10 Obstacles: That Prevent Positive Transformation
Transformative learning is challenging and takes place only through practice, patience, and perseverance. Indeed, these three qualities are the hallmarks of a committed learner. The only way to embody a new competence is through recurrent practice, which takes time and requires patience. The committed learner must continue to practice, persevering through doubt, weariness, negative assessment and the occasional rotten mood.
Consider these tips on how to effectively deal with forces that prevent learning and, thus, transformative forward momentum:
1: Being blind to your blindness. We all have blind spots. These are normal, natural, and common, but they limit us. By recalibrating the lens through which you view the world, and your understanding of it, and actively seeking new knowledge, opinions and insights is a key opening a wealth of possibility.
2: The desire to be comfortable. Comfort is a formidable enemy. When confronted with new ideas, most people react strongly…and not in a favorable, amenable way. Unfortunately, comfort and authentic learning are mutually exclusive. Simply put, you must get out of your comfort zone to transcend.
3: The insistence on understanding everything all the time. Any new idea or practice seems difficult, complicated, and unclear simply by virtue of it being new. Along with our desire for comfort and safety, we also crave understanding, falling prey to the notion that clarity yields safety and certainty.
4: Confusing opinions with learning, and awareness with competence. An opinion is not the same as a thought. Thinking is the process of generating an original idea or distinction. It requires energy and attention while having an opinion requires neither. The attainment of awareness and the development of competence are two entirely different processes.
5: Desire for instant gratification. We want it all, and we want it now. This “disorder” is especially prevalent in the business world. Don’t be deluded by the zeitgeist of instant gratification. If you want to really learn, then you need to get past the distractions of the latest and the greatest, and work to build enduring practices.
6: Thinking but not doing. We claim that while the mind understands, it is the body that actually learns. Developing new skills takes practice in real time with real people with real impacts and personal risk. The mind understands, but the body learns and acts on that learning.
7: The drive for novelty. The quest for novelty can be debilitating and undermine your future. Under a media bombardment touting the latest fads, theories, and systems, the allure of the “next big thing” can be overwhelming. You cannot learn to be an effective leader by chasing after every new interpretation that comes along. Know what works for you and stick with it.
8: Living in constant assessment. When you’re exposed to something new, your mind’s first response is to assess or judge it. The most common and basic assessments are: I like/don’t like this, or I agree/disagree with this. These simple, automatic assessments close down the possibilities for authentic learning.
9: Characterization. We make up stories about ourselves and the world, but then we confuse these stories with reality. We also seize upon our incompetence in a single domain and cement that into the foundation of who we are. However, a lack of competence does not equate to a lack of character.
10: The belief that we can or should learn on our own. This is dangerous for a number of reasons. It is too easy to fall prey to ungrounded assessments about how we are doing and delude ourselves into thinking that we are making great progress, or that we are not, when neither is the case. Authentic, sustained learning is an inherently social process. We learn best and most easily in a community of committed learners.
All of these enemies of learning have likely attacked you at one time or another. And, you are probably more vulnerable to some than to others. While fierce and relentless, these enemies are as insubstantial as shadows. Rather than manifestations of reality, they are elements in a story of our own creation, and, as we now know, we can change our stories and our actions. In doing so, we can change ourselves.
Chris Majer, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Human Potential Project, is the author of The Power to Transform: Passion, Power, and Purpose in Daily Life (Rodale), which teaches the strategies corporate, military, and sports leaders have used to positively transform themselves and their organizations in a way readers can adept to their own lives and professions.
Previously, Majer was Founder and CEO of Sportsmind. He began the company in 1981 and began working with athletes to isolate the elements that led to consistent winning performance. Success with individuals and teams led to working with the military, and the company designed and delivered a series of programs to elite Army units, Navy SEALS, and the Marines. SportsMind then transitioned to the corporate world and delivered large-scale organizational transformation projects. Under Majer’s leadership, the firm grew to a company of over 80 professionals working globally. He was the principle architect of organizational transformation projects for such corporate clients as AT&T, Cargill, Microsoft, Intel, EDS, Allianz, Itron and Capital One. Throughout his professional tenure, Majer published no less than 20 white papers.
Majer currently serves as a board member for Spokane’s new science center and, as a Spokane resident, also volunteers in numerous other areas in his local community. He is a former board member of the National Board for The Breakthrough Foundation, a national organization working with at-risk youth. Majer holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Washington, and has studied extensively with Chilean engineer, entrepreneur and politician Dr. Fernando Flores.