July 27, 2015

From Awareness to Action: 3 Points of Personal Change


I’ve had some deep and difficult coaching conversations recently. Many have centered on the challenge of personal change. Three points in the change process bring completely different moods/emotions/energies and require varying skills and tools to experience and navigate.

Point 1: Unconscious and Unaware
This might be termed ignorance, bliss, oblivion, innocence or naiveté. Others tell us or talk about our shortcomings, but we come off as clueless and uninformed. We don’t know what we’re doing wrong, how our actions are offensive and disruptive, and the negative impact that is caused by our behavior.

We might feel fine as well as confused and misunderstood at this point. Unknowing and unsuspecting, we go about our business. When others seem upset with us, we’re confused or see it as their issue.

It takes several times for the situation to repeat itself to draw us out of unconscious unawarenss into an understanding that it might be us that need to change.

Point 2: Awareness
This can be both difficult and freeing. When we know that our attitudes and actions don’t serve us and those around us, we’re empowered to examine ourselves deeply and meaningfully. Realizing that we’re the cause of the drama that surrounds us requires us to change our deeply ingrained habits and perspectives.

The most valuable lesson here is: We can never change people’s actions — only our own reactions. We have to resist getting triggered in ways that make us aggressively lash out, passively draw back or passive-agressively give guilt and play victim.

Awareness of our own self-defeating attitudes and actions–while difficult because we discover we’re in the wrong–gives us the power to change our mindset from reactive to proactive.

Point 3: Action
Action from unconscious unawareness is what creates repetitive, destructive and uncontrollable situations in our lives. Taking positive and productive action from the point of awareness — a reflection on the cause-and-effect patterns we control — is sure to result in true, long-lasting personal change.

Action that will produce the outcomes we want and the change we desire comes from CREATIVE BELIEFS and not from REACTIVE BELIEFS. Below are several familiar examples in both categories — examine whether you’re consistently choosing creative, proactive action from the point of awareness to succeed:

Reactive Beliefs:

  • The most important thing is to be liked
  • I’m not good enough
  • I need to fit in
  • If I’m right, you’re wrong
  • I need to be in control
  • I need to live up to other people’s standards
  • I need to look out for number one


Creative/Proactive Beliefs:

  • I’m committed to living according to my values
  • I’m responsible for my results
  • My self worth is not dependent on what others think
  • I openly own my mistakes
  • Given a chance, everyone is capable of high achievement
  • I inspire people to perform at their best
  • I see opportunities where others see problems

Lee Broekman is an author, professor, trainer and coach. Her company Organic Communication, brings interactive, never boring, always edifying presentations and programs — focused on communication, collaboration and innovation — to your firm or organization.