Overcoming My Immunity to Change

I looked inside at the worries and assumptions keeping me from publishing a leadership blog with my own original thoughts and I found myself sleeping on a cardboard box under a bridge. 

Using a process referred to as Uncovering Your Immunity to Change, made popular by Harvard Developmental Psychologists Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, I discovered an unconscious assumption driven by my fear of failure. Without my knowledge I was caught in a paralyzing grip because I assumed that damaging my credibility would ruin my consulting practice and cause my income to dry up.

I had a hidden competing commitment to change deep within myself that was putting the brakes on my passion to write a blog. I was unknowingly committed to protecting my credibility by not risking it with original thought published on the internet. Suddenly I could see my immunity to change. I wanted to push down on the accelerator to move forward with my blogging and simultaneously I had my foot on the brake to protect my credibility.

At first I thought it’s a ridiculous assumption to imagine I would end up under a bridge if others criticized my thinking. Let’s just think positive. “Just start writing,” I told myself, “you’ll be fine.” But I couldn’t start writing. “What the hell is going on,” was my next thought.

Turns out discovering my assumption and immediately attempting to dismiss it as absurd only served to alert the part of me that was afraid my intention to blog would ruin me with public shame.

All of this new found insight into my psyche had originally come out during a workshop put on by Keegan and Lahey, authors of the book Immunity to Change.  After teaching us the 4-step method for uncovering a client’s big assumption (the one keeping the client from changing) they ended the three-day program with a discussion of how to test that assumption. Their point was not to challenge the big assumption directly, but to slowly look for ways to test it and poke holes in the assumption. With time the tests could prove it as either a relevant assumption or eventually take the air out of the assumption and loosen its grip on the client.

I revisited my struggle to blog four months after this initial workshop when I joined a six-month on-line Immunity to Change coaching program Kegan and Lahey offered. This program provided a deep dive into how to effectively test assumptions. 

During the program I started testing my own big assumption by investigating the history of where my assumption came from.  It turns out I have a history of trying to protect my credibility stemming from childhood and being the oldest of six. Then I interviewed other coaches with successful practices who regularly blog. Yes, some of these coaches had written blogs that generated critical feedback but their world did not fall apart. This led me to take on a relatively safe test. I would share on LinkedIn some top rated McKinsey articles related to leading change. And behold, a couple hundred people read them. A few of you kind souls even liked or shared them with others.

This was just enough to loosen the grip of an assumption I had been subject to and now held in my hand as object. This observation and testing of my assumption was slowly unlocking my ability to write original thoughts.

Recently over 2000 people read my LinkedIn post on three ways to build trust. Thank you! You have motivated me to push down on the accelerator and let my foot off the brake. All feedback is welcome and appreciated.

If you would like to learn more about how the Immunity to Change coaching method could help you follow through on the elusive change you desire contact me to experience a sample coaching session and determine if this could be a good fit for you.

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