Strong resistance to change appears to be hardwired into each of our body-minds. One of the brain’s functions is to make sense out of sensory input by perceiving patterns and sorting those patterns into recurring or familiar categories. This selection/storage mechanism frees the mind to process new information. New information is matched to familiar patterns stored in memory by way of neural pathways. Neural paths are also forged to assist survival through immediate danger recognition and response. Ultimately we become lazy and begin to shortcut the process, quickly sorting information into familiar files, sending impulses down familiar neural pipelines motivating predictable (not always appropriate) behavior. The process supports the unconscious but comfortable illusion that the patterned/habitual behavior ensures our survival. We often vehemently resist anything that seems to interfere with the survival of any neural/behavioral pattern we may have integrated into our identity. This is evidenced by: I am a person who (fill in the blank.)
Plop! There we land in a state of resistance and inertia based on comfort or survival. How truly comfortable is any state of resistance or inertia? How often does a personal behavioral shift really threaten our survival? Not very often.
The above represents a brief, but accurate sketch of why it can be so difficult to produce personal change, and build resilience. It may also be why some participants in my workshops first bulk when I offer leading edge methods to interrupt those familiar patterns and allow fresh behavioral choices that better support his or her individual success. Working from a new level of intention and awareness might also enable consistently constructive interpersonal relations and subsequently pattern a positive work environment and that would not be familiar. What’s not familiar can also feel like “not me” and that can feel like loss, even death.
Having many of my own challenges and being a somewhat stubborn individual who never-the-less strongly values growth, I’ve always been an explorer of methods for deepening wisdom, producing personal change for increased success, and encouraging love. I’ve studied, used and taught many fast and successful methods for personal change. I am very excited about the implications of methods for individual change based on their second level potential for organizational impact. I imagine a science-fiction-like workplace filled with participants who thrive on personal growth and resilience; who happily self-manage fears, limitations, responses to change, and interpersonal challenges for individual and organizational good. It would be the ultimate in team orientation.
Although I joke by suggesting this would be science fiction, it is a deeply spiritual approach to self and work. Once you allow yourself to transcend pervasive cynicism about the task being too big, or “it” always being someone else’s fault, and then care about how you’re coming across in the world, there are many old and new techniques for building openness, resilience and ultimately peak performance.
I was fascinated by a course I took at Nyingma Institute (Tibetan Buddhist) last year that taught techniques for just such an approach to living and working. Many of the “ancient” techniques were familiar because they have been recycled into today’s popular psychology and self-help methods. Some were simple exercises that involved personal vigilance and self-monitoring. Subjects for increased awareness were; time management, attitude management, productivity, focus, procrastination, interpersonal effectiveness, and stress.
Pema Chodron makes a wonderful case for personal vigilance and its effectiveness in her new book, The Places That Scare You. Lewis Richmond in, Work As A Spiritual Practice elucidates similar issues and gives examples of the effectiveness of deep awareness and vigilance at work.
In my own work I have found it effective to use body-mind processes to facilitate individual change, and growth into peak performance. The trick with all of these methods is that they too require “eternal vigilance.” I am heartened that so many ancient techniques are founded on the same principles. Actually, many contemporary body-mind techniques are supported by ancient texts. Some body-mind systems I have found to be effective include Body Centered Therapies, Energy Psychology, Shifting (one I developed), Self-talk and Breathing.
Body Centered Techniques anchor authenticity and expand awareness. They are very useful for clients who are working to be more expressive, to speak up, make an attitude shift, find balanced and effective emotional responses, or simply become more “present.”
Energy Psychology offers clients techniques to quickly or consistently shift emotional state (E.g. move from fear to courage), rewire automatic reactions and overcome traumatic events.
Productivity increases when we are able to better focus, shift to a position of openness, and tap energetic resources. Resilience in response to pressure and change is a by-product of knowing how to experience, accept, and process our habitual responses.
One of my coaching clients was recently dealing with a very volatile work environment. It was clear the company would be downsizing and that his job would be cut within a few months. He was getting very nervous, couldn’t concentrate and just wanted to quit. He couldn’t really afford to quit and this made him feel more resentful. He just had no energy for the job. It was clear that working within the situation was his best choice and he needed to quiet his frustration and anger in order to do good work and have the energy to begin job search activities. We worked together first to accept and acknowledge the feelings he was having and how they manifested in his body. We used energy psychology to interrupt the energy/thought pattern of anger and frustration and also to explore how it would be to remain open and effective in the situation. Armed with another possibility, some specific tools, and encouraged vigilance, he was able to work effectively to the end of his term and begin his job search. Without options (subject to habitual circuitry) he felt he would have had to quit to escape his negative feelings, but if he had quit centered in frustration and anger, he might have damaged his reputation. And, he said he would have felt quite hopeless.
Spirituality, psychology, and the human potential movement provide many effective techniques for fast, dynamic change and higher productivity. The empowering forces that link them all and assure successful application are tenacious self-awareness and eternal vigilance to catch and interrupt habitual patterns.