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How to make change stick?

I am a great fan of Kungfu panda movies :-) They are filled with many coaching moments.

One of my favourite scenes is when Po’s father says to him - “I will tell you the secret ingredient of my secret ingredient soup.” <Looks here and there to see if anyone is overhearing>. “The secret ingredient is nothing. There is no secret ingredient. To make something special, you have to believe it is special.“

In that moment Po opens the empty scroll which is supposed to offer special powers to the Dragon warrior and finds his image reflected on to it. Then he goes on to become the Dragon Warrior. The world is saved.

This does not happen just to Po, in movies.

This happens to most clients in effective coaching journeys.

Awareness and reframe emerge in the first couple of sessions.

But what makes coaching worthwhile is - the actions stick and become positive habits over time.

Coaching explores a lot about who the client is becoming in the process - the identity of the client.

"Who do you become when you have achieved your goal or overcomes this problem? "

This may look like a very simple question. But within it lies huge amount of power.

We human beings have a great need to act according to our identity - who we think we are.

Creating a powerful identity to look up to, creates momentum to move towards it. This momentum helps us in creating and maintaining habits that take us closer to our goals.

There are several explanations why this would work. Picking two of them for this blog.

Role of identity in forming atomic habits: James Clear recovered from a life threatening injury with the power of small habits (and is the author of the book, ‘Atomic habits’) argues that there are three layers to behaviour change as seen in the below figure:

  1. a change in outcomes ( this is what clients say they want to achieve)

  2. a change in process (the how of the achievement)

  3. a change in identity (the person the client is becoming)

He says that change in identity is the deepest level of change and it prevents old un-resourceful behaviours from sabotaging the goal. So if someone wants to make a change - the change has a better change of sticking when it is made at the level of identity. As James says in his book, “the goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader.”

Role of Identity in Neurological levels: Robert Dilts, a pioneer in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) created the below logical levels of change based on how our neurology responds to change. The figure below summarises the various logical levels. The various logical levels are Environment (where), Behaviour (what), Capability (how), Beliefs (why) and Identity (who).

Change in environment has the the lowest impact in the order of making change stick while Identity has the highest. Change at the level of identity directly affects the lower levels including capability or skills we build and behaviour we demonstrate.

So next time you are running towards achieving your goal or developing a new behaviour, ask yourself this -

Who are you becoming in this process?

Build a powerful, pleasant, welcoming identity that will form a circular loop of reinforcement with your new habits. When you do that, your goals cannot be far behind.

Who knows, you could be the next dragon warrior :-)

#coaching #leadershipcoaching #identity #change #habits

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