When Ed, a business man who had fallen on hard times, came for personal coaching, he desperately wanted to change.
As well spending five years in psychoanalysis, he’d spent over $20,000 attending motivational sessions with Anthony Robbins, Jay Levinson, Tom Peters, and others. But, he’d failed to create the life and work he most wanted.
When conventional approaches failed, he 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, and done affirmations.
But, none of it worked.
Or, as Ed put it, “It all worked, but only for a short while.”
Seeking The Patterns & Structure That Give Rise To Behaviour
Ed made changes. But he soon slipped back into old habits. Then, frustrated, he’d buy a new book, attended a new workshop, or try another approach. Again, he’d for a while only to revert to his former behavior.
As our coaching progressed, I began to see patterns in Ed’s oscillating behaviour. And the structural-underpinnings of his oscillation. When Ed described what he called a “typical” experience” for him, the structure became clear.
He’d gone to apply for a job as a top manager in a mid-size corporation. Here is how our conversation went:
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 who I was, and that I wished to secure an interview for the position advertised. [That’s really how he talked. And with a kind of 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 that 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 standard application forms like a part-time clerk. [He pronounced it clahrk]. Nor, I advised her, was I in the habit of taking orders from the likes of her and that I preferred to present my credentials to someone with more standing. I then proffered my resume and asked to speak to her superior.
Me: [Beginning to sense a touch of unprofessional irritation.] What happened next?
Ed: She, the little slip, grunted, then whined, “Fine!” But first you still gotta fill out a application form.”
Me: [After a slow, deep breath.] Okay. Then what happened?
Ed: I informed her in no uncertain terms exactly what I thought of underlings such as her, and then I spun on my heel and promptly stomped off the premises.
Me: [Sarcastically.] So, Ed, did it work?
Me: Your strategy of heel spinning and off-stomping. Did it work?
Ed: [After a long pause.] Yes.
Ed: Yes. It did. It did work.
Ed: It, uh, uh, it preserved my dignity.
AH! I caught a glimpse of the opposing forces that gave rise to his strange pattern of oscillation. To be sure I understood that pattern, I asked him what he meant by “dignity”.
Ed said he put a high value on “being true to himself.” Dignity to him meant “integrity,” or staying true to himself.
Ed had two desires that (in his mind) conflicted. He wanted to change and he wanted to stay true to himself.
I diagrammed the conflicting forces and their structural dynamics for Ed.
Ed was shocked but strangely happy to see the contradiction in his desires.
“The diagram explains it perfectly,” he said. “I have wasted much time and money trying to change in ways that are not true to my vision of me.”
Then he sighed and sagged in his chair, his pomposity gone, in it’s place a sad naiveté. His face darkened, his accent slipped, and he moaned, “I want to change and I want to stay the same. It’s hopeless. I’ll never create the life and work I want. I might as well just do myself in.”
What Matters Most?
Through what became a longer than usual coaching session, I talked about the difficulty of “balancing” values. I explained how true integrity and success come from integrating values, desires, and actions so they support higher order purposes and desires.
I helped him clarify which value – change or dignity (integrity) – was most important to him .
Integrity, being true to himself, was Ed’s primary value. Change was important, too, but secondary.
So I suggested that Ed only make changes that would help him become truer to himself. I diagrammed life design structure I work with. It is driven by a vision of desired results and grounded in objective descriptions of reality. Ifvision and reality are held in mind simulateously, the gap between them generates a useful “creative tension” that guides and energizes actions.
I explained to Ed that by organizing what he wanted in this simple guiding structure, he could more easily embrace and transcend the conflict between his two desires, and create the life and work he longed for.
First, I suggested he designate his desire to be true to himself as primary and his desire to change as secondary, supporting the primary value.
By arranging change so that achieving it 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 a course in creating, and practiced creating results. He retained me as his on-going coach to provide him feedback, and to hold him accountable for his dreams and actions.
As one small success led to another and series of successes built Ed’s competence and confidence, he stretched for more challenging results. He chose one of the meditation forms he’d dabbled in and focused on it. He upgraded his professional certifications and credentials, and redid his resume. He took workshops in “non-violent communications” and softened his superior-sounding, accented way of speaking.
Then, he created a job search plan and successfully obtained a position in a firm he trusted and liked working with. Within the year, Ed was promoted to a position that was a perfect match for his skills and competence.
Ed still makes mistakes. But, because his actions arise out of a structure that focuses action on envisioned results, he is better able to bring into being the results he truly wants to create â€” and sustain them.
What we 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 any barriers or whack himself in any vulnerable body parts. He didn’t even have to think out of the box.
Ed changed because he shifted from a structure in which he’d held values in opposition, to a structure that integrated his values in a hierarchical, “both/and” framework.
That structure naturally gave rise to new patterns of behavior and to success.
Structure Gives Rise To Behaviour
You can find thousands of inspirational “success quotes” that stress the power of passion, purpose and hard work. You can find studies that show that “grit” – “perseverance and passion for long term goals,” is the key to success. And there’s much truth in these quotes and studies.
But, if you apply your passion and purpose and practice in the wrong structure, the results you create will oscillate back and forth between better and worse, better and worseâ€¦. Like Ed, you will find it difficult to create real and lasting results.
However, if you apply your passion, purpose and practice in a structure that advances toward desired results, you will greatly increase the chances of creating the results you most want. And you’ll be able to so more easily, quicker and with less strain, stress and resources.
Underlying all the success tips, techniques and secrets there’s one big lesson to learn. To create the results you truly want, change your structure.
Ed learned that lesson, and never looked back. What about you?