This blog is dedicated to “Justin” – Wherever you are, my friend, I hope you’ve found the inner peace you were searching for.
All-righty then, let’s continue. In the last blog I left you with the task of jumping to the moon. I’ve given you more than ample time. So, since I’ve not seen your amazing story on the evening news or seen you through my telescope, waving back at me from that glowing orb, I’m going to assume you’ve failed your assignment. That’s okay. It was an impossible task, anyway.
The truth is, many goals simply aren’t possible. That’s one reason we fail – what we want is flat out unrealistic or beyond our acquirable capabilities. But so many more things are achievable. And yet, we still flounder. Still struggle. Still fail.
Throughout my professional career, I’ve worked with scads of data sets that were gathered through all kinds of research protocols and analyzed via a myriad of data manipulation tools. For a very long time it was my job to “find the story” in the data for my clients. Sometimes this meant crunching numbers till the cows came home. Other times it meant reading thousands of open-ended comments to discover and quantify a mere handful of meaningful themes. And, I got really good at it. As one client told me, “You have a gift for taking a chaotic swirl of nebulous data and telling me what the hell it all means.”
In the years prior to founding 421, I also spent a lot of my time studying the topic of self-change for my own sake. As I read publication after publication, though, one question became increasingly disconcerting to me. How could so many people have such tremendous access to all the knowledge, tips, tricks, and so-called “hacks” that are out there (especially with the good ol’ internet) and STILL struggle with making the changes they desired? Hell, I even struggled, myself!
Answering “why” became an obsession for me.
So, tapping into my research background, I began looking for the “story in the data.” I continued to read everything I could about how people succeeded and failed at self-change, but this time it was through the lens of understanding the “why.” Eventually, my search for “the story” took me to a field of work where some of the direst need for change exists – addiction recovery. As the people I worked with told their stories of their recovery efforts, I began listening for themes as to why people struggled and failed (and, sadly, sometimes died).
One day, I met a young man in a detox facility who I’ll call Justin (not his real name). I observed Justin and a handful of others as they participated in an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting that was being conducted by members of a local AA chapter. As the group went around the room and told their stories, I learned that Justin had been through various detox facilities and treatment centers, not once, but numerous times. He told the group that he was well versed in the ways of AA and admitted he had been given all the knowledge and support he needed to get and stay sober. Yet, to his deep dismay, here he was. Again.
As Justin spoke, I could hear the desperation building his voice, and see it in his eyes and his body language. The desperation grew towards anger until Justin finally lashed out at the AA members saying, “You see, I know all this stuff already! So why can’t I stay sober?! Tell me! I really want to be sober!” One AA member tried to address Justin’s question with, “Well, you just have to follow the 12 Steps and take it one day at a time with your sponsor…” Justin angrily interrupted the speaker and, in tears, demanded, “I know what to do, so stop telling me that! What you’re not telling me is HOW to do it! What I don’t get is, how do I get myself to f#&king do it?!” The room went quiet. No one had an answer. Justin simply hung his head and cried.
That experience, that cry for help, and the unanswered question of “how” has haunted me ever since. But, it was in that question that I realized I had found the kernel; the nut to be cracked for real self-change. Not the answer, but the place to start. (Personal note to someone I owe a lot to: Sorry, Phil, but “cracking the nut” is the paramount effort we need to undertake, not the blind following of what’s set in front of us. Not if we are to truly believe for ourselves and not if we are to truly help others.)
The answer I eventually found wasn’t anything earth-shattering or hard to understand. It wasn’t some profound “discovery” or the creation of something never before conceived. It was simply the observation of something overlooked or unrecognized by most people trying to make a change for themselves. It was also something often invisible to the people who were simply trying, in good faith, to help someone else. Justin (as did many others) struggled with getting sober because, deep down, in his inner workings, he wasn’t truly ready to change. How I wish I could go back and help him understand this.
In the blog, “Moon I See It! Part I” where I started this discussion, I asked you to bring the key learning from that blog to this one. The core message from that blog, again, can be summed up by the following statement:
“People fail becausetheyaren’t ready for change.”
So, what exactly does that mean – “we’re not ready for change?”
The story I found in all of my research, conversations, and studies is that there are four key drivers that are critical to any successful self-change effort. My statement that “we’re not ready for change” simply means that at least one of the four key drivers isn’t sufficiently present in our thinking as we approach our change effort. The four key drivers are as follows:
ATTACHMENT – Personally owning the reason for the goal; having a motive or reason for the goal that’s deeply personal and as emotionally compelling as possible
WILLINGNESS – An unabashed commitment, NOT to the goal like many think, but to doing the work required to achieve the goal; going “all-in” on the effort
“SELF” SKILLS – The inner skills needed to proactively know ourselves and self-manage our behaviors as we guide ourselves through the process of self-change
KNOWLEDGE – Having a sufficient understanding of the stages and steps comprising the process of self-change so that we can move ourselves through that process with intent and purpose
These four key drivers are foundational to nearly every change effort and MUST be in place if we are to be successful in our self-change efforts.
That’s a bold statement and, yes, there are numerous other reasons we will struggle and fail in making changes for ourselves. But, as we explore the four key drivers in future blogs, I’ll show you their importance along with why most of these other reasons are the result of not having the key drivers in place to start with.
KEY LEARNING: Before we can successfully get from HERE to THERE, we must first be ready for the journey by building a foundation of change-readiness using the four key drivers of self-change.
Until next time, be good for yourself and do good for others!
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