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Only Business As Unusual Will Overcome Your Immunity to Change (Part 2)

Un-Game principleUnexamined assumptions have US. We don’t have THEM.

Photo by Mark Hesseltine, Flickr.

Photo by Mark Hesseltine, Flickr.

To be human is to have an immune system that works brilliantly to prevent us from bringing about some change we’re genuinely committed to. That sounds familiar to you if you took the 3 steps (featured in Part 1 and developed by Drs. Kegan and Lahey of Harvard and www.mindsatwork.com) that showed you exactly why, despite your best efforts, you cannot produce the desired change. The results are both unnerving and exciting. Unnerving because we see clearly that we’ve come up against the limits of our present thinking; exciting because a blind spot has been revealed which now empowers us enormously to get to the goal that has continued to elude us…up until now.

“Just what’s next once I have a diagnostic of my immunity to change?” you might ask.

Does it interest you to learn what keeps this immune system in place? What sustains it? And how to disrupt it? I imagine your answer is “Yes.” So what’s next is completing the 4th step (Column 4) of your 5 column immunity to change mind map. It has the heading ‘The Big Assumption.”

To get to our BIG Assumption(s) we ask: “What must a person who has the hidden, competing commitments (Column 3) be assuming that generates those commitments that work against their improvement goal (Column 1)?” So the person who is committed to taking better care of herself (C1), who doesn’t say ‘no’ enough (C2 behaviors against C1 goal), who’s committed to being completely available all the time (C3 competing commitment to C1 commitment), might have the BIG Assumption “If I’m not always available, then I won’t be the go-to person.”

BIG Assumptions keep the competing C3 commitments in place. They have a BIG BAD emotional component for its holder, namely you and me. For us this BIG BAD thing would happen if we were to discard the behaviors in C2 in favor of their opposites. “If I did say ‘no,’ then I assume I won’t be the go-to person,” says the woman with the C1 improvement goal to take better care of herself, be more relaxed, exercise more. So it makes perfect sense for her to keep the behaviors that actually work against her improvement goal (C2 not say ‘no’ enough) because those behaviors are the servants of the C3 competing commitments (to always be available).

I know you might be saying “Well, it’s obvious that this assumption doesn’t have to be true.” You’re right. It doesn’t. However, if the holder regards it as true, or even if we KNOW the assumption is not true but it FEELS as if it’s true or we’re unsure (“Part of me thinks it’s true. Another part isn’t so sure.”), we will be captive of the BIG Assumption. The BIG Assumption will have us; we will not have it!

Do not expect your BIG Assumptions to make rational sense to you. Once we remember the large emotional component that keeps us from changing when change is “dangerous”, we won’t insist that this make rational sense. Never mind that it makes no rational sense. Just notice that you cannot talk people (especially yourself) out of acting in alignment with the assumption.

Try it out for yourself. Follow the process for Columns 1-3 first, then, for Column 4, generate 1 to 3 BIG Assumptions you must be having to keep this system in place: one foot on the accelerator (C1) and one on the brakes (C3) on a goal that’s near and dear to your heart. What a bind, eh? Yes, AND there’s genuine hope for resolution. But before we get to the last column of our immunity to change mind map, let’s summarize.

If the 4 columns of the immunity to change mind map were told as a story, it would sound like this: “In the beginning there was the BIG Assumption…which gave birth to the hidden-to-me commitments…that generated the brilliant behaviors that guaranteed that the things I worry about…would never happen. There was just one downside to this brilliant, exquisite system. It guaranteed I would never score the goal and thus I would be denied the pure, unadulterated joy of reaching it.”

It may sound strange, but seeing the BIG assumption that is the foundation of your immunity to change gives you a chance to disrupt it!

The 5th and final column of the ITC mind-map is the biggest lever for overcoming your immunity to change. Like all the columns, the 5th column is also not business as usual. Business as usual would be to have a goal followed by an improvement plan. But that’s not what you’ve done. What you’ve done is revealed your immunity to change and identified the assumption(s) that ensures you stay stuck. Yet you now have something precious of which Einstein would approve. You have a “good problem to solve.”

So do we now finally do a new and improved improvement plan? No. Sorry. But we have a better idea. Column 5’s heading should be ‘Test of my BIG Assumption.” That’s exactly what we’ll do. We want to design, run, and evaluate tests of our BIG Assumption to see whether it’s accurate or distorted.

Spoiler alert. Only if you find evidence over time that your BIG Assumption is distorted, will you reconsider any of your competing commitments in C3 and the behaviors in C2 that serve your competing commitments so well. Without reconsidering, you will not make a change! So first choose an assumption to test (I suggested you come up with several, but there could be many. So don’t be shy to surface them.). Ask this: “If I could change any single BIG Assumption that presently makes achievement of my improvement goal impossible, which one would make the biggest, most positive difference in my life?”

