Monday, June 13, 2016

Changing Behaviour

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve changed over the past 4 years I’ve been in India. Clearly some of this change has been brought about by the opportunities for growth that I’ve had since moving here, but change can only happen if you have the right mindset and the willingness to give up the old and embrace the new.

Recently, while reading the book Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith, I came across the concept of the Wheel of Change. This explains the 4 options we have when thinking about changing our behaviour. In a nutshell we can decide to change or keep the positive things or change or keep the negative.  I tried to reproduce these concepts in the graphic below:

When considering changing our behaviour we have the following options:
  • Creating – these are the positive elements we want to create in the future. Viewed from this lens, change is a process of self-invention – one that we do by choice not one that is done to us. It can lead us to take risks, start new ventures and so on. Creativity depends a lot on how satisfied we are with our life – satisfaction can leads to a state of inertia where we continue doing what we have always done. Conversely, dissatisfaction is also not always positive – sometimes it just leads us to chase wild new ideas. The Wheel shows that there is a continuum of creating from adding to inventing. We don't need to be totally focused on inventing - interestingly enough, for successful people, adding or starting one new behaviour is usually enough to create positive change.
  • Preserving – these are our positive elements that we want to keep in the future. This is not the same as inertia because it is not passive – it involves critical thinking about what is going well, and then making the choice to keep doing that, rather than rushing after something new. This is often hard to do – especially for successful people who recognise the need for constant improvement and therefore don’t like preserving the status quo. It’s important to acknowledge, however, that there are some things that need to be preserved and not changed.
  • Eliminating – these are our negative elements we want to get rid of in future – and this can be very liberating. It’s easy to eliminate the things that we know hurt us, but really hard to stop something that we enjoy – the example given in Triggers was of micromanagement which can make people feel good because they are in charge, yet it is something to be eliminated because it can be frustrating and demoralising to others.
  • Accepting – these are the negative elements but ones we need to accept, often because we are powerless to make a difference, and because of that we need to accept rather than engage in counterproductive behaviour. Accepting is hard – it’s the area that I struggle with the most on the Wheel of Change. 
Creating, preserving, destroying - interestingly enough these are the characteristics of the 3 main Indian deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.  Accepting to me is more like karma.  All these 4 concepts resonate more with me since living in India, so it was great to read about them in Triggers and see how they apply in my life.  So I guess this is what we need to think about when we think about changing - what do we want to start doing, what do we want to keep doing, what do we want to stop doing and what do we simply need to accept?

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