"All leadership comes down to this: changing people's behavior. Why is that so damn hard? Science offers some surprising new answers -- and ways to do better." Alan Deutschman
I am convinced that the central belief of our age, that we are parts of a machine that works only in an economic sphere, is the single most dangerous threat to the future of our species and our planet. This threat is made more dangerous by the fact that there is no work more difficult than trying change deeply held beliefs.
I, and many consulting friends, have spent many years in a vain effort to help organizations change their beliefs. In addition, all the doctors I speak to tell me of their frustration with most of their patients who will not change their lifestyle or even take the pills to save their lives. Most thoughtful consultants and Doctors that I know have given up or are thinking of giving up. All of us have become very cynical.
What are we all missing? Why aren't our important lessons being absorbed by our clients/patients? Why can't they hear us? Why are they so stupid? Can they not see that if they do not do as we tell them that they will die?
Now I know that I am the stupid one. Now I know that it is I that am the incompetent one. What was it that I missed?
Look carefully at the man burning at the stake. It is March 21st 1556 and he is in the market square in Oxford. Mary is now Queen and the Catholic Church is on a rampage of revenge. It is the time when two competing beliefs about how to relate to God are tearing Europe apart just as the Sunni and the Shina are ripping apart the Middle East today.
See how he has put his hand into the fire.
This is Thomas Cranmer, who had been the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is dying for his beliefs. He had been offered life if he had recanted his heresy of supporting the Protestant beliefs. He had accepted. But ...his conscience burned at his soul and he went back to Queen Mary and told her that he had to recant his recantation. So she had him burned in the flesh. As the flames rose about him, he put his right hand, the hand that had signed his recantation, into the flames until it was a crisp. He is doing more than dying for his beliefs, he torturing himself for his beliefs.
We die not for money. We die not for love. We die for our beliefs.
When we are confronted with the choice "Change your foundation belief or die". We routinely choose death. We would rather our body or our organization die a physical death than for us to kill our inner belief. Our inner spiritual reality is more important to us than our physical life. It matters not that our reality may be expressed in gross dysfunction. It is who we are inside.
Most of us are Cranmers. Most of would rather torture ourselves with disease and dysfunction and stress than recant. Why do addicts choose death? Why can we not talk our daughters out of anorexia? Why can we not talk our fathers out of drinking or gambling? All around us we put our hands into the flames and keep our faith.
So for you or me to offer this choice to a client, or to a patient, and hope for them to change is a mistake. In so doing we may drive them into martyrdom.
How do I now know this? Well I had my suspicions about what I had been doing wrong but then I read an article in 2005 that started to wake me up. Now the article's author has expanded his important findings about the science of Change and Beliefs into a book.
I am convinced that Alan Deutschman's new book Change or Die is a critically important book for our time. Why do I make this big statement? I make it because, as I see the world, all the really pressing and important problems that beset the human race today are rooted in Beliefs. In one belief actually: that we are helpless objects in a machine universe.
Health - Today most of the illness that beset us such as heart disease, diabetes, depression and some kinds of cancer is rooted in how we see ourselves and our reality. It is how we live that makes us ill. How we live is rooted in our beliefs about ourselves and our world. When told to change how we live, 90% of us ignore the lifestyle advice from our doctors. Many even give up taking treatment. Our health care systems and the social and economic base of our society are being overwhelmed by people who would rather die than change. They feel helpless and we continue to spiral down.
Crime - The US spends more on prisons that on hospitals. Why? Maybe because we have given up on these "Psychos" who commit crime. No one thinks of rehabilitation anymore. "Let's throw away the key" is more the line. The belief is that there are a large group of really bad incorrigible people who can only be punished. We would rather that all criminals die than change. They too feel that they have no hope and guess what their response is?
Big Business and Big Government - Never have people in big business and big government (both bureaucracies) been so busy. But never have their organizations been so incapable of adapting to the change that confronts us all. Never have they been so incompetent. Big media fights a losing battle, big government cannot help citizens in New Orleans, Big Education fails more and more of our kids and blames them. They are gripped in a belief that they are machines and that if only they could be more efficient that somehow they might turn the corner. They can see that new organizations have arisen that will challenge and then destroy them. Other airlines don't want to be like Southwest. They would rather die than change. How do all those inside them feel and what do they do?
War and Conflict - Never before has big Military been so ineffective. Big Military has lost every conflict to social military since 1945 and is about to lose again. More troops, more money will not be the answer. A belief in war being only about the delivery of physical force is the belief that is in the way. We would rather our sons and our daughters die in vain for this belief than change. What will be the outcome of this failed belief on our world? What will our sacrifice of our own children do to us?
Humans and the Planet - It is clear to a many people now that something is going very wrong with how we live and how our lifestyle affects the planet. But a belief is in the way that blocks us from making our future as a species a priority. We would rather live the life we live today than grant our children a chance of a life of their own. What does this choice do to us and to them?
Here is Alan whom I spoke with last week at 5am his time! He sounds as he looks - open, engaging and full of the passion that we find in men or women who have made an important discovery.
I am not going to give you a synopsis of the book. You can find it here. Instead I want to offer you what I feel are its great lessons.
The key to change is not another idea. It is not advice - however well meaning or correct. It is not a lecture however true. The key to change is to be found in the human heart.
Alan has reviewed the vast body of literature on what works in therapy to help people confront and then move through their belief barriers to a better life. There seems to be many different approaches that work. One on one. Groups etc. But the one thing that the successful paths had in common was a person who truly, sincerely believed in the capability of the other to make the change. This open hearted person often knew this before the subject did. The magic that crossed over was that truth of the feeling that this person loves me for whom I am now in all my misery. He loves me for me now not for what I should be. He sees in me the person that I can and could be. He gives me the gift of hope.
So human growth, begins not with the word but with the heart. If I feel that you truly love me - Thank you John - then I can hear you. When I hear you, you can help me re frame what I think is my reality and start to see my self in a different world.
But of course just getting a glimpse of the new world that awaits me, will not stop me reverting back to my habits. It takes a lot of active work, lots of repetition to learn a new way of living. I have to experience many many times what another way of being feels like for it to stick as a new habit. Only when I have repeatedly re-experienced my new choices can I finally make them my own. Only then can I accept the death of my old self and now change.
For it is now clear to me. That to change we have to die.
The choice is what kind of death? Is it the death of the old inner me or the death of me? As Alan shows us - for the old inner me to die, I need your accepting love as the opening. Then I can open my ears, my eyes and my body to new ways. Then you can help me re frame my perspective. Then you can work with me for a long time - years even - so that I can experience the new enough for it to become the new inner me.
Change or Die is not a "How To" book. But it is a revelatory book.
I compare it to Darwin's Origin of Species. Many will reject it because it violates their reality. If you are machine person, first of all you will question that you need to change at all. Secondly, when you hear my choice of language - the "heart" - "you must be joking Rob?". Just as Darwin still has those who can never accept that man is merely a point along an evolutionary path, so there will be those who will attach themselves to being part of the machine world.
But for all of us that may have a hint that maybe we are not a machine. For all of those that sincerely want to help. For all of us that know we might need help. Then, like the Origin of Species, this book reveals the science behind our hope, behind our intuition and behind our experience. It gives us an approach that is known to work.
So then the choice is really ours. If we seek to address the great problems of our time, then we have been given a route to take.
Lecture and fail. Love and have a chance. Or as Alan says it
Relate - and the greatest of these is Relate