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Episode #38: The Change Formula - Why Self-Help Books Aren’t Working for You

The Change Formula is vision times discomfort plus support equals willingness to change. If we have zero in any position where we're multiplying, it's going to turn into zero, right? So, if we have zero vision, like no sense of where we're trying to change, what we're trying to change into, you can wipe out the whole entire equation and the whole thing equals zero. And it doesn't matter how much support you add. It doesn't matter how many coaching programs you sign up for. It doesn't matter, any of it, if you have no sense of what you're trying to change or where you're trying to go, you're not going to change. So, that's the vision piece.

Vision times discomfort. So, discomfort - we really underutilize in, especially in American, United States culture, we really underutilize discomfort, and we tend to immediately go into shaming and blaming and guilt when we get uncomfortable, but discomfort is essential for change. Imagine that I have a clear vision of myself as a person who exercises every single morning, and it's the first thing I do, and I get up and I have this really exertive exercise and I'm sweating, and then I get in the shower and it's not even 6:00 AM yet. Right? I can see that, and I've been that a little bit here and there a few days in my life, but I remember those days vividly, and so I have the vision. I can see it. It's not super compelling to me, but I have it. So, we can say, "Let's just imagine if that piece of the formula is positive, but I have zero discomfort with how things currently are. I actually like waking up when I do. I actually love not exercising first thing in the morning. I'm not a morning person." So, discomfort's zero. So, the whole thing is equal to zero. Does it make sense?

Vision times discomfort. Now, if I want to move either of those up, the whole entire value of the formula goes up and I have much higher willingness to change. You are beginning to see the power of this very simple formula, vision times discomfort plus support equals willingness. Willingness to change. This has been a real game changer in my life, in particular because it allows me to drop a bunch of stuff where I'm realizing I was holding onto this idea and I just don't care, and that's such a gift. That is such a gift, too.

Now, support. If I have enough vision and enough discomfort, I get to add some support, and support can look like a bunch of things. It can look like, I learn better about behavioral nudges, cues, triggers, reminders in my environment that can cue me to go into that behavior that I want to do, let's say on a daily basis. So, if you've read, say, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg... You might've read Atomic Habits, another great book, and anything, really, about behavior change, then you'll know that you can put a cue in your environment. I might leave my tennis shoes right at the foot of my bed, so when I get up in the morning, they're the first thing I see and I just put them right on, and that is going to make it much easier for me to get out of the house and go do that exercise. So, that would be a cue. That's a piece of support.

Another piece of support would be that I decide to learn more about it. I boost my own skills and I get myself inspired. So, I might do a training program. I might also ask for the support of others, right? I might ask for the support of my partner. I might ask for the support of my parents if I'm trying to make a big change, like, "Can you guys help me? Can you keep me on track?" I might join a coaching program or a coaching group, like Forward Fearless is my own coaching group. You can learn more about that at caneel.com, and I've been part of many coaching groups in the past and it's a really powerful model for change. Support groups would be a good example.

I might also hire somebody, and I've done that lots of times. I did end up hiring an editor to help me organize my thoughts better when I was doing my dissertation. I've hired personal trainers. I've hired coaches. And you may have people like this in your life that you've employed, as well. So, that's the support piece. That part's kind of like... That part's easier. Once you're willing to change, you're going to be much more willing to go and find support. If you're still in a lot of resistance, you're not. So, what do you do then? Now we're going to get into actually applying this Change Formula.

Welcome to Allowed. I'm your host, Caneel Joyce. Today, I'm going to be walking you through a magical tool. It's so fundamental, in fact, that it was the topic of our very first episode of this podcast. It's called the Change Formula. If you go to allowedpodcast.com, you will find a wealth of resources and tools and some videos, and even audio walkthroughs that I've offered you to help you on your course of change, and the ones I'm offering you today are stellar. So, today I'll be offering you a worksheet called the Change Formula Exercise, and it helps you to navigate using this formula, and this is going to really help you amp up your willingness to change.