Assuming you have an Assumption to test, how do you do it?

Here is a familiar acronym, but it won’t mean what you think it means. Yes, we design a S.M.A.R.T. test. Here is what it stands for.

Your test must be SAFE and MODEST. What can you risk doing or resist doing, on a small scale that might be inadvisable if you held your BIG Assumption (BA) to be true? Pick a behavior change that would give you good information about the accuracy of your BA. Yes, you must put yourself at some risk, that is, do something, not just put yourself in a position in which you feel uncomfortable.

RESEARCH-STANCE and a TEST, not an improvement plan. The purpose of the test is to collect data. Is the BA accurate or distorted? If you like the outcome of the test, that is, your behavior didn’t produce the catastrophe you had always envisioned, that’s a secondary gain. It’s nice to have, but the primary aim is to get data. And one test is only one test. You need to keep testing to get good data.

OK, the rubber is hitting the road. Where do you look for behaviors to test? Here are some choices. You are willing, aren’t you? Even if you don’t want to? And you’re very unlikely to want to. It’s so much more comforting to avoid the discomfort. Or is it?

You can look in Column 2 and alter one of the behaviors you’ve listed there. Or you can go to Column 3 and perform an action that runs counter to a C3 commitment. Or, you can start directly with your BIG Assumption in C4 (remember, you’re only testing 1 assumption for now). You ask: “What experiment would tell me whether the IF/THEN sequence built into the BA is valid?”

But here’s what I recommend first, and this is about getting your feet wet and being gentle with yourself. Remember that you’re doing something very strange and very courageous. Simply be alert and observe. “Don’t just do something, sit there!” is the maxim I start with whenever I create a new map (new improvement goal=new map). Where does your BA come up most frequently? Observe. Notice your internal chatter. Expect your immune system to be tricky. It wants above all to sustain itself. So think about how you could be assuring you will fail!

Yes, you heard right. Watch out for how you could set yourself up to guarantee that your BA is accurate. If, for example, your goal is to ask more directly for support when you really need it, and you’re testing the assumption “People won’t help me when I really need help,” you could guarantee the accuracy of that BA by asking a person who generally doesn’t help anybody very much, and you could be asking him at a time when he’s got 3 project deadlines the next day!

See what I mean?

Two more things. First, you are not only designing, running, and evaluating one test. Your BA won’t budge after one test. It’s best to do this over twelve weeks devoting thirty minutes a week to your testing. You should see some progress toward your C1 improvement goal in that time. Yes, that’s right. Good testing of your BA over time will have you start taking your glued-to-the-brakes foot off the brakes almost effortlessly. You’ll notice you’re finally accelerating toward your previously elusive goal.

Second, here’s a recommendation I experienced as very helpful. Write a biography of your BA. When did you first become aware of it? Under what circumstances? I remember very well the time and the circumstances when I made the decision (since revoked) to never ask anyone for help again. You guessed it. It was deeply emotional for me. So my BA “People won’t help me when I really need it” and its relationship to my immunity to change make perfect sense to me.

To anchor this, you could get yourself supported in many ways, for example through coaching. You could also do what you probably know how to do well. Define your first steps forward. (Tweak all columns of your map is a great example of first steps forward.) Define what significant progress would look like. Do it in terms of behaviors, of course. And define ultimate success. Commit this in writing. If someone else you know is seriously creating a mind map, buddy up with them. Give and receive feedback on each others’ plans and the quality of your tests.

I hope you will faithfully work on your ITC map. It can be a profoundly powerful and liberating process. Consider an undisputed fact. You are worth investing in. Could you picture yourself on your hero’s journey, creating a path through the deep dark woods where none has been? What if your hero’s journey is the successful negotiation between your desire to live a large, precious life and the immunity to change which would relegate you to live in just a few rooms of the mansion of your life?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Only Business As UNusual Will Overcome Your Immunity to Change

change-ahead-sign-goal-settingUn-Game Principle: Unexamined assumptions have US. We don’t have THEM.

You won’t get an argument from me. Change can be hard, especially a change we deeply desire that has consistently eluded us.

This is an equal opportunity problem. It affects people and organizations at all levels everywhere. To be human is to have an immune system that works brilliantly to keep some change we desire from occurring. But let’s keep it simple and focus on you!

Perhaps you’d like to say ‘no’ more often. Or you’d like to take better care of yourself, have more fun, be more relaxed, less stressed and exercise more. Maybe you’d like to be more straightforward. Perhaps as a leader you’d like to delegate more often, handle conflict better. Look and see what YOUR change or improvement goal is.

One way to find out is to ask “What’s my one big thing? What’s the one thing I could improve upon that would make the biggest difference in the quality of my life?” Or if you dare, simply ask “Where is my pain?”

