At Stage 5 of Overcoming Immunity To Change® it is vital to keep a written journal.
In stages 1 – 4 you surfaced your hidden assumption. In stage 5 you begin the process of becoming released from it. Remember, this is a 2 step process:
- Don’t try to change your assumption yet. Just watch when it plays out. Usually you will notice after the event, or perhaps when one of your supporters brings it to your attention. At that point make a few notes (date, time, context, key points).
- After watching and recording for a while, begin the process of developing small safe-to-fail experiments as described your Workshop Learning Journal. Record the experiments and results in your Big Assumption journal – a kind of lab note.
You have come this far. It would be a shame not to capitalise on that work and “nail” the change you set out to make.
Why keeping a journal is important
Overcoming Immunity To Change® is built upon the idea that to make some adaptive change one needs to make “object” the hidden assumption(s) one is currently “subject to”. In other words, to make the unconscious conscious. This underlying shift is, of course, shared with most forms of therapy, counselling and coaching.
At the core of that shift is the idea that we are subject to a hidden assumption precisely because our brain is designed to keep us safe and we are “run by” the fear associated with that assumption so we survive. To change and act in some new way that is perceived as threatening to our survival makes no sense. As Kegan says, our assumption “has us”, we do not “have it”. By making that assumption “object” we have a chance to test it and see whether the feared outcomes are based on current evidence. Usually, we find the evidence was true when we formed the belief (often in early childhood) and it is probably no longer true as an adult.
While ever we are unaware of the assumption it is by definition not an object in our consciousness that we can have thoughts about – we do not “have it”. Columns 1 – 4 of Overcoming Immunity To Change® are designed so we “get it”. However, it is slippery because of the safety issue described above. In the face of the implicit “survival threat” we tend to forget about our hidden assumption (and revert to the “safe” Column 2 behaviour) unless we have some mechanism by which we are reminded to see it. It takes a bit of repetition to make the necessary neural pathways in order that the hidden assumption stays visible. Only then is it possible to say “I have an assumption that …”.
A written journal is a way to keep the assumption and its manifestations objectified (eg in a book or electronic form). Thoughts are converted to an external object – the words on the page. It is persistent and durable so can be seen whenever you want. Regular referral to the journal strengthens its presence in your mind so you have an increased capability to reflect upon and test it.
Steps for supportive journaling
- Use the pad we gave you or buy an exercise book dedicated to your Big Assumption journal. Or, better, use the electronic version we provided. The electronic method has an advantage in that the observations of your supporters are combined with your own so you build a new narrative over time from a broader range of social sources. It is probably a richer and more helpful outcome than pen and paper. It can always be available on your phone. Do whichever you think will help the most.
- Remind your supporters that you would like them to continue sending you comments. There is some support for them here.
- As a starting point, make a list of all the times you can think of where you were able to act in accordance with your improvement goal. This can take a bit of concerted work due to the effect of Cognitive Dissonance. We tend to forget the times we act differently to our internal view of ourselves. This list forms part of the evidence that your Big Assumption is not as global and all-pervasive as you might currently think. This helps weaken the assumption.
- Set a daily reminder (Outlook, phone, whatever) to reflect on the past 24 hours. Make some notes in your journal in response to the following questions.
In the first part of Stage 5:
- Did your Big Assumption turn up in some behaviour or thoughts you had?
- Do you recall any instances of your Column 2 behaviours today? If so, work back from the behaviour to see whether it was generated by your Big Assumption.
- Can you think of any opportunities where you could have tested the assumption a bit?
- Once your Big Assumption is strongly objectified continue with steps 1-3 plus,
- Take or create opportunities to test the assumption with a safe-to-fail experiment as described in your Workshop Learning Journal. Remember we are “pushing the envelope” a little, not going “the Full Monty” (metaphors abound!)
- Record some notes: date, time, context, what you did and what happened.
- Pay special attention to the (likely) outcome that you were able to behave differently and the world did not end. Take a moment and allow yourself to feel that in your body because the emotional content will help anchor and strengthen the new behaviour.
Once your new way of being is successfully embodied, celebrate!
Repeat as required. 😉 🙂
As always, if you need some help or have any questions you know how to reach me.