The Secret to Personal Change

Great advice from my favorite Deepak Chopra, which I found here: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130928001037-75054000-the-secret-to-personal-change

Most people want to change something about themselves. In this country we have an optimistic tradition about “getting somewhere” and “reaching higher,” which includes getting somewhere with the self. Change and optimism go together. It seems, in the current economic downturn, that optimism is lagging, but there’s still a strong motivation to succeed, which means overcoming obstacles. Many, if not most of the obstacles that people face in their rise to success, are personal. Which is why almost everyone wants to change a habit, a personality trait, a chronic state of anxiety, and so on.

The problem with personal change is that if you attack your old habits directly, the task is quite difficult. The mind that desires change confronts the mind that is bound by old conditioning. The result is inner conflict, with one side pushing and the other side resisting. Countless people feel trapped inside this war, whether their goal is to stop overeating, manage their anger, become more assertive, or stop being fearful – the desire to change isn’t enough, and keeping up the motivation to change soon wears out.

The secret to personal change is to stop fighting against yourself. If the inner war was winnable, you’d have won it long ago. I’m not advising you to give up. Giving up takes you out of the war zone, but that’s not enough to create positive change. Your brain is still trained to follow the pathways set down by habit and conditioning. This is where the secret to personal change comes in. Change occurs by giving the brain new pathways. Without these new pathways, your default reactions will remain in place. Brain wiring isn’t the same as house wiring. Even if you are “wired” to overeat or to lose your temper quickly, these reactions can be over-ridden.

The process has a few steps that need to be repeated anytime you find yourself having a familiar, undesirable reaction.

1. Notice what you’re about to do.

2. Pause, close your eyes and wait until the surge of your reaction quiets down.

3. Ask yourself if you really need to react this way.

What you’re doing with these steps is bringing in the higher brain, which is the only part that can decide to change and then carry out the change. The part that keeps you from changing is emotional and impulsive – in other words the lower brain. The lower brain has quicker access than the higher brain, which is why you jump when you hear a car backfire and only seconds later make the decision that you are not in danger. Survival impulses like hunger, aggression, and fight-or-flight aren’t stronger than reason; they are just faster and thoughtless.

By pausing and waiting for the surge to pass, you give yourself time to do the things that the higher brain is expert at: considering, reflecting, weighing options, etc. But here comes the tricky part. If you have given in to impulse and habit many times, ignoring the choices available to your higher brain, grooves of habit become the path of least resistance. In a word, the more often the lower brain is favored, the weaker your decision-making becomes. That’s why overeaters feel helpless to change their eating habit. They aren’t hungrier than other people; they’ve weakened their other choices.

So your campaign, whatever kind of change you are aiming for, is to take back your power to choose. You must do this over and over. Only repetition can rebalance your brain, allowing stronger pathways to be built and older grooves to wear out. Besides the three steps given above, the following are also very useful.

– Write down how you feel.

– Make a note whenever you make a better choice.

– Appreciate your good choices and celebrate the fact that you made them.

These additional steps reinforce higher-brain awareness. They reconnect you to your emotional brain and teach it to see that it doesn’t feel good just to overeat, lose your temper, or act aggressive. It feels just as good to make a better choice. Celebration, which many people leave out, reinforces the positive emotional side of making better choices. When you put all these steps together, they make change possible, not by fighting against yourself, but by adding the fulfillment of knowing that you are the author of your own life story and can turn the plot in any direction you want.

How I Hire by Deepak Chopra

I was always interested in developing leadership skills and for me one of the main skills for a great leader is hiring the right people. For the type of business I’m planning to have, but I think this would be also important for any type of business, is behavioral skills over any technical skills. And it is a challenge to ‘read’ a person in 30-60 minutes of interview time, you might end up with a person who doesn’t fit the company. I stumbled upon 2 amazing article by the leaders I truly admire – Deepak Chopra and Richard Branson.

Both articles can be found here:

And below is the Deepak’s view on the topic and 7 amazing questions that would help you understand the person you are interviewing.

Since my life’s work has always focused on self-awareness and well being, I have made those two attributes the criterion for people I want to work with. In my course, The Soul of Leadership, I advise employers not only to get references and bios from prospective employees, but also to engage with them before hiring in creating a “Soul Profile”. Here are the questions that we ask when we create a soul profile:

1. What makes you joyful? Can you recall the most joyous moments of your life?

2. What is your life purpose?

3. In what way do you want to contribute to the business or organization?

4. What are your unique talents and skills and who would benefit from them?

5. Who are your heroes/heroines/mentors in history, mythology, religion or contemporary times?

6. What are the qualities you look for in a good friendship?

7. What are the best attributes that you have that contribute to a meaningful relationship?

Asking a person to write down two or three words or phrases in answer to each of these questions gives both them and you an idea of the meanings, the context, the relationships, and the archetypal themes in their life. It also is an expression of their deeper core consciousness and what drives their passion and their vision. The key to a successful business or organization is the creation of dynamic teams where a) there is a shared vision, b) people acknowledge and complement each other strengths (as in a sports team), c) everyone is emotionally bonded and cares for each other. Such teams, between 5-12 people take time to form, but guarantee success.

In my view, focusing only on professional skills can lead to problems. In many instances technical skills can frequently be outsourced adequately. However, what makes an organization or business successful are core values, qualities of character, vision, purpose, camaraderie, and joy. And these cannot be outsourced.

In addition, I am realizing more and more that addiction to distraction is becoming a hazard in the workplace. Employees who have an interest in personal growth including practices like mindfulness and focused awareness are not only healthier, but contribute to the well being of an organization/business. It is becoming clear now that multitasking is the one skill that gets worse with practice and may indeed be harmful to our cortical brain. In an information-based society, information overload can actually be a hazard. Information overload cost US businesses about 28% of their knowledge workers’ day and up to $1 trillion dollars in lowered productivity. This, in a nation where the gross domestic product, is about $15 trillion dollars. We pay a huge price in productivity and well being for addiction to technologies, distractions, and mindlessness instead of mindfulness. If as an employer you are aware that the well being of your employees includes the following you will be enormously successful as a business/organization.

1. Career wellbeing – make sure that employees enjoy what they do; acknowledge their strengths and make their opinions count.

2. Social well being – encourage friendships, camaraderie, and celebration in the workplace.

3. Provide encouragement and facilities if possible for meditation, exercise and recreation.

4. Encourage employees in the well-being of their communities.

5. Make sure that employees feel safe financially; help create plans for savings and adequate insurance.

The above suggestions are gathered from data over several years at The Gallup Organization where I serve as a senior scientist. While the above recommendations are not exactly about how to hire people, when people find out that those criteria are important to your business and organization, then the right kind of employees will be attracted to your business/organization.

Remember that your own personal well-being, and how you model that in your life, will attract the right people to you.

Recent research as outlined above is the best predictor of long-term employee engagement and the success of an organization/business/community.