Can you tell that this kind of change goal has a large emotional component? It does, and we aren’t all that practiced in factoring our emotions into our problem-solving. We try to solve our problems from the shoulders up. But that’s a mistake. We must look with our whole body. Or at least with our head and our heart. This is not a technical problem you’re trying to solve. If it were, you would have solved it long ago. Technical problems have road maps. How to solve them is known territory. To become a pilot is a technical challenge.

To solve a problem that keeps recurring for us is an adaptive challenge. It means that we have to think about it differently than we ever have before. We need to think from a more complex level of thinking which then sheds light on new behaviors not possible from the old thinking. In other words, to solve an adaptive challenge we have to understand, at a whole body level, Einstein’s assertion “You can’t solve a problem with the level of thinking that created the problem in the first place.”

We have to feel stuck. Stumped. We have to feel we’ve come to the limits of our thinking.

To move to a more complex thinking starts with seeing your present thinking vis-à-vis an adaptive challenge you have not solved. Fortunately, you can solve the problem whose solution has eluded you again and again.

There’s support out there. One of my go-to models is Bob Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s exquisite Immunity to Change mind-mapping process. Check it out at www.mindsatwork.com. Or contact me, coach@ingridmartine.com. Here are the first 3 steps you can take to get to the bottom of why you haven’t solved the problem that keeps coming up to drain your energy yet another day. Do this on scratch paper but later write it on the map you can download or contact me for.

Column 1 has the heading: MY IMPROVEMENT GOAL. One goal. Not 2. Not 3. One! Write yours in the column. Make sure it’s not a technical problem. You see you have room for improvement. It’s your deal, not Aunt Mary’s. It feels true for you. In fact, don’t count on yourself for your one big thing. You’re human and therefore you, like the rest of us, fool yourself. Ask others, like spouse, boss, colleague, direct report. You’ll get a higher quality entry. If your goal is not at least a 4 (important), forget it. It doesn’t belong in column 1. Preferably it should be a 5 (very important).

Careful. Now it’s time to be very alert. Your mind will NOT want to go where we’re going next: Column 2. Its heading is DOING/NOT DOING.

I know. I know. You want to set out with all the things you do or have done to ACCOMPLISH your goal. No! You’ve already done that, and what you’ve done was perfectly designed to get you where you are now! Still in search of a solution. Sigh. So forget that and do something that would seem very odd if you were working on an improvement plan. The point is you’re NOT working on an improvement plan at all. That would be a different map. You’re working on revealing the real problem, namely why it makes perfect sense that you haven’t solved that problem yet.

In Column 2 then, list 3 things you do and don’t do that UNDERMINE your Column 1 goal. In other words, what are you and aren’t you doing that works against achieving your sweet but maddeningly elusive goal? For example, the person who wants to take better care of herself, relax more, have less stress, exercise more…what she doesn’t do is say ‘no’ often enough. She says ‘yes’ without thinking it through, and makes appointments to go to the gym that she doesn’t keep.

Be sure you put in behaviors, not tendencies, dispositions, or feelings. Not ‘I’m bored”, but “I text and make task lists while I’m talking to my wife. This person’s improvement goal is to be a better listener–can you see that his behavior clearly works against his Column 1 commitment?

So what about you? Fill in 3 entries in column 2. (You can tweak your map later and add more. Keeping it to 3 for now will keep things clearer. Trust me on that one.).

Column 3 is where the rubber hits the road. It reveals our immunity to change. Its heading is HIDDEN COMPETING COMMITMENTS.

Column 3 takes 2 steps to complete, and it challenges our present thinking the most. So dial your willingness to be alert way up. Remember, you’re NOT on a problem-solving mission. You are a detective putting the puzzle pieces together to answer the question “Why haven’t I been able to solve this problem?” By the way, it’s probably not for the reasons you think, and I bet you have a boatload of reasons.

Step 1 for Column 3 is to list 3 worries. But not just any worries. List the 3 worries that plague you when you picture yourself doing the opposite of the 3 behaviors you listed in Column 2. Take each behavior separately and attach a worry to it. Remember you can add more behaviors in Column 2 and more worries in Column 3 later to make a more powerful map.

The woman who wants to take better care of herself (C1), and who doesn’t say ‘no’ enough (C2), worries (C3) if she did say no, she would no longer be indispensable. The man who wants to be a better listener (C1), who texts and makes task lists while talking to his wife (C2), worries that if he didn’t text and make task lists, but listened attentively instead, he wouldn’t be able to give her a solution to a problem he might not even understand (C3).

What are your 3 worries when you picture yourself doing the opposite of your Column 2 entries? Go ahead. Make your worry entries now.