Now, whether we mean to or not, we always resist change. This is just the natural nature of being an animal. Until we are willing, it's a continuous struggle to change. So, this worksheet's really going to be helpful. So, please go to allowedpodcast.com. You can also just click on the link in the show notes. Wherever you're listening to this podcast, the link is right there, and it'll take you straight to those exercises.

You can also find the Life Leadership Wheel, and this is a great exercise if you're not quite sure, what are the areas of my life where I really have a huge opportunity to step more fully into my own power as a leader? And I emphasize this because knowing what we want, of course, is a prerequisite to making any meaningful change in our lives.

Finally, you can find a brand new ebook that we have been working really hard on creating, and it is called the How to Find a Coach ebook, and this book is a guide to help you figure out, would coaching be a good fit for you? Why do you want a coach? What kinds of coaches are out there? And then actually a tracker to help you walk step by step through the process that I recommend to people about how to find the right coach for you. This is really a rich, rich resource, so if you've been curious about coaching and you're not quite sure if it's ideal, or you want to have a conversation with your manager, employer, boss, spouse, partner, co-founder about coaching, this is going to give you a lot of vocabulary and a mental model to be able to have that conversation in an intelligent, informed, thoughtful, and organized way. And I love being organized. I try my very best.

Okay. If you're listening to this show, I'm guessing it's because there's some change that you are wanting to create in your life or in yourself. What is that change? You can probably think of a long list, but what's really, really important enough for you to actually go through the phase that is called the resistance, that part of change where you seem to just not be willing to move forward anymore? This is where we typically back down.

2008 was a really tough year for a lot of people. You may remember it as the year that the economy completely tanked. It was the mortgage crisis. I know tons of people lost their jobs. If you're in that millennial class, you may have graduated and had no job at all. It's also the year that I accidentally deleted my own doctoral dissertation. Accidentally. Now, I want to talk about that word. So, as many of you know, I went through a very challenging period, which was six years long, of me working on getting my dissertation done and finishing my doctorate degree.

I have a PhD from Berkeley at the business school there, the Haas School of Business, which is the best business school. It's incredible, but it was really, really challenging, and one of the things that was hard about it was I just had so much resistance to sitting down, getting my butt on that chair for hours and hours and hours, and writing. Now, if you're a writer of any kind, you may have also experienced this. As I found, my favorite way to procrastinate during my PhD was to learn about procrastination and the writing process and how to be more productive as a writer. So ironic, because this is the way that I kept myself from writing a lot.

Now, how did I delete my dissertation? Basically, I organized it to death and I had everything sinking into the cloud, and little did I know there was a little weird loophole in the program that I had set up where if you deleted what seemed to be a temporary draft, it actually deleted the whole entire thing, and it was gone from the cloud forever. I was able to convince the fine folks at Apple to somehow dig into their souls and retrieve it for me, but I remember that tear-soaked day very, very well.

Now, if I hadn't have been so nitpicky and I would've just sat down at my computer and written instead of needing to get it all complicated and organized... And I'm sure Elena's laughing at me with the mic on you right now, my producer, as she listens to this, because this is the thing that shows up for creators all the time, right? We resist.

So, a couple questions I would like you to ponder as we head into this. Why haven't you changed when you want to change so much? Do you know? I'm sure there are some areas where you've been slowly making the improvements that you're wanting, but then there's still these last ones that are just hanging on. Now, I know that's been true for myself. Now, why is it that you haven't overcome this resistance, and how might you be able to do that? Do you have ideas? I'm going to give you some really specific ideas in this episode.

Creating lasting change is what it's all about, and that's why I typically work with my one-on-one clients for at least six months, because that's how long we've found it takes to create lasting change. And of course, sky's the limit. You can keep going for your whole life, and that's what we actually are always doing.

So, one of the keys here is getting uncomfortable, and I'm going to talk about why that's important. I'll also be helping you understand the distinction between the discomfort of, "I want to get out of this current life phase that I'm in," or out of this way of operating, but there's a really important other piece here which is usually the foundation of coaching work, and I like to combine the two. This other piece is vision.

