Identity – The Last Holdout to Change

Do you ever get tired of saying yes to that favor at work, even though you know you’ll resent it? Or being the one who takes the lead because you just know no one else will step up? Habits are hard to change and even harder to change when they are linked to our identity. In these examples, it’s the pleaser/nice guy and the responsible one.

According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, there are three types of learning: Cognitive, Motor, and Affective. In coaching I see these as, I can give you the tool and tell you what to do (cognitive), you can do it to learn what it’s like (motor), but you won’t really embrace the change if it doesn’t sync with your identity and who you are (affective). In Immunity to Change, the authors explore this phenomenon beautifully with an example of a man who can’t lose weight. As they explore his circumstances, it comes down to the fact that he comes from a big family that has dinner together each Sunday. And he can’t say no to his aging aunt who’s cooked all day. His identity as a good, loving nephew makes it impossible to say no.

Effective change is linked to vision, clarity, and passion, but sometimes something’s getting in the way. So if you find yourself saying, “That’s just not me,” or your team saying, “We don’t do that,”  those may be positive values that you want to uphold. They may also be an identity rut that’s keeping you from adapting to today’s fast-changing business environment. This week why not think of something you’re struggling to accomplish.  Then ask yourself what identity is behind the stuckness. If you gave yourself permission to let that go or found a different way to be around it (ie-bring that doting aunt flowers instead of overeating), what might happen next?

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