Courage! Yes, these steps take courage to complete. Our mind wants to go to familiar ground: Problem-solving. But admit it, Einstein has a point. Having a good problem to solve is as important as seeing a solution. What you’re after here is a good grasp of the real problem of why you haven’t been able to reach your improvement goal despite good intentions and very hard work. I repeat, you are not solving the problem. You are en route to defining the real problem.

Step 2 in Column 3 is a total whack on the side of the head. A bomb shell.

Consider something that seems very odd at first, namely that worries are not passive. Not yours, not mine, not anybody’s. Most of us have never given a thought to this. We know worries drain our energies, but we don’t think of them in the way I’m going to ask you to consider them now.

Worries are actually very active (yes, not passive) commitments to assure that whatever we worry about will never ever come to pass!

Wow. Go ahead, re-read that last sentence. So for the woman who worries if she did say ‘no’ she would no longer be indispensable, her commitment is: “I’m committed to being indispensable.” Or, “I’m committed to not being perceived as dispensable.”

The man who worries about not having a solution to his wife’s problem, which he also worries about not understanding in the first place, has these commitments: “I’m committed to having a solution to my wife’s problems.” Or/and, “I’m committed to not revealing when I don’t understand my wife’s problem.”

We can have many worries, each of which can be restated as an active commitment.

Notice from the examples that these are not noble commitments. Each is not a commitment that solves the problem we want to solve in Column 1. In fact, it’s a commitment very contrary to our Column 1 goal. It’s a commitment to self-protection! We are making absolutely sure that what we worry about will never happen.

There’s only one problem.

The problem is this: the commitments to self-protection that we have in Column 3 neutralize forward motion on our Column 1 commitment! We have 1 foot on the gas (C1) and one foot on the brake (C3). That should make it shockingly clear why you haven’t made any progress on your improvement goal. You are looking the immunity-to-change in the eye the very first time. And therein you can find a power you’ve not had before.

Because you can see them, you now have hidden competing commitments. When they were invisible to you, they had you! Gigantic difference. You no longer have to be subjected to them. You can objectively examine this phenomenon. You can be the wind rather than the feather in the wind. Try it out.

Go ahead and restate YOUR Column 3 worries as active commitments. If you’re not up to it yet, because this ignoble commitment business has you unsettled (after all, this is not the YOU you’re most proud of), consider this when you take another look at the examples. What you should be seeing about the woman with the self-care goal and her hidden commitment to being indispensable is this: Her Column 2 behaviors (not saying ‘no’ enough), now that we see her commitment ‘to be indispensable’, make perfect sense!!! They are brilliant behaviors necessary for honoring her hidden commitments.

That is the immunity to change in all its messy glory! This woman’s immune system (and yours and mine) works perfectly. AND, it reveals the real problem. Having one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brakes won’t have her going anywhere despite her best intentions and her very hard work. She’s stuck and understands for the first time why she’s stuck.

When you translate your Column 3 worries into active commitments, your immunity to change on this one goal that’s so important to you will also be revealed. You shouldn’t feel that you’ve solved anything. You’re likely to feel unsettled. That’s natural. But what you DO have now is a “good problem to solve.”

The remaining two steps to overcoming your immunity to change are also unusual and very powerful. Stay tuned and/or go visit www.mindsatwork.com for further information. You can overcome your immunity to change. What it takes to see significant progress on your improvement goal is the courage and commitment to complete your map (all 5 steps), allow 30 minutes per week for about 12 weeks. It’s true. You can’t do it by “doing business as usual,” but you are worth investing in, are you not?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Say ‘Yes’ to Your Master Mind, ‘No’ to Your Struggling Mind

Interrogate Reality0001

Un-Game Principle: To empower yourself to change or design your life, cultivate a beginner’s mind.

OK, so we all have said we’re our own worst enemy. It’s terrific when we see it, isn’t it? We intuitively know we have a choice even if that choice is unclear, or we decide not to exercise it.

Lately I’ve had a lot of opportunity to reflect on this. Not counting my iPad, I just got my first Mac computer. Getting data off my other devices and getting it up and running is a huge learning challenge for me. I find it empowering to observe myself in how I approach learning.

How do you approach learning? Think of a learning challenge. Use your own example, or imagine a new software application your place of work has just purchased. And you need to learn it. Sigh.

 I don’t know about you, but for me any new learning, technical or adaptive (where a change of thinking and behavior are required) used to be hard. My father had been a terrible teacher when I turned to him for help with math in the 5th grade. He assumed, as you can probably tell from this remark…“ What’s the matter with you? I already told you that!”… that saying something once ought to be enough to master it. He understood nothing about how people (little people and big ones) learn. And so I grew up hating not getting something immediately…and putting pressure on myself to be perfect…and to be right…and exercising tight control over what I would and would not find interesting to learn. Not surprisingly I had a math phobia until age 39 when I unpacked the thinking that had my mind be such a struggling mind.

