Sunday, January 17, 2010

The magic of sort-of knowing what you want

Yesterday, I co-trained a course on Change that Sticks. We wanted to explore the conditions that make change sustainable and their implications for coaches, trainers and other people who need change (in other people) to stick. Our group ranged from people with substantial experience in business coaching and training to people working in more therapeutic settings, to teachers. We had a really good time.

Much of the fun was generated because we began with a presupposition that we all know what we want, and it's hard for us all to know exactly what we want. While we agree with everyone else that knowing precisely what you want makes it easier to get precisely what you said you wanted - we all know that human beings are as bad at predicting our own responses as we are at predicting the way the environment might or might not shift around us. We do know what we want - and we do not always know exactly what shape it will take or what steps we need to take to get there.

That's normal. The book I am writing has a working title: "Taking a Chance." It's not about gambling - except in that most of our significant life choices involve choosing something we don't know enough about to make an informed choice. Even when we have lots of information about what something is like for someone else, we don't have enough information about what it will be for us. There's no way to know for sure what it will be like to move to a new country, to get married, to have a child or to remain childless. Other people have done all these things and we know a little about what it was like for them. But it's no guarantee of what it will be like for us.

So yesterday we said things like "you may know exactly what change you want to make, or you may just know that there's an area in your life where you would like to make a positive change."

And. . . no one got stuck. No one didn't know. No one felt overwhelmed.

Instead, we had a room of really smart, interesting, lovely people who became thoroughly engaged in listening to the parts of themselves that knew what to do next. They were relaxed and optimistic and sometimes thoroughly excited by the prospect of change. Not having to know exactly freed them to explore and appreciate what they did know. And to find out that they knew enough.

You do know enough. You're smart and directed and responsive. You may not have the answer in a neat package. But you can quiet the questions and gather the energy to know the one thing you need to do next to move forward.

Go do it.

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