Change: The Learning Zone

By |2019-11-15T13:59:07+10:00November 15th, 2019|Categories: Change Fitness, Coaching, Programs|

In a previous article, I made the claim that humans are hard-wired for change. My argument there was that, since we have managed to survive and thrive in virtually every ecological niche on the planet (or at least in a diverse range of ecological niches), we are, as a species, very adaptable and not only adaptable but also able to adapt the environment to suit our purposes. Since this is arguably true of modern humans in general, it is logical to assume that deep neurological structures give rise to this capacity.

Hard Wiring

This neurological hard wiring may not have developed for the singular purpose of making us good at change. We understand from the Transtheoretical Model that change involves a great deal of analysis, visioning, planning, and problem-solving. These are all basic survival skills for a creature with a big brain but without many of the ‘mechanical advantages’ of other competitor species (we can’t fly like a bird, run like an gazelle, climb like a monkey, balance like a mountain goat, or swim like a dolphin). But we are very good at analysing our environment and planning our next moves.

We could explore this idea at greater depth and even debate whether big brains are an evolutionary advantage or a probable cause of ultimate demise. However, leaving such issues aside, we should understand that being hard wired for change is no guarantee of being able to use that neurological inheritance to much practical advantage. This is because being good at change requires more than hardware (neurones). We also need the right software (information).

Software

In general, humans all inherit the brain structures that enable us to analyse, vision, plan, and problem-solve. But we don’t all have access to the same information about how to do those things. In other words, there are differences in how well people have learnt to do those things.

And it’s even more than learning how to do things. It also involves developing the psychological strength to do those things and keep on doing those things when there is a psychological, emotional, or even physical pain associated with doing them.

So, being good at change requires us to have the neurological hardware (which, generally, we do) and the right kind of cognitive, emotional, and psychological software. And what cognitive, emotional, and psychological software is the right kind?

This is a complex question and we can’t go into details here. But we can make some broad statements.

Cognitive Needs

On a cognitive level (what we need to know), we need to understand how the change process works. We must understand what’s going on and what we should do to succeed at change. In other words, we need to understand the process we engage in. That might sound simple, but many people don’t really understand how the change process works and what is normal about it.

The second thing we need to understand on a cognitive level is what personal change fitness means. Change fitness refers to a set of psychological capacities that empower us to succeed at the change process. But in addition to developing these capacities, we need to understand what they are and why they are important.

The third thing we should understand on a cognitive level is the system in which we operate. This system (family, workplace, community, national, global) exerts pressure on us as we do on it. We need to have some understanding of this system so we can manage change within it.

Emotional Needs

On an emotional level we need emotional intelligence. We need to be able to regulate our emotions so can best utilise them to our advantage, and the advantage of others. Much has been said about emotional intelligence, so there is no need to say anything more here.

Psychological Needs

On a psychological level we need to understand ourselves and how we function in the world. We need to work on developing more of the change fitness capacities that give us the psychological strength to meet t