Today I’m a good and relaxed learner. I was fortunate enough to have a few master mentors who taught me, among other things, important distinctions about learning itself. It took the pressure off me. I could breathe. I could think and process.

When something is distinct it is clear. When it’s clear, you are at a point of empowerment. So here are the distinctions I learned from my coach, Fernando Flores, years ago. Of course first I learned that my parental learning model was woefully inadequate. (Yes, you guessed it. My mother wasn’t a paragon of understanding and respectful patience either).

Here are the distinctions. There are levels of learning, and they can be identified. Once identified, we can, for example, use them to guide gentler expectations of ourselves.

  1. Bull in the china shop: This learner is clueless as to the effects of his or her behavior on the learning process. (She doesn’t know she’s her own worst enemy. There’s no awareness of the inner self at all. The bull in the china shop just acts). At this level no learning takes place.
  2. Jerk: The jerk knows how he affects others when he engages in hurtful behaviors, but he does it anyway. He knows he’s in his own way as to learning anything. But he either doesn’t care or thinks he is static. “That’s just the way I am/it is. I can’t learn computers.” you might hear him say. At this level no learning takes place.
  3. Beginner: The beginner’s mind is open, receptive, and curious. It has no negative stories to tell, hang on to, or defend. This is how you see children learn before adults ruin their learning environment by neither making it safe nor challenging. The beginner’s mind sees nothing but adventure. It’s ok if it’s hard. It has patience and plenty of experience of success and satisfaction. Trial and error is a fabulous process to the beginner’s mind. Haven’t you noticed that toddlers learning to walk have nothing going on about falling down? This is the first level at which learning takes place.
  4. Minimally Competent: At this level, beginners can perform certain functions provided they follow an exact procedure. However, if the task cannot be completed step by step, or an unknown shows up (What if a new window in that new software pops up and you haven’t learned how to close it?), the minimally competent person will be unable to handle it.
  5. Competent: At this level the learner can navigate through the new software and can even avert or handle most common breakdowns. If you think of learning to drive a car, this is the level where you stop thinking about every move you must make. Your body has a muscle memory now of the basics that need to be done and you don’t have to think about it. This is the third level of learning.
  6. Virtuoso: At this level the learner is not only competent but can explore the heretofore unknown. They can make suggestions to improve upon processes. Or they can try things no one has told them about the system in which they have become competent. They can break the rules and still get themselves back on track. This is the fourth level of learning.
  7. Master: The master is unconsciously competent and much more than that. He can invent inside his own performance and come up with something completely new. Breakdowns can be turned into breakthroughs without conscious thought. I think of Steven Colbert or John Stewart who are masterful at turning their flub into yet another moment of hilarity. This is the fifth level of learning.

As a coach I see my mission as creating the kind of learning environment in which clients feel safe to learn what they most long for, namely to become who they really are so they can make their unique and greatest contribution to a world that hungers for it. It’s the coach’s sacred task to create a space of safety as well as challenge in their client partner’s journey to exquisite self-awareness and observation. The coach must help him or her learn to get out of their own way. In short, the coach helps the courageous human being in front of them or on the other end of the telephone move from their struggling mind to a place of ease—a place where they embrace their hidden beginner’s mind where there are obstacles but no struggles, only hard honest work and lessons to be learned, sometimes not eagerly but always willing.

I’m doing this right now with my mother, who as a computer novice at almost 95 is as hard on herself as a learner as she once was with me when she tried to teach me to bake. She wants to move from beginner to mastery in three lessons. Ever so slowly she’s beginning to trust that the world won’t come to an end if she allows herself to be a beginner where there’s no such thing as failure.

Interestingly enough, the beginner’s mind is where the masters hang out a lot. Come to think of it, that’s how they got to be masters in the first place. What distinguishes the master mind from the struggling mind is the ability to say ‘yes’ to the learning, whatever the lesson may be. The master mind is the beginner’s mind with lots of practice and more yet to come.

After a rocky start, as my mother is cautiously tiptoeing to the joys of her beginner’s mind, it’s beautiful to behold her almost-undefended mind. What a powerful act it is to say ‘yes’ to your master mind. What a privilege it is to be a witness of the unfolding process.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.


 

Don’t Just DO Something… SIT There

Un-Game Principle: Beware of driven behavior. Although valued in American culture, it’s not always the best course of action.

I was on a radio show recently, and it was a complete bust for me.

Man sitting in a chair imageI’m not innocent in the matter. There are plenty of things I could have done differently. I could have listened to a previous show. I could have paid attention to previous guests (knowing that a Donald Trump surrogate had been a guest might have given me pause). I could have asked questions before   the show when I realized that no one would brief me ahead of time. I didn’t.

