Creating positive change that lasts

One of the reasons I love the Mental Fitness / Positive Intelligence program is that it creates lasting change. Over as few as 6 weeks we can build positive habits and approaches to dealing with the stress of life – and of law school – that stick with us, without the risk that all out good intentions go out the window come exam time.

What happens with standard training programs….

Shirzad Charmain’s research has lead him to believe the following:

1. We treat the symptoms rather than the root cause.

Most approaches to addressing negative behaviours and emotions address symptoms. Of course, addressing the symptoms is important – but unless we address the underlying causes of the negative feelings and behaviours, the symptoms are likely to return – especially when we are under pressure. Charmaine uses the example of the executive who spends time training to be an active listener – a useful skill. But without developing empathy, for self and others, the skill is not likely to be used when the pressure is on.

2. We generate insights rather than build muscles.

Our bad habits live in our minds in the form of neural pathways, or mental muscles, that automatically generate our old responses. You don’t fight muscle with insight. You need to fight muscle with muscle.

No book, 2-day workshop, or coaching session can possibly build up enough muscle strength for the new way to counter the old way. At best these things generate insight and inspiration to behave in a new way. True transformation requires 20% insight generation, 80% muscle building. You’d need to build systematic support for daily repetition of the new way for an extended period of time. This would convert the insights into neural pathways or mental muscles that form the new habits. In other words, new mental muscles to fight the old.

Most of our attempts at change stop at insight. Once we notice we’ve reverted back to the old behavior, we go in search of another book, another workshop, another false promise of transformation based on insight alone. And we become cynical about whether sustained change is even possible.

3. We lack a common operating system.

Mastery in anything requires constant and steady repetition. The problem is that we never get to do that because we’re trying to change too many things, and we don’t have a common operating system to unify those efforts. We get spread too thin.

So we end up chasing the 7 habits of effective people, the 6 ways to sell better, the 11 secrets of a happy marriage, the 9 principles of good parenting, the 5 steps to greater happiness, and the 3 ways to reduce stress. If we’re lucky, we remember and follow a nugget from each of these, and experience a tiny incremental benefit. We don’t have enough time in the day to improve so many things when each uses a separate framework, lacking a common operating system to unify the effort.

See this article from Positive Intelligence for more information about the operating system and how the positive intelligence program can help develop good habits in a lasting way.