At this time of year, many of us resolve to make improvements in our life by doing things differently. But determining what actions to take and having the resolve to stick with those actions can be challenging. A coaching tool called “the Mentors’ Corner” can help.
People hate change, even when we know it’s good for us. Our intention could be to improve our health, increase joy in our life, or accelerate our business success in some way – all very positive outcomes. So why are these things so hard to achieve?
There is a part of us, called the ego, which tends to stand in our way. The ego likes to keep us in drama; it feeds on it and even creates it when drama is not around. That’s why we do bad things even when we know they are bad for us, and don’t do good things even when we know they would be good for us. Our ego fools us into believing that even though our current situation is not ideal, the status quo is better for us than the disruption of change. To facilitate this belief pattern, our egos encourage us to process our ideas about our ability to manage change in parts of our brain (the reticular and limbic system) that are limited to past experience. When we only look backward, our focus is on what we’ve failed to do in the past and not on what we could do in the future. In those circumstances, no wonder change is so difficult!.
The more productive part of the brain to engage in change management is the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex enables us to do creative problem solving, and to envision what life might be like under different circumstances. These two skills are critical to effective change, yet in my experience it can be particularly difficult for professionals to access their cerebral cortex for this type of work. This may be due to their over-emphasis on academic knowledge and personal experience. These may be very good things within the context of their profession, but unhelpful when it comes to change management. That’s when I pull out “The Mentors’ Corner”. Here’s how it works:
I ask the client to pose a question that is standing in the way of their ability to make a change that they know they need to make. Once they’ve framed the ideal question, I ask them to think about three people whose opinions they respect. Then one by one, we virtually meet with each of those individuals in an imaginary and safe setting, ask them the question, and listen to the response.
Ego-based first timers have difficulty with this exercise and find themselves describing what they “think” the individual would say, as in “he would probably say something like…”. I encourage them to remove themselves as interpreter and instead, imagine they are watching a video of the mentor speaking (rather than writing the speech for them). Then I ask the client to report to me what they hear, which I write down word for word.
In time, I start to hear…
“He’s telling me…”
“Now she’s saying….”
“And she’s laughing and saying that…”
When the client stops predicting what the mentor would say and instead, tells me what the mentor is saying, we are finally in the cerebral cortex. At that point, we start to spin gold.
The client starts to speak more quickly, as if they are trying to impart everything the mentor is saying before the moment passes. The mentor uses word choices and patterns that are typical for them, and the client will sometimes laugh or sigh to hear those tones. Having gone through this myself, I can tell you that as the connection with the mentor gets deeper, ideas and recommendations start to emerge that I would not have considered if left to my own thoughts. Different perspectives and remarkable ideas can emerge. Provided the client stays in listening mode and doesn’t disrupt the imagery, some amazing advice can be revealed.
Once all three mentors have had a chance to speak I repeat back the question to the client and read back all of their mentors’ advice. As I do this, it’s clear to me and to the client that we didn’t just astral travel! What the client heard each mentor say may have been in the style of that mentor, but the advice actually came from deep within the mind of the client. Yet it’s quite common for the client to become emotional on hearing their mentors’ advice. I believe this is because often, the mentors are people who are relatively close to the client and to hear kind, supportive words in the tone of these individuals can feel very sincere and loving. But I also believe that this exercise enables the client to see that they have the answers they need within them already. They just needed to find access to where that information was hidden. The realization that we can do this for ourselves can be overwhelming, or at least jarring, but in a good way. It’s a bit like seeing the real image in a Magic Eye picture for the first time.
Why does this work so well? Stephen Hawking has often referenced in his writings how challenging it can be to figure out a problem when focussed on it. Occasionally, he will file away in his mind the intent to resolve an issue, and then stop thinking about it. Several days later when he’s crossing the street, the solution will come to him. The mind is a complex space – we can’t always force it to work the way we want it to. But that doesn’t mean that the intelligence isn’t in there. Sometimes, we just need to find a gentle way to access it.
Try the mentor’s corner on your own a few times and see if you can obtain access to incredibly inventive and helpful parts of your mind to assist you with the positive changes you want in your life.