So, what does it even mean to have vision? Why is that so important? How can you assess how compelling your vision is and actually make it something that is so worth shooting for that you are more than willing to overcome the resistance on the way there? Most of us resist change, as I've mentioned, so it's really helpful to not just be able to overcome that resistance on your own, but also to understand, how can I make it easier on myself? And this is where support comes in.

So, question number three. Where can you find support? We all have free will. We all have the ability to change, and it's really important that we take 100% responsibility for that, and also that we're not trying to change in areas where honestly, we really just don't care. So, I want you to think to yourself right now, what are five areas where you keep telling yourself, "I should change. I need to change. I really got to get around to that," and really, if you're honest with yourself, you just don't care. Let's get rid of those right now, and let's go for the good ones. What are the ones where, "Yes, I want it."

Now, I want to talk about resistance and why it's important here. So, no matter what change you're working on in your own life... And it could be a change in the way that you want to be treating your body, your exercise, your nutrition. It could be a way that you want to be operating in your own family life. What's the kind of son, daughter, partner, mother, father, that you really want to be? It could also be a change in your career. So, you may know that you are in a job that is not the job that makes your heart sing, and it is not where you have your zone of genius. We've talked about zone of genius a lot, but a lot of us really resist stepping into it, and I want to give you some understanding of why that is.

So, one of my favorite books... And if you're watching this video on YouTube, because we do have all the podcasts that are uncut and you can see all the bloopers on YouTube... this book is called The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, and it's by an amazing author named Steven Pressfield. This is one of my favorite books. I've mentioned it before. And he talks about the enemy of creativity, which is resistance. This is an all-encompassing term for what Freud called the death wish, that destructive force inside.

Right now, I'm reading from the forward, which is by Robert McKee, who is a really famous writing coach and teacher who teaches mostly screenwriters. So, "Freud called this the death wish, that destructive force inside human nature that rises whenever we consider a tough long-term course of action that might do for us or others something that's actually good." So, what's that thing that is actually good that you want to do for yourself or others where you're encountering resistance, resistance with a capital R? The resistance is that thing that has us procrastinating. It has us avoiding. It has us numbing out, and we are going to run into it when we are really trying to address those things that are most important.

So, one more quote I want to read from page 37 here. "The paradox seems to be that, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery, while those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find the masters to govern over them." Those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them. Who is your master? Is it you? Is it your employer? Is it your vanity or your pride? Is it food? Is it your television, your phone? And it's time to overcome the resistance, folks. Let's get into this.

So, we've all got free will, right? At least in theory. We know this, and taking 100% responsibility for our own choices and how we show up, not just what we do, but how we be, that's our role as conscious leaders. We need to use our free will to actually change our way of being, if we're going to create lasting and permanent growth. We don't want to repeat the unhealthy patterns that we're dealing with, or that we grew up with. We don't want to be at the effect of our lives, although of course it's so normal. Most of us are, most of the time. We feel like we're at the effect of, but what conscious leadership points out to us is that actually, we can be the creators. It's the difference between living in a "to me" mindset, below the line, as we've called it in previous episodes, or being in a "by me" mindset, where we are the creators, we are the choosers and decision makers, and we are the ones who have created this whole entire world that we live in around us.

So, the struggle that most of us face when we are exploring change is we resist. I've talked about my dissertation, and even, as many of you know, I had really severe back pain and sciatica, and I see that as actually my body speaking up and saying, "This"... that was my resistance, actually, to change. That was my resistance to being a writer, getting a PhD, just doing all that stuff. And there was an intelligence to it. Ultimately, that wasn't the career path for me, but my point is, if you're facing continued body pain and health issues, it's really good to scratch your head and say, "Is this actually resistance? Is this my way of not stepping into my power? Is it my continual excuse for why I'm not changing my job, making that movie, becoming a singer," whatever your dream is. And really ask your body, "What are you afraid of, and what do I need to do to compel you to give me the freedom to move forward?"