That said, there’s always something cool to learn or relearn.  I learned again how much we love prescriptive lists for changing behaviors. If you want to have no regrets, do 1, 2, 3, and 4. Do it and regret no more!  Do the steps on your list and become the slender beauty or the muscled jock of your dreams! We love “How To” books. We love the quick fix. The radio show host was no exception. She pressed me for a list of how to get over regret of the past.

Searching for the quick fix as exemplified by many a prescriptive list may be driven behavior we’ve come to see as normal and desirable. Especially in the meteor-paced world of business. It’s a familiar way to deal with obstacles or patterns of behavior. “I have a problem. Quick! What are the solutions?”  Never mind that it may not even be a problem. Never mind that perhaps we’re not articulating the correct problem. Never mind that what we perceive as the problem may be more nuanced than a quick solution can address.  And yet, we’re attracted to prescriptive lists as bees are to honey.  If this one doesn’t solve our problem, maybe the next one will be the right list. Or maybe we’re just not doing this list right. “What’s wrong with the list? What’s wrong with me?”

The radio show hosts knows what we want. We want to feel we’re OK, that there’s nothing wrong with us, or if there is, we can fix it.  And we want the right prescription NOW.

You are OK. There is nothing wrong with you. And there is nothing to fix.  Recognizing symptoms of driven behavior is the first step to not playing into the hands of the driven behavior. Here’s a list of symptoms.

 “What? A list?” you ask. “Didn’t you just say?…”

“Yes. I did. But notice. This list is not prescriptive!” Here’s how you can recognize driven behavior in yourself. Could recognizing driven behavior be useful to you?

  1. Repetition: You think or do something repeatedly even if it doesn’t get you where you want to go. For example, you want to delegate but routinely end up doing the work yourself.
  2. Fleeting Satisfaction: Checking stuff off your “ to do” list only to create another one just as long.
  3. Perfectionism: Comparing yourself to an unattainable standard and then “should-ing” all over yourself for not reaching it.

Driven behavior wastes the precious energy you can better focus on achieving your goals and dreams.  To interrupt driven behavior you must first notice it. Once you do, try this (as exploration  not prescription).  Ask yourself: “What’s in my control?” “What do I need to let go of that’s not in my control?” “What’s really important to me?” “Would a ‘TO NOT DO’ list give me some breathing room?” “What would be the first thing on it?  The second?”  “Am I willing to create such a list even though I hear screams of protest from that pesky chatter?” Concentrate on what you can control. Talk to someone who won’t collude with you.  Are you willing to be uncomfortable to see what the discomfort has to teach you rather than jump to your prescriptive “to do” list?

Exploration gives you your own answers. It also doesn’t make you stop after you get your first answer. You can ask again based on what you’ve become aware of when you asked  the first time.

Growing is not quick. Rather than shopping for a prescription, consider yourself a gardener. Prepare the soil. Consider what you want to grow. What’s important to you and to your hopes and dreams? Growing doesn’t have to be hard work, but it does take time, good soil, sun, and water. In a garden you don’t go from seed to harvest in an instant.  Neither do you in growing your Self. You might try on this sage piece of advice: Don’t just DO something. SIT there! Find your own wisdom. Driven behavior is not always the best course of action.

What do you see about driven behavior in your life? I’d love to hear your comments.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.  

The Price of Perfectionism – Making Satisfaction Elusive and Robs Us of Joy

Perfection Makes Satisfaction Elusive When the project is never perfect, the perfectionist cannot be satisfied.  The problem?  Perfection is impossible to achieve.  The result?  We never feel great about our accomplishments. When perfection is our impossible standard, no matter how many hours or how much effort we invest, the final product is guaranteed to leave the perfectionist feeling like a failure at worst, lacking joy and enthusiasm at best.  A dreary set of choices, don’t you think? The next time you come to the conclusion of a matter, rather than using the perfection measuring stick, try asking these questions:
  •  Did I demonstrate excellence?
  • Did I fulfill my most important intention?
  • Can I be proud, despite the imperfections?
With a change in perspective, we can lower our frustration and increase our satisfaction in the good and hard work we do each day.  Perfectionism Robs Us of Joy  When we insist upon perfection, we miss out on the laughter that comes from the ability to see the humor in our humanness.  Opportunities to simply chuckle at amusement by about the little goofs we make in life get replaced by grimaces, scowls, and overreaction. Rather than recognizing we did a good job, we beat ourselves up over the small mistake that will soon be forgotten by everyone other than us.  While everyone else is savoring the sumptuous desert, we’re still yapping about the failed appetizer. “Lightening up” may not come easily for the perfectionist.  But if you’d like to have a little more joy in your work and your relationships, try shifting your attention away from everything being perfect and focus it on what really matters most.  It’s your choice, after all. I’d like to say more on the topic, but I’m willing to let this go to print with its imperfections!  The bottom line is this:  Picture your life without the costs you’ve identified with here.  What would it look like?  Feel like?  Be like?  If you want to create that life, you may want to consider unlearning perfectionism.  If it’s not you but a perfectionist you manage, get some support.  You don’t have to do it alone.  Everything goes better with support.  If that’s foreign to you because you’re a lone ranger, practice!  Practice makes progress you know! Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach empowers you to move your life from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.ingridmartinelifecoaching.com.    

