How do you make a positive change?

My home town of Benalla on a glorious spring day

My home town of Benalla on a glorious spring day

I recently caught up with participants from our February “Driving Your Life” small group coaching program for a six month check in. I was very keen to see how they’d gone with implementing the goals they’d developed during the program. Could they achieve the changes they’d committed to? What successes had they had? Where did they struggle? What was different? Or were their lives and challenges still the same?

And for me, as the program facilitator, was it worth these people taking two days out of their busy schedules to reflect on what was working and what was not working in their careers and lives?

The great news was that most people had made significant positive changes over the past six months in career, business and life. Devoting two days to reflect, learn, plan and create plus talk to and hear from other people who were similarly motivated to change seemed to have given people a real kick start. They felt happier and were making better decisions.

the gangWe all know that making change isn’t easy. We often have the best intentions, set a goal and then the change just doesn’t stick. Why did this Driving Your Life group have success with some of their goals?

The fact these people spent two days undertaking a program that took them through processes of self-examination and reflection is one possible reason. For those who dismiss these practices as “naval gazing” or a waste of time, Harvard professor Lisa Lahey and her colleague Robert Keegan have done years of research that shows reflection can help make change stick.

As an example I might have identified that being more assertive will be a positive change for me to make for my career and life. So I identify this as a goal and go and do some training. And then I don’t implement what I learnt. What is going on?

Lahey and Keegan have identified that successfully making this change will require both a change in behaviour and a change in mindset (adaptive change). They say that by undertaking self-examination and reflection I will uncover other underlying beliefs I have that prevent me from making this change (making me “immune” to change). I might believe that if I become more assertive then people won’t like me or I believe that I’ll make others uncomfortable. These hidden competing beliefs are running at the same time as the belief that being more assertive will benefit me and so the status quo is maintained and I don’t change.

ash and nath

Ashley and Nathan discuss change

Katie and Liz reflect on successes and challenges

Katie and Liz reflect on successes and challenges







Often our beliefs remain unexamined and yet they drive our behaviour. Lahey and Keegan’s Immunity to Change model provides a self-reflection process to identify our hidden competing beliefs so that we can begin to challenge them.

I believe its worth doing the hard inner work to uncover beliefs we’ve developed in the past that just aren’t serving us anymore so that we can let them go. In being more aware of ourselves we can challenge the often unconscious ways we sabotage ourselves, despite our best intentions.

If you’d like more information on Immunity to Change this article is a good start:

What about you? What positive changes have you made in your life? What might be holding you back? What beliefs could you let go of that aren’t serving you any more?

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About cynthia

Cynthia Mahoney and Associates is a consulting firm that works with individuals, groups, business and government in facilitation and strategic planning. Cynthia is passionate about working with people to develop their life and leadership skills and to increase diversity and participation in decision-making in industry, government and the community. She is a strong believer in bringing people together to identify issues, exchange ideas and develop solutions that work for them, their family, their business and community. Services include: - personal development, leadership workshops and training - business planning, facilitation and business development for business and project teams - group facilitation - social media strategies and tools for industry and business - community and industry consultation and issues identification (face-to-face and virtual) - project development and writing funding applications - project management and evaluation
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