Voice Over - It's All About Me

Still rolling out a metric buttload of change resiliency workshops and presentation packs. It’s infecting everything I do and think about now since even my damn diet app is trying to mess with my change theories by applying them to weight loss. Who knew all that mind game shit I preach on and on about would work for dieting too? Minus 5 kg in 5 weeks. *sigh* Physician heal thyself.

Like the Hiatt example last week, doing the same thing over and over again as a rule bores me to tears. I inevitably drift to contemplating my navel to re-examine the premise of the task and figure out a new way to think about the thing I’m doing. So recently I was standing in front of a group of people and my body and mouth were rattling on and on about the content, while in my head I had this moment of “What are you DOING, Toast? Does this even work? Will even one thing you say make even the slightest difference here?”

To tackle the task “improve change resiliency” we’d be best served by unpacking what aspects of our psychology during change are mutable and which ones are static. This really is its own game of circle of control and influence. What dials and levers can I reasonably pull to help someone else become more resilient? What parts of this game are immovable, and therefore I need to take it as a given and let it go.

Let’s postulate that change resiliency – the ability to physically and emotionally weather the vicissitudes of fortune – is both a state of mind and an acquirable skill. Nature vs nurture. Who we are versus what we make of ourselves. What’s outside of our circle of control and what skill(s) we can bring into it. As a change leader, as an instructor or roll model or (in my dreams) an inspiration to others, I can only open people to the possibility of changing the skills. Right? That’s got to be the answer.

But wait. There might be something I can do with the nature bits. Honestly, I think there is a very good case to be made that if we understand our baseline selves super well, we can work around our nature. A highly developed, internalised model of our deepest biases, behaviours, preferences, and understanding of the world would enable us to strategically manoeuvre around the parts of ourselves that are just complete shite. I, for example, am probably the lest self-disciplined creature able to hold down a job in the known universe. I know this about my base self. I really truly suck. I am a master procrastinator, lazy as hell, and loathe hard work. Knowing this, I’ve spent decades surrounding myself with commitment devices that force me off my ass and into the productive zone… up to and inclusive of the recruitment into my life of a man whose cup of self-discipline, hard work, and stick-to-itiveness is the size of an Olympic swimming pool. If you know who you are, you can modify the world around you in ways that counteract your fight or flight animal self.

Yet while I am in awe of my husband’s discipline, Dean has said to me more than once that the thing he admires most about me is my ability to change myself. I thought originally that WAS my baseline... a natural instinctive trait baked into the toast. But, maybe not. Maybe that skill is itself acquired and sources first from being willing to constantly revisit how and where precisely I need improvement. Which still doesn’t make me awesome. It does make me change resilient, though, which is ostensibly the goal of these workshops I run.

Ugh. I can’t let this go. How can people acquire skills to change themselves during a time of change if they don’t even know who they are today? Honestly, beyond a bunch of pep-talk on ‘discover your baseline’, I can’t actually force people to become more self-aware. I mean I try. Practically every day, I ask someone (or a lot of someones) are you sure? Is that really you? Is that really who you are? Is that what you really want? Do you really like doing this so much that you’ll make yourself miserable doing it for another 10 years? Do you really like the current state so much that you’re resisting any change whatsoever? However, I don’t think I’ve found the magic words that trigger the necessary awareness and desire for self-reflection.

When we look at ourselves… truly look hard, honestly and deeply, it’s just not pretty. There’s always something quite f*cked up and disappointing. It’s like painting the Golden Gate bridge; You start at one end and by the time you’ve gotten to the other end, it’s time to start at the beginning again. Peeling paint everywhere could be depressing but there is where the resiliency bit comes in. I just try to remember what an incredible feat of engineering that bridge is and that I too am something really astonishing – albeit largely shabby and faded. If you know how to make changes, if you practice that and experience repeated success over the decades, it’s just a matter of pulling out the sand paper and paint and getting to work on it again. Which is literally the one thing that I categorically loathe – work. So. Yeah. Sometimes you fight your own nature to fix your own nature.

The smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they'd already solved. They're open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.” ~ Jeff Bezos