Have you ever intended to do one thing – like exercise more or spend more time with your kids – and done another? Or, maybe, you intended to stop doing something that you kept on doing – like not paying your bills on time or driving someone away when you want to be close to them? More often than we might like we find ourselves behaving in ways that are contrary to our personal or professional well-being. I know, the devil made you do it!
At these times the unconscious, automatic part of ourselves is driving our behavior rather than our conscious selves. Accordingly, intention is a primary aspect of conscious use of self when our automatic behavior is getting us other than what we want or would be good for us.
But what to do about it? Of course, several books have been (and still could be) written about such dilemmas. For the purpose of this blog, however, we will briefly explore a basic five-step process that can often be helpful without having to spend money on a therapist.
Here they are:
- Slow down! Not easy, but we’re not talking about doing easy things.
- Write down a description of the automatic behavior that you want to change, along with the behavior that you consciously intend. Occasionally, this step is all that you need. If it is insufficient go to Step 3.
- Write down the emotions, the feelings, that accompany the automatic behavior.
- Write down the thoughts that drive or justify that emotion. If you can change your thoughts, you will change the emotion, and that will allow you to change your behavior. Often our thoughts are not based on sound and current data and are amenable to change once we check out the information upon which our thoughts are based. If that doesn’t work go to the next step.
- Write the beliefs that underlie your thoughts. Notice if that belief is useful to your conscious intention. If it isn’t, what belief or beliefs might be more useful? Changing beliefs that are not useful is a transformational process that is not easy, but it is extremely powerful.
Give it a try and remember that practice makes perfect.
For more in-depth discussion about Conscious Use of Self and practice in replacing automatic actions with intended actions, check out this module, Conscious Use of Self: Where It All Starts.
There are three critical aspects to conscious use of self when it comes to managing change, when we want improve the dynamics of some human system be it at work or in our personal lives. They are intention, connection, and ego management.
Intention has to do with the goals and outcomes we desire. Habitually, our intentions are often out of consciousness, leaving us with behaviors from past experiences and teachings. These would have us protect ourselves and/or be well thought of via behavior which worked at some point in our lives, but which may not be effective in the present circumstance.
For example, when we find ourselves in potentially conflictual situations, unconscious intentions might have those of us who are conflict avoidant behave unobtrusively and agreeably—even when we do not agree. Accordingly, we might often find ourselves having agreed to tasks that we really don’t want to do. Still on automatic, with the unconscious intention to avoid responsibility for my negative circumstance (after all I was unobtrusive and friendly), I find myself blaming (under my breath, of course) those who asked me if I would do the task that I didn’t want to do.
I’ll share how we might be conscious in our intentions in my next blog! Then, connection and ego management!
This headline assumes that one accepts that discrimination in hiring still exists. Well, I was recently asked to write an essay on whether I think racism in hiring still exists, how I feel about it, and how it can be counteracted. A portion of that essay follows:
“Do I believe that racism in hiring still exists? Yes, I believe that racism – and ageism and sexism – in hiring still exists. I also understand how easy it is to wonder if these are at play in the absence of sound and current data in specific situations.” (Is that recruiter not calling me back because s/he’s discriminating against me? Or is s/he just rude? Or swamped out of his/her gourd?)
“How do I feel about it? It is frustrating – as a job seeker, and as a hiring manager, and as a recruiter. It is frustrating to wonder – and sometimes not even need to wonder – why excitement turns to chill, why enthusiasm turns to silence, why a pending job offer turns to excuses. It makes me scared and angry that circumstances beyond my control affect me or friends and colleagues, angry that stupidity and excuses can be allowed to win out over fairness and hard work.
“Those are the easy questions.
“It isn’t actually that difficult to determine who is the best candidate for the job – if one is open to people who are different from one’s self. A good hiring process focuses on being clear about the requirements of the position, the duties of the position, the skills required to fulfill those duties, the ideal amount of experience required, and the “stuff you can’t teach” such as self-management, communication skills, analytical skills, and values such as honesty, work ethic, and so on.
“But these criteria for determining who is the best candidate for the job assume that there is not an unspoken criterion that the candidate looks like the interviewer. Humans are hardwired in their lizard brains to gravitate to those who are similar. Differences are dangerous in an eat-or-be-eaten-world.
“The good news is that we are not lizards. We are human, with a lot more to our brains than the lizard portion. We can utilize those higher brains to overlook or – better yet – appreciate differences.
“Which brings us to the hard question about racism in hiring: How do you counteract it? By fostering a sense of curiosity. At all stages and in all of the players, and first of all in ourselves. If we are willing, we can find out that life is just so much more interesting when we interact with people who are different. Not only that, but we can learn so much more. We must be curious as interviewers, and as job seekers, and as co-workers. It is not the job of just one side to be curious – we must all be willing to be curious. Anger has its place, but curiosity is more effective. Secondly, we must foster curiosity in others, by encouraging them to be interested, by helping them feel safe, and by lovingly calling attention to fear and lack of curiosity when they pop up. Finally, we must encourage curiosity in children so that we have less work to do in that area when they are adults.
“Legislation and political correctness will never solve the problem at its source. But we can do it through being conscious of our own tendencies, fostering curiosity, and providing opportunities for learning.”
I admit this makes practicing curiosity sound easy. I’ve been asked, “If it’s that easy, why don’t people do it more often?”
That’s a good question. I think the answer is: It is easy. But I also think there are several reasons more people don’t practice curiosity. The first is just habit; it’s easy to get comfortable. Another, more insidious reason is that we think we know the truth, and we think we know about people who are different from us.
But I think the main reason is Fear. Fear of admitting I don’t know something. Fear of being wrong (and of people finding out). Fear of being punished for not conforming. Fear of looking Dumb. Fear of having my worldview changed, which can feel like chaos.
Being curious takes a little courage. Courage to be vulnerable, courage to change my mind, and courage to create a safe environment for others to be curious. But being curious is also fun, and it makes life a lot more interesting. Are you up for it?
Susan T. Blake is an organization development professional and coach whose background includes management experience and a tour of duty as an award-winning recruiter. A graduate of the Triple Impact Practitioners Program, Susan writes about systems thinking, team building, curiosity, management lessons she’s learned from spiders and her cats, and other topics that make her wonder in her blog at http://susanTblake.com.
I’m very pleased to tell you that the response to yesterday’s webinar on “The Challenges of OD (& Getting Beyond Them)” was terrific! In fact, people are still trying to register and are inquiring about a recording of the event!
Thank you to all of you who attended! Your participation via chat, and the excellent questions you submitted, made it a lively event. Many people even stayed late for extra Q&A!
I’m pleased to tell you that we will be posting a link to the recording and a PDF version of the slide deck to the Online Courses page of the website shortly. We will notify you when it is ready.
I am also gratified that interest in the series, The Eight Disciplines That Make OD Work, has been very strong as a result of the webinar. As we discussed yesterday, the integration of these disciplines into your practice is what will help you to consistently overcome the challenges that OD practitioners face. If you would like to find out more about these modules, which are much more interactive and in-depth than yesterday’s session, please click HERE. The first module begins on November 5th, and seating is limited to 15 people, so register soon!
If you have questions about the modules or their format that are not answered on the website, please feel free to email me at michael@CHumanS.com.