What makes us change?
Before you start reading, let’s be honest. Reading, thinking and knowing doesn’t make us change our behavior. It takes specific regular practices to experiment with this information in order to ignite the spark to change.
Ignite your Spark
According to CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) our thoughts influence our feelings and our feelings influence our behavior. Any of you who have experimented trying to change with affirmations only might have made this experience: saying affirmations while feeling an opposing emotions feels like driving a car with full breaks on. “Yes, but….”. When we actually feel a positive sensation in the body, signaling the right direction, that’s when we let go of resistance. When mind and heart go together, we get an energetic boost. How can we make our mind to let go of negative thoughts about ourselves, others and the world and actually feel good about ourselves, others and the world (…without fooling ourselves sweet-talking situations)?
I am not a fan of training habits for 3 weeks of hard work like an automat. Yes, willpower is absolutely necessary and excuses won’t make the change. A kind, loving attitude in my opinion is just as necessary in order to not just reach the goal, but make it an efficient lasting change and last not least be content during the process of life.
Think about it: How many people are actually content doing what they are doing? How is a loving, kind attitude translated in the business world? We are intelligent, sentient beings. Aren’t we missing the whole point of life when we are treating ourselves and others like an automat on our continuous journey to reach goals?
For me the word spark is helpful to remember what it takes to get you going towards a desired direction. Spark reminds to a bulb releasing energy, resulting in light and to the sensation in the heart that gives our bodily system a clear new physiological signal and energetic information. It takes feeling that spark to step from accumulating information to action, from being knowledgable to having wisdom, from studied theory to living practice. Yes, then, change in form of a physiological change in neurological connections can happen, and we can “just do it” over a long period of time and create that new habit. We are feeling that spark, without even having achieved the goal. Affirmations are empty words without that feeling. It takes more than knowing. It takes feeling that spark in the heart that motivates intrinsically. How do we get to feel that spark?
Making unconscious habits into Conscious Choices
This is how it does NOT work: Emotional reactions can’t be changed by “hard” work, nor can a boss working with pressure or intimidation help an employee to gain the ability to be self-motivated. Money can’t do it either. Unwanted reactions happen, without us choosing and deciding to do so. You did it again? You screamed at an employee or froze during a conflict like a slave of unwanted reactions?
Emotional Regulation for Leaders
The ability to regulate emotions and switch from unwanted emotional reacting to conscious choices is an essential requirement for leadership. (Torrence and Connell 2019) Training this skill is like training any other skill: you need to know what you are doing and keep doing it. There are many approaches such as therapy or coaching to learn this skill.
How do we train to change the old habitual reactions?
Here are some elements of my coaching approach and why I apply them.
- Coaching: gain clarity about where you stand right now, and which values are truly important for you. Learn and practice tools. Understand the mechanisms of body, mind and emotions, experiment with this new information, make it yours.
- Relaxation training: Relaxation is healthy because it increases the flow of blood around our body and gives us more energy. You get a calmer and clearer mind. It helps positive thinking, concentration, memory and decision. Distractions and drugs can’t do that. Relaxation slows our heart rate, reduces our blood pressure and relieves tension.
- Awareness training, mindfulness techniques and meditation help to focus on what really is, here and now: check in with the senses in the present moment. Trying to block sensations in the body as strategy to “function” doesn’t work efficiently, since it rather leads to stress, addictive or obsessive behavior. Change can happen once we are allowing, consciously acknowledging and appreciating whatever is first. Meditation practices helps to become resilient, powerful and positive. Meditation literally changes the mind physiologically. Studies show, that mindfulness meditation changes our actual brain structures (Alfonso Barrós-Loscertales, 2019).
Is meditation necessary to change?
The mechanism of change is creating new neurological chain reactions in the brain. Letting go of unwanted behavior, or introducing new behavoir and changing reactions such as freezing in fear, intimidating others aggressively, trying to “win a battle” by putting them down cynically, or manipulating otherwise can’t be done by coaching alone. Yes, some form of personal meditation practice is necessary. This is where you become your own guru.
A simple and effective Stepping Stone towards Positive Change
It can be frustrating to be in an environment that is not supportive. How many times have we heard: we can only change ourselves? There are hundreds of coaches, healing techniques and therapies. Here is a simple and effective stepping stone that helped me personally rise from the ashes: Walking in nature in a specifically attentive way. It can be done anywhere, and it is effective to keep body, heart and mind fit. Loads of studies and cultures suggest, walking in nature as a powerful practice to stay present, strong, and positive. It takes a combination of willpower, know-how and a loving attitude in order to be effective.
How do I know that this stuff works?
This article is influenced by personal experiments with meditation, studies of Yoga, mental health, healing- and medical workshops and trainings (Psychosomatic Primary Health Care, Hypnosis for Pain and Stress Relief). I read articles and books by Gregg Braden, Joe Dispenza, Simon Sinek, Tony Robbins, Louise Hay, Gabor Maté, Deepak Chopra, Stephen Covey and others. Since 2000, I accompany individuals and team as a coach. All this means nothing, really. If you want to benefit from this, it takes experimenting.
Here is a coaching question to play with:
Would you want to hike to the top of the Himalayas or take a helicopter?