A reader from Indiana recently wrote,
“Dear Joe, I know I could be a better mother and a better friend if I could improve the way I communicate. My problem is I don’t want to change into somebody I’m not. How can I stay sincere to myself and change at the same time.” — Susan V.
This is a very good question and one that most people aren’t willing to acknowledge. It is one of the biggest challenges that keeps most individuals and organizations from making true transformation. While they may sincerely desire to make fundamental changes, they have a greater psychological desire not to change anything by which they define themselves.
How does one sincerely change and yet stay sincere? Even in the case of Susan V. from Indiana, where she recognizes that changes could make her a “better Susan,” she fears losing the Susan she currently is. To her, the current Susan is the real Susan and any new and improved version couldn’t possibly be as real.
Many of us identify ourselves by how we feel. We project how we feel by how we act. And how we act greatly determines our life’s experiences. When I say we identify ourselves by how we feel what I really mean is we identify ourselves by how we think and feel about ourselves. Herein lies the challenge. These thoughts and feelings determine our actions – even the actions we want to change. Yet, we can’t make any lasting and drastic changes to how we act without changing the way we feel about ourselves. This has all the makings of a real identity crisis. Individuals and organizations who sincerely want, or even need, to have major changes in their outcomes, first need to learn how to re-examine the way they see themselves. Without this there can be no true transformation.
From time to time, I have held semi-private weekend retreats in my home for individuals who want to learn more about this specific subject. Over the course of a weekend, ten people from around the country join my wife and I for two solid days of examining how our versions of ourselves are directly reflected in our outcomes in our lives. About a month after one of our retreats, a lady named Sandy, who had been having trouble managing her staff at work, called to tell me how much better things had become. She said that the communication had greatly improved and that she doesn’t have half the challenges she had before the retreat.
“I’m glad to hear that,” I replied.
“Thanks,” she said. “But now I have a question. Is it real?”
“Is what real?” I asked.
“What I mean is, which is the real me…Who I was before, or who I am now?”
“Well, before you were the real you growing in a negative way, and now you are the real you growing in a positive way,” I answered.
“I like the new me better,” she said. “Thanks for introducing me to her.”
“It was my pleasure, Sandy.”
If you sincerely want to have drastically different outcomes, don’t start by looking at the problems or looking for solutions. Start by looking in the mirror.