The Price of Perfectionism – It Hurts Relationships, Hinders Support, and Impairs Building Trust!

Perfectionism hurts our relationships When making things perfect is our top priority, we tend to expect others to live up to our rigid expectations for performance.  When they don’t, we’re likely to forget the other person’s intentions, efforts, or good work.  Instead, we focus on the “less than perfect” aspects of what has been done. Not only can perfectionism take our focus away from the intentions of others, but it can also shift our focus from our own intentions.  Instead of acknowledging our co-workers’ dedication and good performance, we focus on the one detail that was missed.  This leaves those we work and live with feeling unappreciated, frustrated, and disempowered, us included. How many of your conversations begin with a criticism or complaint, rather than an acknowledgement or an expression of appreciation?  Our upset about what went wrong in a situation can consume us and become the focus of our communication with others. The next time you’re about to give some critical feedback, pause first.  Get clear about your intentions for the conversations.  Do you want the other person to know you appreciated their efforts?  Is any sort of “thank you” appropriate?  Before launching into your litany of complaints, look to the relationship.  If you value it, make sure the other person knows so before you digress too deeply into the details of their mistakes. Perfectionism gets in the way of letting in support If we’re perfect, we don’t need support from anyone or anything, right?  To admit that support in our lives would be useful is the equivalent of acknowledging that we cannot do all things at all times all alone. While we may know this intellectually, a perfectionistic drive can prevent us from allowing in much needed support.  We want to keep our needs to ourselves, preserving the image of our “perfectness”.  As a result, we don’t ask for help even when it’s obvious that it would be useful. Try looking away from that elusive image of perfection to how you can readily make a contribution.  Will you be able to do a better job if others help you?  Would even a little support produce a better outcome for everyone, even if you don’t get gold stars for looking perfect? Notwithstanding your thoughts to the contrary, I invite you to let in the support of others and notice how your life starts getting easier. Perfectionism impairs the building of trust When perfection is the highest priority, we go to great lengths to appear perfect at all times.  Looking good in every way becomes essential. When we strive to avoid letting others see our mistakes, we appear as though we never make them.  We rarely volunteer our errors.  When we make mistakes, we try to hide them or disguise them, so the fact that we are a mere mortal will not be disclosed. Because the perfectionist confuses perfection with self-worth, criticism or feedback is often taken personally.  When confronted with our shortcomings, we’re likely to be defensive, make an excuse, or blame others. The result of the perfectionist refusal to ever be vulnerable contributes to a team where no one feels safe to admit a mistake.  After all, who wants to admit to the “perfect one” that they’ve made a mistake?  Who wants to criticize the ideas of a person who’s always right and never wrong? What happens to motivation in an environment where it’s not ok to make a mistake? What happens to achievement? To learning? One of the most powerful ways to build trust on a team is to admit our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  Interestingly enough, others not only perceive this admission as a strength, but also as an invitation to be in a closer relationship. “Maybe we’re not so different after all,” team members muse. Insisting on looking perfect at all times closes down communication and limits the extraordinary results teams of a perfectionist manager are able to achieve. Question: What has perfection cost you that you’re aware of at work, home, and play? If you have allowed perfection to loosen its grip on you, what was the trigger that started the loosening? What benefits have accrued to you as a result of that courageous choice?  Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach empowers you to move your life from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For more visit: http://www.IngridMartine.com.    

The Price of Perfectionism – Losing Sight of the Big Picture – Procrastination and Delayed Learning

