Creating Lasting Success

An elegant, multi-arched bridge crosses still grey-blue water below a grey sky with a light patch withe more light

“Structure influences behaviour.”

Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline

Why Is Structure Key To Real And Lasting Success?

Ed changed his primary life structure, shifted from oscillating between competing results, and created the success he’d so longed for.

He was a business man who had fallen on hard times. When he signed up for personal coaching, he told me he desperately wanted to change.

As well as spending five years in psychoanalysis, he’d spent over $20,000 attending motivational sessions with Anthony Robbins, Jay Levinson, Tom Peters, and others.

When conventional approaches failed, he’d turned to energy work, group work, bodywork, and spirit work.

He’d been rubbed and Rolfed. He’d chanted and channeled. He’d meditated, listened to tapes, visualized, and done affirmations.

But, none of it worked.

Or, rather, as Ed put it, “it all worked, but only for a short while. I feel like I’m on a tire swing. Putting in time, energy and money, but never going anywhere and staying there.”

Structure Gives Rise To Behaviour

Ed made changes, but soon slipped back into old habits.

Then, frustrated, he’d buy a new book, attended a new workshop, try another approach. Again, he’d succeed at first, then revert to old behavior.

As coaching progressed, I began to see patterns in Ed’s oscillating behaviour. And beneath those patterns, the structural-underpinnings that I believed gave rise to that oscillation.

That structure became clear, when Ed described what he called a “typical” experience” for him. He explained that he’d gone to apply for a job as a manager in a mid-size corporation.

Ed: I entered the building and proceeded to the reception area for the department in which I was interested. When I ascertained that I was in the appropriate office, I informed the young woman at the desk that I wished to secure an interview for the position advertised.
[That’s really how he talked. With a put-on English accent.]

Me: What happened next?

Ed: Without hardly looking at me, the little snip at the desk ordered me to take a seat and fill out the application form she thrust at me.

Me: What happened next?

Ed: I politely informed her that I was a trained executive, applying for a senior position, and not in the habit of filling out application forms like a part-time clerk. [Pronounced clahrk]. Nor, I further advised her, was I in the habit of taking orders from the likes of underlings like her, and I insisted on presenting my credentials to someone with more standing. I proffered my resume and asked to speak to her superior.

Me: [Beginning to sense a touch of unprofessional irritation.] So, what happened next?

Ed:The little snip, grunted, then whined, “Fine! But first you gotta fill out a application form.”

Me: [After a deep breath.] Ok-ay. Then what happened?

Ed: I informed the tart, in no uncertain terms, exactly what I thought of minions such as her. Then I spun on my heel and promptly stomped off the premises.

Me: [Sarcastically, close to losing it.] So, Ed, did it work?

Ed: What?

Me: Your strategy of heel spinning and off-stomping. Did it work?

Ed: [After a long pause.] Yes.

Me: WHAT?!

Ed: Yes. It did. It did work.

Me: How?

Ed: Ah, well… it, umh, uh… preserved my dignity.

Aha! I caught a glimpse of the opposing forces that gave rise to his oscillation.

To be sure I understood that pattern, I asked him what he meant by “dignity.”

“Dignity,” Ed told me, meant “integrity, staying true to myself.”

Ed held two conflicting desires in mind. Two different values.

He wanted to change and he wanted to stay true to himself.

When, after a workshop, book, or counselling, he did change, it felt unnatural— untrue to his real self.

Ed had unconsciously arranged—structured—his desires so they conflicted.

I diagrammed the structural dynamics of the conflicting forces, showing Ed how, when he made progress in one area, he backslid in the other.

Ed sagged in his chair like a deflating balloon. His face darkened.

“It’s hopeless. I’ll just see-saw back and forth, and I’ll never create what I want.

Sometimes, I think I might as well just top myself.”

What Matters Most?

Through a longer than usual coaching session, I explained to Ed that trying to “balance” conflicting values/desires was like trying to balance a seesaw.

In his teeter-totter structure, he oscillated back and forth , trying to change AND stay the same.


I showed Ed how success comes from integrating values, desires, and actions so they support higher order purpose and visions.

I helped Ed clarify which value — change or dignity (integrity) — was most important to him .

Integrity, being true to himself, Ed decided was his primary value.

Change was important, too, but secondary, supporting integrity.



I diagrammed the life design structure I work with, which is driven by vision, grounded in reality and focused on actions that support vision.

I explained how, by organizing his desires and action in this structure, Ed could transcend the conflict between his two desires, and create the results he longed for.

I suggested he designate being true to himself as primary and change as secondary.

By arranging change actions and results so that achieving them also increased his integrity, he could realize both desires.

Ed’s eyes lit up.

“That’s it!” he said, “That’s exactly what I want.

“I want to change in ways that are authentic and true to my self.

“I just didn’t know how to describe it. Or organize it.

” I’d love to work in a business that I felt was doing good work, and in which I felt I was honouring my own values and desires.”

Shifting the Structure

Working within the “creating” structure, Ed found it much easier to make and sustain changes.

He took my course in the Structure Of Success, and practiced creating small results.

He retained me as his on-going coach to provide feedback, and hold him accountable for his goals and actions.

One success led to another, and a series of several medium-sized successes increased Ed’s competence and confidence.

Stretching for more challenging results, Ed focused on one of the meditation forms he’d dabbled in, and made it a daily, morning ritual.

He took workshops in “non-violent communications,” and softened his pompous way of speaking.

Using a job search plan he developed, based on the Life Design framework, Ed obtained a position in a firm he trusted and liked working with.

Within a year, he was promoted to a position that matched his skills.

What Ed and I did together was not problem solving.

I didn’t heal Ed, fix him, or reprogram him.

He didn’t have to change, or rid himself of any beliefs or values.

He didn’t have to break down barriers or whack himself upside vulnerable body parts.

Ed changed—and stayed changed—because he shifted from an “either/or” structure in which his values conflicted, to a structure that integrated them in a “both/and” framework.

The new structure naturally gave rise to new patterns of behaviour, and to successful and lasting results.

Ed’s changes helped him feel much more true to himself; more integral; more in charge of his own life and how it would unfold.

Bruce Elkin

Life Design Coach. Personal Life Coach. 25 years experience. Clients on 6 continents. Author of 5 books and ebooks. Cares about the Earth and living in harmony with its natural systems.