So, here's the reasons why we often will not, will not be able to overcome that resistance. One is, we don't know where we want to change, and if that's the case for you... And it's a good question. It's a good thing to think. Probably there are lots of ways in which I don't know where I really want to make change, so I want you to go to allowedpodcast.com, or you can click on the link in the show notes to get access to a tool called the Life Leadership Wheel, which I've talked about in previous episodes, and this is where you can identify the area in your life where you have the biggest opportunity to make a change as the leader that you are, and I mean leader with a capital L. Leadership, whole life leadership. It doesn't matter what your position in an organization is.

So, where are you trying to change? If we don't know where we're trying to change, we're not going to change. So, just try to come up with some idea right now, as you're listening. Where are you trying to change? What do you really want? Really want? You're going to feel it in your gut. And it might feel a little bit like fear, by the way. It might have a lot of fear wrapped around it. That's the resistance. That's okay. That's actually a good sign.

The second thing is, we often try to change from below the line. Below the line, meaning from a position where we're already self-defeated, where we're kind of powerless in our mindset, and where we think that life is happening to us, and you'll know that you're trying to change from below the line if you hear these words in your head, "I need to change. Need to. I should change. I have to change." All right. So, let's break that down and map it onto the drama triangle, which has been a topic of many, many previous episodes. I actually have even a three-part series you can go back and listen to about each of these positions on the drama triangle.

So, basically, the drama triangle, we're going to be in drama on this triangle if we are below the line. Right? We're going to either be in hero, where we're trying to find temporary relief from our suffering. We're going to be in villain, which is where we are in a judgy, kind of critical, self-critical or other critical mindset, or victim. Victim is that prototypical powerless position of, "I need to. I have to. Oh, I don't have enough. Help me." I'm sure all of those positions are familiar to you, and one important thing to note is, we are mostly in drama most of the time. It's kind of the human condition, and we very often are going to bounce through those positions extremely quickly. So, we'll move from hero to victim to villain in a matter of seconds, often, and we each have our own little dance that we do when we're bouncing through the drama triangle.

So, when we're trying to change from below the line, we're shitting on ourselves, we're avoiding, of course we're not going to change. We're just not willing, because we're in that mindset that it's kind of happening to us. Then let's say that you're actually in that creator mindset and you are above the line and you know where you want to change. Then it's, "How do I find the willingness to change?" The willingness.

And the willingness comes from, "I have a really strong vision and I'm uncomfortable enough, and I've given myself proper support to make the change." This is actually the Change Formula. So, as you know, humans are going to seek stability. This resistance to change is totally normal. I just want to remove any sense of self-judgment around it. I want you to just be really, really curious about it, because only from that curious place, from above the line, can you create lasting change.

So, I want to get into the Change Formula and whether you're on a walk or you're driving somewhere, you're getting ready in the morning, you're cleaning up at night, wherever you're listening to this, I'm going to slow this down enough that I can actually walk you through doing the mental exercise, and this is... Think of this as a little mini live coaching experience. If you happen to be sitting down and you want to jot down some notes, or write them on a whiteboard or Post-it, great. You can also download the worksheet at caneel.com or at allowedpodcast.com.

So, first let's identify the area where you want to change. It doesn't have to the biggest thing in your life. I want you to actually more tap into, "Yeah, I really do want to change there. Yeah. Actually, as I think about it, I really do." So, think about your physical wellbeing, your emotional state, your general state of presence, your morning habits, your routines. Think about the way that you are in relationship with others, your family members, your friends, your employer. Think about your career as a whole or your business or company. Think about your creative life. Think about your spiritual life. I want you to find something specific, and for this exercise today, let's actually find something that's a little bit pretty concrete and pretty small. So, simply because I really want you to get how this Change Formula works, and you can apply it better that way.

So, you've got this area where you want to change. Let's get into the first piece of the formula, vision. For vision to work, it needs to be clear and compelling. So, let's first talk about clear. What is your vision for what your life is going to look like, and especially what it's going to feel like when you've made this change in your life? What's it going to be like when you wake up in the morning knowing that you are that person that has made that change, that has gone through that effort, and also that the change is embedded and implemented in your life? And let's say that it's this exercise example. What's it going to be like, bouncing out of bed in the morning, just knowing that, "Oh, wow." Like, "My body feels strong and agile and I feel very present in my own skin." How's that going to feel? What are you going to see when you look in the mirror? What's your body going to feel like at the end of a long day? How's that going to be different?

