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Acknowledge, Do Something Different, Repeat

If you've ever read any Pema Chodron or are in any way exposed to Buddhist teachings, you will recognize the steps below as "training in the three difficulties." They are called a buddhist method for change. Change has plenty of ways to be talked about and this is simply one. I'll be posting plenty of others. For now, take a read and see what you think. As with everything I post, these can be used personally and organizationally. Organizations have pathologies and neurosis just as individuals do. And, the only way to shift them is to recognize they exist. So, acknowledge the pattern/pathology, do something different, and keep practicing the loop.

Step 1. Acknowledge your neurosis as neurosis, your pathologies as pathologies.

At a certain point, we have to just accept what is true. Rather than dance around it, push it away, spin new stories, ignore, deny, and pretend - we get real. We accept and acknowledge our current state. That can look like (1) deep personal stress, (2) deep organizational chaos, (3) a knowing that we are supposed to be doing/being something else, or even (4) a great failure. We know that denying the truth of our neurosis or pathologies simply leads to further despair. If we keep operating in the same way, we’ll create more of the same. In these moments, we sometimes become willing to make a decision and to change (1) our ways, (2) our habits, (3) our patterns, and in the best of cases (4) our narratives. Baby steps and repetition are what makes for change to stick.

Step 2: Do something different.

Something! Anything! Do anything in a different way than you are used to doing it. The practice of doing something different can start with the smallest of behaviors. For example, walk or drive a different way to work. Respond to someone you often speak to in a totally different way than you usually do. Eat in versus getting take out. Turn the t.v. off and read or turn on music. Start your meeting in a different way than what everyone has become accustomed to. Stop saying what you always tend to say about “how you do things.” Tell someone how much you appreciate them if you generally don’t do that. These are just a few ideas. The point is that any/all change begins with acting differently and acting differently requires a behavior change. Behaving differently (doing and saying) re-wires and re-patterns our brains. Micro changes lead to bigger changes. Micro changes tell our brain (and our resistance) that everything is still safe.

Step 3. Aspire to continue practicing in this way.

When you practice (1) acknowledging your neurosis and pathologies meaning you accept and honor your traits, flaws, pains, fears, and habits you position yourself and your mind to be open to change. Just be careful not to become so enamored by the step of accepting them that you get stuck narrating and stewing in them rather than moving on to Step 2 and doing something different around them. Once you get into the habit of acknowledging and just accepting yourself for who you are with all your good and all your “bad”, you more easily practice doing something different - and often with a sense of humor.

Now go for it. Acknowledge two traits, habits, patterns or narratives this week and do two things differently. Write them down. Keep track so the process is a conscious effort. Next week, try three. The more you practice, the easier it gets. And then, you realize you have found the route to sheer freedom while also understanding and embracing how change actually works. Simple, yet not so easy.

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