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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 the demands of the change process. And we also need to understand the deep-rooted immunity to change forces that keep us trapped in current realities.
How Do We Do This?
The easiest and most direct way to tune up your change software is through change fitness coaching. Unfortunately, many of the things people learn about themselves and about change make them less likely to succeed at it. How our minds are programmed often leads us to be afraid of change, to resist it, and to run away from it. That is unfortunate because we have the hardware to be better than that. We just need to unlearn some unhelpful lessons and relearn some better ones.
And that’s where change fitness coaching fits in. It targets the most important cognitive, emotional, and psychological issues you need to focus on the reprogram your mind and help you get better at change. And the best place to start is with the Personal Change Fitness Program.
Perhaps, though, you’re not ready to engage in a coaching program. Maybe you would prefer to put your toes in the water first and test it out. You can do that too. You can start with a self-paced, online learning program that doesn’t involve coaching. A good place to start is Understanding the Change Process. This will give you some of the cognitive information you need. And if you decide you want coaching as well, you can always add it on later.
If you need any further information or help, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Written by Dr Steve Barlow