Now, the second piece, is it compelling? So, right now, if you picture that and it's very, very clear, but you don't really feel that desire coming up, of, "Oh, I really want that," and that's going to be something for me, personally, I feel that really in my whole body, but I especially feel it in my gut and my solar plexus, near my heart, like my lungs. My whole entire core is really like... "I really want that."

Compelling. So, if you have this vision and it's not compelling enough, what can you do to boost how compelling it is? So, you've already worked on making it clear, but let's update that vision and let's make it more compelling. Maybe you've been keeping the bar a little too low. Maybe the dream isn't big enough, as they say. If you don't like what you see, let's change it. Maybe there's something about the vision that needs to be different. What I noticed for myself is, I'm not that excited about the idea of doing this exercise every day. I like the idea of feeling that great in my body, but I actually, I want to be the kind of person who is willing to do burpees and sweat, and it's just not my thing. But you know what I really get excited about is waking up in the morning to go to a two-hour hip hop class or jazz. I love dancing. I used to dance a lot when I was growing up. So, that is... Actually, now I'm feeling, personally, I feel my desire coming up.

So, I've just made that vision a lot more compelling. Now, when I look in the mirror in my vision, it's changed. I'm not wearing sneakers anymore. I'm not wearing ugly running shorts that I hate. As my dad always quotes me, when I was little, I said, "Dad, I want to look sporty. I don't want to be sporty." He reminded me that the other day. "I don't want to be sporty. I want to look sporty." So, yeah, that was just... I was very fashion-oriented. So, I still am. I'm a Type Four on the Enneagram. What are you going to do? So, I love the idea of looking at myself in the mirror and I'm in Flashdance clothes and I've got a really cool headband on and my hair is awesome and I'm wearing this really cool, kind of torn up, like '80s, when they would wear the legwarmers and they had rips in them, and it was edgy and urban. That's what I'm wearing in my vision, and I'm going to go downstairs and I'm going to grab this really cool gym bag and I'm going to go off to this super sexy studio in a loft somewhere, and I'm doing my dance class.

Okay. Now I'm excited about that. Is that something that I can implement right now during the quarantine? No, I can't, but I could probably find a great jazz teacher who could teach me online. There's probably a class I can do, and this is probably a great opportunity to actually go to that imaginary New York loft when I live in Los Angeles and find a New York dance class and I could join it. Now, it's clear and it's compelling. I want it.

So, that's piece one of the Change Formula vision. Now, let's multiply it. Vision times discomfort. I need my discomfort piece. I want you to assess right now, how uncomfortable are you with how things currently are? And you may be like, "Eh, not that uncomfortable," or, "Oh, gosh. I hate waking up every single day. I am so unhappy. I hate my job. I can't stand it every time I think about it. I don't like it. Sundays, starting Sunday morning, I'm already bummed that it's Sunday because tomorrow's Monday." Is that where you are? If that's where you are, you still may not be uncomfortable enough, and I'm going to help you even boost in that situation. So, you're very, very uncomfortable, but even if you don't know exactly the job that you want and your vision is low, we can make your discomfort higher, and that may be the lever for you.

So, let's focus on that one. If you're not uncomfortable enough, let's see. Can you get more aware? And this is the role that sometimes a 360 review is going to do for a person, is they get a bunch of feedback. We talked about 360s in another episode. I'll link to it. But if you get a bunch of feedback, like, "You're just not performing well. Your impact on others is low." You might get feedback from your spouse, "You're really, really stressed out all the time. I never get to see you. You seem so unhappy," so you could actually increase your self-awareness of how things are to make yourself more uncomfortable. You can go and ask for feedback. "What's it like when I come home at the end of one of those tough days? I want you to tell me all of the things that are hard about that for you. What's my impact?" Once you know your impact, you are responsible for, for it, right?

