Out with the Old

What’s the hidden challenge to changing patterns? In a year-long Adaptive Action project, we are exploring that question. Wonder what you might think about it?

photo by Peter Herrmann
                                             photo by Peter Herrmann

"Forgotten tokens
Of an amorphous past
This you have let go.”
Tara Estacaan

Yesterday I met with a group who joined me in an Adaptive Action experiment last January. I wanted to see how people might use HSD to explore personal transformation, and I knew that long-term, significant change often requires follow-up support and connection. So I framed an Adaptive Action experiment to see what might come as my next Wise Action in pursuing this hypothesis.

I believe in HSD, and I believe that HSD can be useful in personal transformation. We have spent twenty years teaching, sharing, coaching, and consulting using HSD principles. In that time, I’ve heard many stories from people who have experienced significant changes in their work, their relationships, their health, and their home lives as they used HSD. I also know a bit about learning theory and understanding complex change from an HSD perspective. While deep transformation can occur quickly through traumatic or wrenching systemic changes, it generally requires more than that. Systemic, lasting change requires ongoing support and coaching. It also requires connections, intentions, and a narrative of change that speaks to the individual or group that is trying to change.

My hypothesis was that I could work with a group of people across a year to explore how HSD can support that level of change, given the right conditions and a strong dose of HSD-based concepts, tools, and Adaptive Actions.

So What?
So I explored the conditions that might support this level of change. Based on my experience as a teacher, organizational leader, counselor, coach, and student of HSD, I set up a “Magic 21” table to help me explore the conditions I thought might be most conducive.

So what situations could I shape that might be most helpful for any disparate group who might sign on and find some level of success? The following conditions seemed important.

  • Whoever signed up would need shared language around the foundations of HSD-based change and transformation so that they could support themselves and each other across the year.
  • They would need regularly scheduled times to come together for sharing, reflecting, and mutual support.
  • They would need to commit, upfront, to the full year.
  • They would need to be able to choose from a variety of concepts and tools to find the ones they felt most comfortable with. So I chose, initially, to share the following:
  • We worked to formulate enough of a foundation in the first two days that they would have skills and curiosity to continue in the independence and practice as they progressed through the year.
  • I took on a personal transformation process to model and get some sense of what they were working on.

So we met in January for two, 3-hour sessions, and have met monthly since then. We are currently in our 2nd round of individual calls and have one remaining meeting in December. We have added a few tools through the year: Interdependent Pairs, discussion about Resilience, Four Truths, and others.

With just one more meeting left in the experiment, I thought it might be helpful for them to consider the Change Pathways model / method. Dennis Cheesbrow, one of the first HSD Associates, shared this model with us, and I find it really helpful in conceptualizing transformation. This model points to the fact that creating sustainable, long-lasting change requires that something leave the system to “make room” for the new practices, procedures, patterns. It’s a step that’s rarely considered in long-term, systemic change. While we do talk about “what is this new initiative replacing” we rarely—if ever—talk about the deeper question of, “What has to leave our system to allow this change to become our day-to-day practice?” What current practices, connections, expectations hold the old practice in place? What beliefs, fears, hoarding habits hold onto the old and prevent us from moving forward?

Now What?
So that was their assignment for the December meeting. They will be returning with an idea about what will need to leave their “systems” to maintain whatever change each of them has accomplished in this year of working together. I don’t know about them, but I have a lot of thinking to do about that question. 

And the other Now What? for me is to consider whether I am going to repeat this course for others who might be interested. I am leaning toward “Yes.” I just don’t know who might be interested. If you think you might want to try this course for yourself, consider some questions. Is the change I want about something at work, at home, or in my community? Is it a significant, systemic change? Am I committed to finding a new path. If you find you are interested, please be in touch with me. Bring your questions, concerns, and thoughts. I’d love to hear from you!

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