Peak Performance Episode 59 – How Real Change Happens

How and when does real change happen in our lives?

We’ve been studying peak performance and working with business owners and financial services entrepreneurs for nearly 11 years now.  We wrote a book about change, interviewed people about their experiences, researched the features that are most associated with significant transformations. And do you know what we’ve learned about change? Not much.  It is a mystery, a process so complex and multidimensional that it defies understanding.

It’s difficult to say with any degree of certainty what it is that suddenly makes someone make a significant change in their life.

Today we’re discussing the real circumstances under which most real change takes place.

It isn’t usually grandiose or come with a lot of fanfare.  Change just kind of happens during your daily life.

Don’t get us wrong, we’ve made a lot of progress in knowing what can create life changing experiences, but we don’t think it’s what people usually think it is.

We could talk about our brilliant concepts, our amazing comments and insights, and our model for success, even though clients almost never mention those things.

They talk about feeling understood. They say that the relationship was everything. They appreciate that what happened in their roundtable or coaching session and it felt meaningful to them.  This is one area where true change can start to take place, in environments where we feel understood and comfortable.

But what we’ve found most interesting in is that most major changes take place in daily life when you are going about your usual routines.

It seems like you can be thinking about and engaging in the right behaviors while you just go about your business.  And before you realize it, you start to notice little changes.

It isn’t some zen like experience.  It’s more like, “oh, look at that”!  Like going to the gym and, over time, starting to see small changes that turn into big changes.

There was a very interesting article in Psychology Today that stated the vast majority of cases of real change occurred after recovering from a challenging or even traumatic event—the death of a loved one, a major failure or disappointment, a crisis or catastrophe, a relationship or job ending, a threatening illness, or something similar. “We know now from research on this topic that traumatic or difficult events don’t necessarily lead to incapacitating problems but also can spark tremendous growth and learning. In fact, they do so just as often as they may lead to trauma”, the article said.

Another surprise is that so often change occurs from stories that we read, hear, or see, whether they include family legends, myths, fairy tales, novels, films, television shows, plays, song lyrics, or even blogs. It turns out that because of mirror neurons we can experience vicarious life events as if they really happened to us. As far as your brain is concerned, the people you “meet” in stories really are your friends and loved ones.

And the adventures you enjoy through fiction and stories really do teach you important lessons as if you were the one who defeated the zombies, aliens, or serial killer. The strong emotions you feel during a well-told story further cement memories and help you to retrieve information in the future, all without leaving the safety and comfort of a chair.

When you review some of the important changes you’ve made in your life, especially those that persist over time, you’ll likely find that many of them involved a rather high level of emotional arousal. You felt a degree of apprehension, even fear, sometimes with unrelenting anxiety. It is precisely these strong emotional reactions that can act as a catalyst to increase motivation and commitment.

You want to find a way to create strong emotion around the changes you want to make.  It’s more of an emotional decision than an intellectual one.

These are the general circumstances under which we can make lasting changes in our lives.

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