Sunday, August 24, 2008


This essay is from a monthly newsletter of Amanda Gore. Amanda, an Aussie living in the U.S., is an expert on the topics of joy and being connected.

I have just finished reading a very interesting book by Alan Deutschman called Change or Die. He first wrote an article in Fast Company magazine on this topic and in it he covers what causes people to make changes in their lives. He combines research from the business world, neuroscience and other traditional fields like psychology and medicine. It’s an excellent book!

Neuroscience is essentially the study of the nervous system but recently it has been applied to the business world and linked with how people change and keep their brains young, creative and alert.

The great news is that our brains are not hardwired and set in concrete from birth on! We can change. From what I have read, it seems that there are 4 keys to change that lasts - focus, attention, repetition and celebration! FARC for short! Add to that learning completely new and different skills and we have a recipe for rapid effective change and brain development

Firstly, it’s no news to any of us that change is hard but as Dean Ornish, the most successful cardiologist in the world at reversing heart disease without surgery, says ‘people don’t resist change, they resist being changed’. His program starts with hope. His approach is to make dramatic life changes and the results that soon become obvious, are a source of hope that people can feel better and live a pain free, happier, active life.

I really liked the recipe that is given in Change or Die - relate, repeat, and reframe. That is, have new hope through relationships, learn new skills and think in different ways.

I have written recently on the importance of feelings and perceptions in everything we do and those articles highlighted the importance of touching people at a heart and feeling level - giving them an "ah ha" moment where they feel different, something resonates with them. Whether it relates to the business world, personal health or major life changes (as in the prison rehabilitation program he describes in the book), we have to give people a sense of hope that a better world or life is possible.

Lou Gerstener, when he turned IBM around, found out that ‘facts, fear and force’ don’t move people; he realized he had to physically speak to, make a person to person - heart to heart connection, and inspire IBM’ers with hope that there was a new direction for the company; that it would not only survive but thrive; that they were able to contribute and create a new, better, stronger company. That was the first step.

John Kotter, a renown professor at Harvard Business School, concludes from the research that changing organizations depends overwhelmingly on changing the emotions of their individual members. See - it IS all about feelings! Even ‘serious’ business people are saying it!

Nor do facts and details work in the health arena - 91 out of 100 people told they would die without significant lifestyle changes will not make changes! Only NINE would make changes that lasted. It appears we must trigger positive emotions and give people a sense of hope that not only is change possible, but results can come quickly. Dean Ornish’s programs work by promising and quickly showing the joy of living, not emphasizing the fear of dying!

So lets apply this to ourselves in this month’s newsletter and we can work on organizations later!

What can give you hope that you can change in an area you need to? Lets focus (the first part of the change recipe in neuroscience) on what you would like to change. Perhaps you can make a list? You may of course be very happy with you the way you are and if that’s the case - TA DA to you! Most of us though have some aspects of ourselves or lives we would like to be different.

What can you do to convince yourself that this change is possible - that there is hope you can succeed? You could visit or learn about people who have done it before you. Read books that inspire you with stories of others; surround yourself with people who have done what you want to do and form a relationship with them. That’s one of the reasons alcoholics anonymous and weight watchers are so successful ¯ the ongoing relationships with people who have done what you hope to do.

Lets say you have challenged yourself to run a marathon. You have trained and the big day is here - you have run well but you don’t think you can complete the race; it was hotter and harder than you expected; all those other people running slowed you down; the hills were worse, etc etc. and then you see a group of your friends up ahead who are cheering you on - they are yelling ‘you can do it!’, encouraging you and sending you love. Or the person with whom you have been training sees you and encourages you.

What happens? Suddenly there is a new burst of energy and you spring forward and make it to the end! Those feelings and emotional support gave you the will and energy to keep going.

Never underestimate the power of relationships in helping you achieve change! They are crucial. Pay attention to your thinking, challenge yourself when you have hopeless thinking, seek friends at that time who will help you see that things are not hopeless! Perhaps they will help you to see the blessings in your life or point out things for which you can be grateful and you can focus on them rather than what is disappointing you.

Above all DO something! You can wish all you like in your mind that you were different or things would change, but until you DO something life, and you, will stay the same! DO something that will give you hope - the first step. Even if it is to visualize that the change you want is possible - not daydreaming but actively visualizing what you want to have happen.

So what WILL you DO today to create some hope that what you want to change is possible? Read, talk to people, learn, join a support group, hang around people who have done what you want to do, research, make a list, write an action plan and share it with others - or anything else that moves you as you read this.

It only takes one person to believe in you - to have faith in you - to give you hope and you can move mountains! DO something! Go for it!

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