Do you recognize any of these self defeating behaviors: smoking, procrastination, disorganization, unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, excessive worry? While our desire to replace these behaviors with new, healthier ones is often strong, we are so proficient at getting in our own way, stepping on the gas and braking at the same time. Our engine revs but we go nowhere.
Robert Kegan, in his book Immunity to Change compares this struggle to an immune system at work. Immune systems are meant to protect. They are essential to our health, but there are times when the system does not respond appropriately. Auto- immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are examples of inappropriate immune responses. Kegan likens our struggle to change behavior to an immune system stuck in an earlier protective pattern.
Life experiences teach us to view some behaviors as helpful, others as dangerous. Over time an emotional immune system is created that unconsciously protects us from what we perceive as painful or uncomfortable, a system created to keep us safe. It is a pattern that may have served us well in the past but may be getting in our way today. So how do we begin to change these unconscious patterns so that we can take our foot off the brake and move forward?
I offer you these possibilities:
Be present to what you are experiencing. What are you feeling and noticing that makes you want to change?
Choose ONE new behavior. Be sure it is something you really want not something you should do. Express this new behavior in a positive statement.
Expand your awareness.
Make a list of all that you do or not do that sabotages your adopting this new behavior. What are your big worries, your hidden commitments that compete with adopting this new behavior?
There is usually an underlying big assumption that surfaces as we work through this process. It may be a fear of losing something deeply valued or a behavior that served us well in the past.
Choose a small step you can commit to. A step that will test that big assumption. Put that small step into practice.
More information and detail on this process can be found by reading Kegan’s Immunity to Change.
If you would like personal support as you work through the process, consider partnering with a wellness coach. The support, accountability and guidance of a coach can help move you with more ease and speed to that level of well being you are striving to attain.