Monday, August 12, 2013

Reframing and Habits

Seeing, Believing, Moving, Changing

A couple of months ago, I was presenting some ideas about R2: Reframing Reality as part of a presentation on the Leadership Literacies program.

We were interacting about different ways of shifting perspective, of different ways to be able to see newly. One of the participants, someone I very much admire, said:

“Well, these are great ways to shift the way we see—I like them--but changing ourselves, that’s what’s difficult.  It’s so hard.”

I was stumped for a few minutes by what he had said. 

I have seen many insights and aha’s occur when individuals or groups simply choose to exercise their option to frame something differently, to ask new questions and to assume for a moment that there are other ways of seeing a situation, a problem, an opportunity, a culture, or a person.  It can be easy to attract new ways of seeing and framing a conversation.

One of the beauties of understanding the malleability of our realities is that we can see newly and act immediately on that new knowledge, on the recognition of patterns we might not have seen before. 

I’ve seen organizations shift their strategies in a day on the basis of having understood a situation differently than before. I’ve seen communities create new alignments overnight after having opened up to see one another with new eyes. So, what’s so hard?

Then I realized that my colleague was talking about changing ingrained ways of behaving; he was talking about what it takes to change habits of behavior and habits of mind.

He’s right.  That can be difficult. And, it can be what’s called for long-term when we reframe our thinking.

Several things can happen:
  • ·      Immediate shifting because of a new insight [Oh, our clients think differently than we thought—let’s shift to accommodate them.]
  • ·      Perception of new possibilities but a ‘snapback’ to the old ways of thinking and operating.  Maybe we don't really believe in the new frame yet.[We now see that everyone in the community is a stakeholder in what we are planning, but it’s too hard to include them all in decision making.]
  • ·      After recognition, the beginning of a spiraling process to change habits and patterns of behavior—designing new personal, organizational or community systems and behaviors that reflect the newly perceived reality: policies and procedures, structures.  This takes discipline and commitment. Hard.  [It’s affecting our employees negatively that we expect them to put in 60 hours a week on a regular basis without some form of additional compensation.  We have to shift the way we think about our staff and act accordingly.]

Anyone who has attempted to shift their eating habits, get more exercise or discipline themselves to meditate knows what I’m talking about and what my colleague was talking about.  Acting on new perceptions and realities—that’s our greatest challenge.

Perhaps our greatest ongoing inquiry is always about how we can successfully shift ourselves based on a new frame of reference that demands new behaviors and habits.

Next:  Collective Work on New Habits


  1. Yes, I think it is hard to change ourselves, but not because we don't see or believe in the new vision.

    I think it's hard to let go of the old. Sometimes we feel that letting go is the same as denying. But we can reaffirm the past value, and still move on - kind of like the abhorrent 3/5 compromise that got our forefathers temporarily past a divisive issue and on to creating a nation. (I'm guessing Egypt might benefit from a 3/5-type of compromise right now.)

    So here's the script:
    "Yes, it was an accomplishment. Yes, we felt good about it. It will always be there, and we can always be proud of it when we remember it. Now, let's figure out how to create this new structure to better leverage our new reality. Here's an idea: instead of starting the day with that first cup of coffee, how about a first glass of orange juice?"

    Let's not be afraid to take a next (or first) step on the spiral.

    1. Thanks for your post--I used it in the next post, which I posted today.