Losing Sight of the Big Picture As our unwavering insistence that everything be perfect consumes us, the big picture or other important issues can get neglected.  As a result, we spend vast amounts of time and energy in “perfecting” one item, only to find ourselves in a crisis because we’ve overlooked or run out of time to attend to an item which was much more important. We’ve all heard ourselves say, “I was so focused on ____________ that I forgot something that was really important.”  Ask yourself, “What’s most important?”  Be sure that question is answered before exhausting yourself in minutia which might not matter. Perfectionism Leads to Procrastination and Delayed Learning Perfectionists don’t want to fail.  For the perfectionist, having an imperfection is tantamount to failure.  Having no tolerance for imperfection, the perfectionist may avoid taking on projects where a flawless outcome cannot be guaranteed.  One way to make sure nothing is imperfect is to never begin. The perfectionist may say, “I’ll throw a party as soon as I finish work on the house.” Only the house is never perfect.  “I’ll buy some new clothes when I get to the perfect size.”  But the perfect size never arrives.  Because the preconditions for “guaranteeing” success aren’t created, the action never occurs. When more attention is placed upon perfection than on learning, our learning is impaired.  An attachment to perfectionism can result in avoidance of situations where we might look less than perfect, a state completely dreaded by the perfectionist.  When we’re willing to be imperfect, we take risks, learn from our mistakes, and develop more quickly. Learning necessitates making mistakes.  When we strive to develop a new skill we try, we fail, and we try again.  This unavoidable process can be torturous for the perfectionist.  The disdain for the ugliness of failed attempts can block perfectionists from trying out new experiences. Whether it’s learning a new approach to motivate your team or how to use the new software at the office, it’s impossible to be perfect from the start.  When you have thoughts about how awful you’re performing, remember that the goal is progress, not perfection, and become willing to make a few mistakes along the way.  Don’t wait for conditions to be perfect before you start living your life.  Practice makes what?  No, not perfection.  Practice makes progress.  Can you let that be “perfect”? Share a situation where your perfectionism led to procrastination, delayed learning, or caused you to lose sight of the big picture, and how you were able to move beyond it by leaving your comment below. Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach empowers you to move your life from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For more visit: http://www.IngridMartine.com.    

The Price of Perfectionism – Perfectionism Makes Deadlines More Challenging

With the “no imperfections allowed” standard, we struggle to complete tasks on deadline because our work has not yet achieved its “ideal” state.  We insist on making more additions, deletions, corrections, and changes, sometimes going back to our original good idea. The fact that our work will never be truly perfect becomes our excuse as we obsess over irrelevant details.  We can add  this pressure to our direct reports as well, insisting that yet more changes in whatever project be made while deadlines come and go. Let in support from others if you’re at risk for missing deadlines due to perfectionism, or if your team and your co-workers suffer from our distorted perception of what’s really important as a deadline draws near.  You’ll discover that deadlines will be reached with greater ease, and our team will thank you. Share your stories of challenges you may have overcome as  result of task deadlines, by leaving your comments below.  

The Price of Perfectionism – Is it Really So Perfect After All?

For the Perfectionist Manager and the Perfectionists They Might Be Managing “I’m a perfectionist.”  Have you ever hear these words come out of your mouth?  Perhaps you’ve declared your status with a slight sense of smugness and a secret belief that you’re just a tad bit better than the ordinary person. When I refer to perfectionism, I’m not talking about having high standards of excellence or doing your very best.  Rather, it’s the insatiable need to have everything appear flawless, and a sense that there’s something wring with you if anything around you is less than perfect.  You set extraordinary standards and suffer miserably when you fail to meet them.  You’re routinely amazed that others fail to live up to your expectations or, worse yet, that they don’t even seem to care about them. Most of us think we can recognize perfectionism.  We think it looks like the description you just read.  But it may surprise you who the closet perfectionists are.  Perfectionism wears many faces and bears many costs. If perfectionism has ever held you hostage, if you’d like to get out from under perfectionism, if you see perfectionism as an “opponent”, if you’d like to un-learn perfectionism, you must first “know” it.  The truth, that is the facts, can set you free, if you’re willing.  So over the next few weeks, we’ll examine those facts in a series of blog posts. The Cost of Perfectionism – Perfectionism wastes energy  People who suffer from perfectionism experience perfectionism as a thing…as something solid..as if it is “real” rather than a conversation we’re listening to non-stop or hear as annoying background noise.  No wonder the chatter wastes our precious energy. Examples are a dime a dozen.  When our energy is directed toward eliminating all imperfection, we spend more time than needed or appropriate to complete a given project, and expend more energy than the situation merits. When doing a performance review, we might notice that we spent four hours on it, but that half the time was spent seeking perfection rather than adding value.  The result?  We either attempt to justify our wasted time to ourselves, or we end up spending more time exhausting ourselves to “make up for it”. Every project we take on is big just because it has to conform to our immovable standards.  What about planning for the perfect staff meeting?  Is your preparation so tight and your agenda so long that you have no breathing room to be creative or invite others’ input?  Rather than the result we hope for, namely effective action, we often see tired, de-motivated people who are disconnected from, or have even forgotten the purpose of the work.  We may even be one of those people. Can you share an example of a time when perfectionism wasted your energy?  Let me know, but please post an imperfect post!  I’m serious.  Just share a time tat really stands out for you without censoring yourself or worrying about how it will land.  Your examples will enhance, if not this discussion, then some other discussion. Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach empowers you to move your life from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For more information visit:  http://www.ingridmartine.com.     .