So, you can make yourself uncomfortable that way. You can start measuring some things and just get really aware of where are you currently. So, if you are debating changing your job, but you keep kind of heroing yourself and numbing out, what I want you to start doing is, in the morning, midday, and night, I want you to rate on a scale of one to 10, "How fulfilled was I today? How joyful was I today? How much did I love what I was doing today?" You can ask yourself any questions you want to, but I want you to gather some data. For me, this works really well. Gather some data to really take a hard look at, "How am I really operating?"

I know that my Fitbit watch died a couple of days ago, and so I'm not tracking my sleep anymore, which is something I do religiously. So, I'm actually not able to see my sleep habits, and this morning I even overslept a lot, and I think it's, I'm just not as aware. So, I like having those numbers. So, you can do that to increase your discomfort, and really sit with it, guys. Maybe you have data, you have feedback. Yeah, yeah, yeah, and you kind of push them into the back of your mind. "Yeah, yeah. I've got those. Okay. What's next? Give me the support piece. Make this easier." No. Back up. Pull those out of the basement of your mind and stop heroing yourself. Don't avoid the discomfort. So, it's no use gathering data if you're not going to feel it.

Let's sit here right now together... I'm going to do it with you... and really feel the suffering. Like, "Yeah, I don't want to be living like this anymore. This is not what life wants for me, and I really am in charge of myself. I actually do have the ability to change, and I'm choosing not to, and is that how I want to be?" And please try really hard not to go into guilt or shame about this. Just be curious. Ask yourself, "Is that how I want to be?" What does it feel like? I mean, you can amp up discomfort as much as you want to.

So, now we've increased our vision. We've boosted that number. We've made it more clear and compelling. We've increased our discomfort. We've used a lot of self-awareness and feedback and we've sat with it and we've felt the feelings and the emotion. What I say, when people are having a really hard time with changes, make the pattern bigger that you want to change. I learned this from Diana Chapman at The Conscious Leadership Group. Make it bigger. If I seem to be so committed to not getting up and exercising, I could actually do an exercise where I force myself to sit still in my bed for a whole hour while I am picturing myself at age 80 and how much my body has fallen apart, and the aches and pains and the shorter life and missing out on time with my grandkids, how sad my parents would be for me if I was really, really unhealthy and became ill. I could picture things to really boost it, and I could make it even bigger and I could just force myself to, "You're not allowed to exercise at all. You have to keep your step count down to under 1000 steps a day." That might start getting me uncomfortable.

Okay. Now, finally, I know you want to add support. I talked earlier in the episode about a lot of different kinds of support you can add so that once you have enough vision and discomfort, you get to add it and boost your willingness to change even more. You can go to allowedpodcast.com and you can find a whole bunch of ideas there for ways that you can support yourself. And again, this can include learning. It can include just making it easier on yourself, learning about how to make it easier on yourself, and enlisting an accountability partner, joining a group like Forward Fearless. There's lots you can do.

So, how willing are you feeling now? This has been a really fast exercise. If you're feeling more willing, more excited about the new vision that you've created for yourself, you are beginning to see the power of this very simple formula, vision times discomfort plus support equals willingness. Willingness to change.

So, I hope that today you've got an idea of a change you want to make, and my dare to you is to write it down. Write down what your vision is. Write down what's making you uncomfortable. Pick one way that you want to support yourself more in moving forward on this and commit to it. Put it on a big piece of paper and tape it in your kitchen. Put it in a public place. Put it on your cubicle wall. Make it the background on your computer. Really get it in your face as much as possible and let other people see it. Talk about it, but commit. Commit. And if you're not willing, drop it. Find a place where you actually want the change enough that you're willing to boost this formula for you.

All right. Lots more resources for you are at allowedpodcast.com. Again, you can access a video where I'm going to walk you through this formula in depth. You can get the worksheet there. This has been a real game-changer in my life, in particular, because it allows me to drop a bunch of stuff where I'm realizing I was holding onto this idea and I just don't care, and that's such a gift. That is such a gift, too.

So, thanks, you guys, for working on yourselves. When we all step into our leadership, the world is a better place, and we need it right now big time, so thank you for being on this journey with me. I love you guys. I hope you have a great week. Go to allowedpodcast.com for lots of free resources, and I'll see you next time.