When was the last time you did something for the first time? When did you listen to someone without judgment? How can we keep our change-ability high and reawaken the curiosity we all had as children? Overcoming some of the habits that keep us from learning and continuously changing or adapting is not easy. Even though: change is the only constant and we all know it. Here are my 7 habits to keep up personal change-ability.
Get regular feedback on your current behaviour: make sure you receive observations from the outside world on its impact. Be aware of the fact that the people who love you tend to see you differently than those who perceive you for the first time. Use the opportunity to receive feedback from someone who you met for the first time (even though it is often daunting to ask it!). So, make sure you have a diverse pool of allies – people who give you regular feedback and who are able to track your observable evolution.
One important point - do not only ask for points for improvement, because one major source for your learning is, happily, provided by your strengths! And by the way: “how did you like it?” “Good”, is not good enough. Do encourage your sparring partner to make the feedback concrete.
2. Set yourself clear objectives
Make sure that you focus. Having too many objectives in terms of learning and changing will drain you (and your environment). Emotional intelligence specialists claim that from consciousness of the need to change a certain behaviour, to having any chance of adopting it, at least six months of solid practice are required. In my previous incarnation as a professional volleyball player, my trainer sometimes sent me on the court with more than two pieces of advice. To experience how hard this is to put into practice, try moving your elbow along your ear above shoulder height, whilst advancing towards your attacker in a sequence of one long, then two short, steps. Often, and certainly when under pressure, I would implement none of his instructions. What worked best in my sports career was to fine-tune one aspect of play over and over again, so that under pressure, I knew what to do as a matter of routine.
So make sure you have concrete objectives on the basis of the received feedback and your own analysis. Experiment with these objectives and reserve reflection time to evaluate how you did on your objectives and whether they need adjustment.
3. Identify a role model
Who is successfully practising the desired form of behaviour? How does he or she do it? Observe and monitor what this person does. Anyone can be a role model depending on what you are looking for: kids, bosses, colleagues, friends. My kids are wonderful role models for me Owhen it comes to being in the present moment; they don't rush and they just float from one activity to the next. And: what do you want to be a role model for?
4. Be aware of your dominant BOCAs (beliefs, opinions, convictions, assumptions)
Do you know when you have the tendency to fight or flight? Are you aware of the situations that bring out your emotions? And do you know what these emotions are? What have I done or thought, maybe so far subconsciously, to provoke this reaction in another? One of my limiting BOCAs is ‘it or I must be perfect’; this can cost a lot of time that I spend on arranging the last details of whatever I do, even though that is sometimes not necessary to create the impact I want to and it also retains me from enjoying what is because I can always find something to improve. If you do not know about your (limiting) BOCAs, then go and find them. And if you do, use your self-knowledge positively: change! Reserve time to reflect and think on your BOCAs.
5. Practice a curious attitude
Say yes to things you have not done before and do things that you find frightening or uncomfortable. Practice the ability to do new things to make it a habit and be accustomed to the phases that come along with it. As we have seen before, the difference between learning and not learning often lies in the intention with which we do things. Deepak Chopra’s habit Doing things with the right intention without attachment to results might be a good motto. Give serendipity a chance, see things through a different lens and let yourself be surprised by what happens around you!
6. Reserve reflection time
“We learn from our mistakes”. Yes - if we reserve time to analyse, evaluate, reflect and imagine alternatives. Self-reflection is the number one key to change. We learn from action, but we learn much more from reflection on the action.
7. Just do it!
“We learn through our own experiences”. Behavioural learning takes place in the limbic system in our brain, which comprises the amygdala and the hippocampus. This is the home of our habits, emotions and emotional reflexes. However, this part of our brain is a slow learner. It needs exercise, experience and repetition in order to progress.
Behavioural learning is a different process from the cognitive learning we are used to from school, cognitive learning takes place in the neocortex; behavioural learning takes place in the more emotional part of the brain, the limbic system and the amygdala. For cognitive learning - through the neocortex - reading and explanation are good learning methods; for behavioural learning - through the limbic system - experience, interaction and emotions are good learning vehicles.
Even though you have just invested in a learning method that is not your limbic system’s favourite – (reading) an article - I invite you to now envision in your mind the first situation that you will create for yourself to learn and do new stuff or existing stuff differently. What does this situation look like? How does it make you feel? What does it bring you? ...
This article was first published in April 2010 when Katharina was still Managing Partner at Krauthammer.
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Katharina Schmidt is the founder of Inspiration & Discipline. She wants to bring strategic inspiration, love & execution discipline to people in organisations.