In our book More Fearless Change: Strategies for Making Your Ideas Happen, Mary Lynn Manns and I share what we have learned about our 48 original patterns in Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas, and we introduce 15 new patterns. We started writing these patterns for organizational initiatives, to help leaders of change at any level. Now we see that these approaches also work for personal change; that is, they help individuals to make changes in their own lives. Whether people want to lose weight, learn a new technical skill, or improve their eating habits, the Fearless Change patterns will help them.
We have also learned that many of our readers, as business and technical leaders of organizational change, tend to be objective, linear thinkers. As we continue working on new patterns, we have discovered that feelings and emotional connection are as important as executing the right strategy—or even more important.
As examples of these insights, and to share some of the new patterns, this article introduces three new patterns: Know Yourself, Emotional Connection, and Concrete Action Plan. One of my own insights on the patterns comes from cognitive neuroscience. I spend much of my research time these days reading and following scientists in this fast-growing field. It's obvious to me that our patterns are effective because they rest on these research findings. In other words, the patterns use the hardwiring of our brains to influence and encourage change.
In both organizational and personal change, you need to understand your motives as the potential change agent or Evangelist (a pattern from Fearless Change). Why are you interested in the topic? What costs and benefits will working on that change bring to your life? What is possible for you, given your talents and time? The intriguing—yet somewhat discouraging—message from neuroscience is how difficult it is to understand our own motives. For nearly two-and-a-half thousand years, starting with Socrates, we have been exhorted, "Know thyself." The ancient Greek philosophers would be sorely disappointed to learn that simply listening to the voices in our heads about how great we are is not the way to develop a clear understanding of who we are, nor is listening to those who are close to us saying we can do anything if we set our minds to it.
But research has uncovered something that can help us. The process, called self-affirmation, essentially means taking time to reflect and then write (on paper, with pen or pencil) a short essay about your core personal values. For example, you can write about family or religion or character traits you value in yourself, like humor and kindness. This exercise helps you to see yourself a bit more clearly. Then you need to assess whether you have an abiding interest in the potential change, as well as the determination to move forward. When people say, "I don't have time for that kind of exercise," I wonder whether they have a realistic understanding of how much time and energy they'll need to take on the role of change agent.