Formula For Change
Overcome resistance, every time
Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to take on a new habit, or quit a bad one? Ever said “I know I should be doing X but I’m not doing it?” Maybe you want a better relationship, better work, to be a better leader/exec or maybe it’s taking the next step in your career.
It’s possible that you’re missing one of the three key ingredients for change.
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The formula was created by David Gleicher while he was working at Arthur D. Little in the early 1960s. And the concept took off when Kathie Dannemiller refined and popularized the idea in the 1980s.
This is a tool that works well to get unstuck in both business and personal arenas.
Lisa Lahey, Harvard faculty and founder of Minds at Work, discusses this in some depth on Brené Brown’s latest podcast episode “Immunity to Change.”
Let’s start with the concept I introduced in my first article here, The Puzzle of You. To sum up, think about your identity as a shape, like a puzzle piece. All the bits and blobs are all your habits, passions, relationships, history, everything you think and do. This shape is (often not always, more below) comfortable, it fits with the world around you. The pieces around you, systems, people, activities, they fit your shape. To change your shape you have to change and so do the shapes around you. This means moving into a new and likely uncomfortable space, and this is what Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance.”
Note: Comfort and satisfaction are not the same. Think about a dead-end job, maybe it pays well, doesn’t require much effort, but also isn’t dynamic and lacks interesting opportunities. It might be comfortable in many ways, and completely unfulfilling if you want upward mobility and satisfying challenge in your career.
D X V X FS > R
D = Dissatisfaction (which may or may not come from Discomfort)
Dissatisfaction with your job, your options, your relationships, your skills, a habit, it’s something I imagine you have become aware of at some point.
V = Vision
Vision of what could be, a picture of what’s possible, imagination at work. A better job, an improved relationship, a life in some way more satisfying and fulfilling.
FS = First steps
What' James Clear calls “Atomic Habits” (atomic as in tiny).First steps are often so small as to seem insignificant, but they act to prime the pump of momentum, and they add up over time.
HOW IT WORKS
Each ingredient is necessary but not sufficient.
Wanting something to change is not enough. If you don’t know where you’re going or how to start, you’ll stagnate and sink deeper into dissatisfaction.
Knowing what you want is not enough, if you’re comfortable and don’t know where to start.
Having a list of possible first steps is not enough, in part because without knowing where you want to go it will be impossible to choose and start any one step.
Here’s the interesting part:
It’s possible to generate each ingredient, even dissatisfaction.
FIRST STEPS : THEY CAN BE INTERNAL
One of my clients had everything going the right way, and was still dealing with an underlying sense of Dissatisfaction (ingredient one). In our previous sessions we had also done a good bit of work on honing in her Vision (ingredient two). What was missing was clarity on what to do next.
Now, this isn’t someone starting from zero either. She had even already in our previous months together overcome Resistance. She streamlined her org, launched new ones, raised millions to change lives, brought on key partnerships and let go of ones that weren’t a fit anymore.
I bring that up because it’s important to know that Resistance never dies. Working towards mastery or a bigger impact in the world, there is always another level to which you could go.
In her case, we needed to discover First Steps. In our key first session we discovered that her first step was internal. It wasn’t about setting up an LLC, or building a marketing plan. She knew all that was to come. It was about building a system of trust in herself and leading with that in big and small ways. In every meeting, phone call, and zoom, really having that feeling was key.
What we did then is work on the right First Steps for her to integrate that into every fiber of her being. Now, leading from that place, all of the above work was growing and her satisfaction was along with it.
Another person I worked with as a Coach also had an enviable life. She owned her successful business, had a healthy and happy family, owned a home. She told me she could live every day like that day and be completely comfortable. She just wouldn’t feel satisfied (ingredient one). She had plenty of first steps (ingredient two) in the form of lots of areas of expertise in film and the arts that she could work with, lots of directions in which she could go.
She just didn’t know where she wanted to go.
In this case she didn’t have Vision for what to do. Without clarity of Vision, knowing what you could do just completes the recipe for decision paralysis or fatigue.
We took a big picture, found areas and causes that mattered, and discovered what a really big Vision might look like.
From there, choosing an atomic First Step was easy. It was literally a phone call.
What I’ve discovered in my work as an art instructor, is that a lot of the work looks like Coaching. Many folks know what they want (Vision), know they want more (Dissatisfaction), but there are too many ways to start, and too many steps that are 2 or 3 steps ahead of first steps.
With one student, we took time out of critique to Coach on her marketing. She, a published author/illustrator, has a long-running online daily comic. TONS of existing content. She wanted to start a newsletter for ages… but wasn’t doing it.
Again, part of the issue was internal. Imposter syndrome, the idea assassin, call it whatever you want. She wasn’t sending that newsletter.
What we discovered is an even deeper clarity on her Vision, some perspective on what exactly was Dissatisfying, and from there was able to determine and feel 100% confident in an atomic first step. The thing is, that first step was small, super small. It wasn’t “send a newsletter” or “form a content plan” it was this: sign up for a service. Just get on a website and create an account. We picked one, and that week her first newsletter went out and has now, consistently, for many months.
THE TOOL : WHAT TO DO
You can use this easy online form (don’t worry, no spam) to walk through each step.
What do you want to change?
What is your Resistance?
What is your Vision?
What is your Discomfort?
What are some First Steps?
What are you committed to doing now?
The form will ask some open questions about your Vision, Dissatisfaction, and First Steps. It will help you choose one area of your life where change is possible and help you identify how exactly you want to take it on.
Answers can be emailed to you and I will not share your email with anyone.
If you want to go even deeper, a great Coach can help.
I invite you to reach out and book a Breakthrough call with me.