At this time of year, many of us find ourselves choosing a New Year's Resolution that we've tried before, or see items on our performance appraisal under "needs to improve" that have also appeared on previous performance appraisals. Why is it so hard to make and maintain progress towards these goals? In many cases, it is because of something that Bob Kegan and Lisa Lahey call our "immunity to change."
Fortunately, there is good news. Kegan and Lahey's methodology for overcoming immunity to change is often effective in, once and for all, making progress toward some of our most difficult goals. The reason that the immunity to change process is so effective is that it recognizes that brute force, motivation, and new skills are often not sufficient. Our fears and competing (and often hidden) commitments explain why we remain stuck; or make progress only to slip back into our old ways. Underpinning these fears and competing commitments are a set of assumptions that we must recognize and reconsider if we are to make significant, lasting progress.
Let's look at a common New Year's Resolution - to exercise more often. If, for example, we:
- Worry that we won't have enough time for work and family if we take time to exercise
- Assume that while we are exercising we might lose or disappoint a client or annoy our family and that the consequences will be dire
- Feel committed to never disappointing a client or our family
then it would make sense that this set of feelings, assumptions and competing commitments would present a fierce obstacle to our original goal.
Now, lets look at a common item from many development plans, based on feedback in performance appraisals - the need to delegate more effectively. Perhaps, we:
- Worry that if we delegate too much, others will think that we are lazy and that our job is unnecessary
- Assume that "working" means "rolling up our sleeves and doing it ourselves" and that if we don't do this, we will lose our job
- Feel committed to "being the one who gets things done" and to not being seen as a "slacker"
If this were the case, it would make sense that we would overlook opportunities to delegate or be overly involved in the work we have delegated.
In either case, a brute force approach that doesn't address the assumptions that are getting in the way of progress is unlikely to be successful. This is often harder than it might appear, as many assumptions are so deeply ingrained that we don't even realize that they are assumptions, rather than "the truth." However, by taking the time to understand the obstacles and to test our assumptions, we can pave the way for significant, lasting progress. By working with someone trained in Kegan and Lahey's methodology, you can, once and for all, make significant progress toward New Year's Resolutions or recurring performance appraisal goals.