptance of what is, rather than a striving to be different.
In working with clients in this way I find that rather than using energy to try to become different, they free up their energy to move forward. This type of approach has proven to be more transformational and sustainable – even if it might sound weird and crazy!
So if you are hoping to make a change in your life in 2016 I hope this insight gives you a different perspective.
If you are confused or would like to learn more about ‘changing by not changing’ then please get in contact.