An Exercise For Unpicking Our Patterns To Get To The Truth
We have something for you to ponder this week that is one of the key points of The Inner Compass – getting to truth. For the Inner Compass, truth is the starting point because it’s the foundation for all of the other elements of the Compass.
In order to face and transform the truth about how we are showing up, we need to get to the stage where we say, “I can see the pattern. I can see how I developed certain behaviours. Do I want to keep them? Are they helpful today?” When we get to this place, we can start to work with some tools that enable us to reprogram the way we show up in the world, both in our leadership roles and in our everyday life.
This method can help you reprogram your reactionary behaviour. Say, for example, you find yourself with a pattern of snapping back. You already know this is a powerful button and a lot of the time you are not quick enough to catch yourself, so you end up regretting it after the fact. (You can use this method for any of your reactionary patterns). Think of a specific moment when this reactionary pattern happened. Let’s assume that your mind recorded everything that happened. Now imagine a strip of film at 32 frames per second. Find the frame a fraction of a second before you said what you later regretted. Then ask yourself: “What was going through my mind at that moment or how did I feel just before I snapped?” Write down the thought and/or feeling. Now ask yourself, “Is this a recurring pattern or theme?” Most of the time when I ask someone this question, they say yes. So what we have established is that there is a certain behaviour triggered by a thought or feeling. At some point in your life this was a helpful reaction, and that’s how it got anchored in you. Where or when was this helpful? This software has served its purpose for all these years protecting you in some way.
If you think back to when it was helpful, you were maybe 12 or 13 and you kept growing and getting into more challenging situations. And that old program, because it had some use, stayed there. You may need to rewrite the old piece of software, particularly if it has outcomes that you no longer desire. If there was a name for that old piece and what it does, what would that name be? Most of the time when I ask this question the name has a negative association, and it’s usually something you want to get rid of or at least alter significantly.
This program was written in the subconscious. So it needs to be remade there and reworked there so that you can move past it. The next step is to trigger your subconscious into working for you to come up with a new software piece. It’s like you are developing an advertising campaign. And to start with, you are going to see the name of the old software program that you want to get rid of many times a day. You might put it on post-it notes, set a reminder on your phone or place it on the dashboard of your car, for example, so that you really bring the awareness of that program to your conscious mind.
Whenever you see your reminder, the thought or feeling should come up, and you ask your subconscious, “Please come up with a name for the new program, along with a sense of what the new piece does for me.” And then you drop the idea. You can’t do this consciously, but if you do it week after week, the subconscious gets that message that this is something to work on. Usually when you are not thinking about anything in particular, it pops up and you just know this is it: the new word. And then you anchor the new word so that it becomes part of who you are.
There are different ways to anchor the new word. A few tried and tested methods include:
- Tell a trusted colleague about the new anchor and ask them to look out for any signs that the new software program is running, and give you feedback.
- Set a reminder on your phone so that the word pops up as often as is feasible per day, and you can ask yourself how you are doing.
- Frame the new software name and hang it on your office wall, explaining to everyone interested what it means to you and what you are trying to accomplish (this one came from one of the senior managers I coached and the interaction with others around the anchor was a very effective method of instilling it for him).
- Do a short daily meditation on the new software and what it means to you. This one is my personal favourite, and it works by sitting with eyes closed and breathing in the new software name, while feeling it in your body. For this one to be effective, it helps to avoid conscious thinking and instead feel how the new software is impacting your life.
One method is likely to be more effective than another for you, and of course, you might find your own method of instilling it in your life.
If you are interested in more exercises like this, check out the bestselling book Beyond Ego.
Let us know on what you thought of this exercise or how it worked for you.