Immunity to Change

I had the very rare good fortune to attend a conference recently at which I heard a host of brilliant researchers talk about the latest on how we develop and change ourselves.  One presenter was Robert Kegan, co-author of Immunity to Change. He ran a four- hour session in which he walked all of us (coaches, doctors, and therapists) through the way we are immune to making the changes necessary to reaching what we had designated as an important goal.  I chose a goal that I had set several times in the past and had failed at.  Miserably.  I was extremely skeptical that he was going to show me anything revolutionary, and boy oh boy, was I wrong.   From the moment I worked the process I have succeeded at my commitment and therefore my goal in an astonishing way.  And success has bred success, the more I share my goal, the more positive feedback I get on what a good goal it is.  The funniest part is that when I tell people about it, almost to a person the response is “Oh, I really need to do that.”  But I digress.

I can’t really walk you through the whole process on this particular blog, but I can share a couple of salient takeaways with you :

  • Change is hard.  Sometimes impossible.  We all have at least one friend who cannot change a habit even though they know it will literally kill them.  One would think that avoiding death would be sufficient motivation, but clearly, one would be wrong.
  • Reason alone is not sufficiently motivating to force change, as there is a whole host of often unconscious feelings and assumptions that act as “brakes” for change.  All our efforts to change are the foot on the accelerator; our underlying immunity is the foot on the brake.  No wonder change is so daunting.
  • Our immunity to change is not good or bad – just like our physical one, it is often extraordinarily – and just like our physical one, it can go awry. The key is to understand and work with it.

And finally:

  • There are three main systems involved in making us so beautifully  to immune  to change:
  1. Change prevention systems – the systematic behaviors we engage in that prevent the very progress we so long for.
  2. Feeling systems – the feelings that drive us to behave in ways that will actively keep us from accomplishing our goal.
  3. Knowing systems-  all the things we have learned and therefore ‘know’ up to this current point in time that makes me feel  aligned with what we perceive as expectations and values – e.g. that me feel  like “me”.

The authors walk the reader through building an “Immunity Map” – I am not a big fan sending people out to buy another book, unless it’s one of mine of course, but this one is really worthwhile if you are a coach or someone who really wants to win at a goal.

For more on this topic try:

Immunity to Change: A Report From the Field

And for a description of the map – in this case used by a group:

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