Five Filters That Kill Personal Change
Successful people take more risks, they usually have had more failures than others and most of them are used to the experience of fear. The biological point of fear is to take action. Only a small percentage of us have been properly trained in how to respond to fear in healthy ways. Instead, many seek comfort from fear through inaction and use filters to justify their decisions. Filters are like sunglasses. If a pair with purple lenses were planted on our face at birth, we probably would swear the entire world is purple.
All of us have been trained since birth to wipe out change by using at least five different filters. We find these filters used often in the workplace to resist change, but they also undermine morale and greater transparency. Effective change requires that we recognize these filters exist in all of us and learn to become aware of them when they are in play. The reactions are commonplace and routine but they can only thrive when we don’t pay attention to the mechanism. We begin to triumph over these change killers by recognizing they are in play.
Our core program routinely provokes positive personal change in the compressed period of just two days. This forum has given us a remarkable environment in which to study career and work behavior. In the early days of delivering the programs, a small minority of participants would become disruptive, clearly as a result of discomfort. But once we defined the filters behind these reactions we began pointing them out at the beginning of the program. The disruptions ended on the spot. In our leadership and engagement programs, we also teach people to recognize and manage these “killer filters” so that they are better able to deal with personal and organizational change.
This week, I will be sharing one filter each day. That way, we give each one the respect it deserves as well as demonstrating respect for your time.
Today’s filter is cynicism.
Cynicism, most often associated with distrust and pessimism, causes us to question our motivations, undermine our best intentions and can talk us out of taking any action. In the workplace, cynicism shows up in messages like the following:
- “We shouldn’t be doing this. We don’t have the time or money to change.”
- “I don’t have the time to learn something new, I’m barely keeping ahead of the work as it is.”
In the career development space, it can show up similarly.
- “I could never make a living doing that.”
- “My employer doesn’t care about me. They exploit everyone.”
- “My child isn’t going to have as many opportunities as I have.”
Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
I’ve said, “Until we examine our life, we are living someone else’s life.”
Speaking of cynical, why do we have so many ads on Television at dinnertime regarding constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and the d-word? The one that irritates me the most is Ilana Becker’s portrayal of Bowel Girl, you know, the redhead on Viberzi commercials? Give her a little Viberzi and she dematerializes into the background. That’s like cynicism. Optimism is a practice where we impress upon ourselves that our actions will make our lives better.
How do effective leaders deal with these destructive filters?
Point them out and in most cases, that will get them out of the way. Recognize that they reside in all of us and in every organization. Ask stakeholders to recognize them and work through them.
Recognize that being enveloped by optimism is far more fun than being held hostage by cynicism.
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