As the name ‘Immunity to Change’ suggests, the course addressed the inbuilt self-protective mechanism that prevents us from making the changes we might wish for in our lives. Kegan and Lahey cite weight loss as a perfect example of how knowing what to do (ie eat less, exercise more) makes no difference to most people who want to lose weight. What’s really going on, they argue, is that, while we might think we are committed to losing weight (or making whatever change is important for us), we often have deep-seated fears about the consequences of making these changes. (eg “if I stop eating the things my friends eat, they won’t like me anymore"). We develop hidden competing commitments to protect ourselves from these fears which then lead us to make assumptions (such as “if I become a fussy eater, people won’t invite me out”) that we don’t even know we’ve made, but we relate to them as if they were the truth. Our assumptions effectively run our lives!
The change I really wanted to make was to finish re-writing a book I’ve been working on for 12 years and get the damned thing published. It only took me a year to write the first draft including conducting and transcribing more than twenty interviews. Then I made my first mistake: I started listening to other people and allowing myself to be discouraged and stopped in my tracks. A marketing guru told me that if I didn’t have a very specific target audience I was wasting my time. First major writer’s block.
A couple of years later, I gave it to a client who was dealing with many of the issues that the book addresses, to read and provide feedback. It came back damned with faint praise. The same thing occurred with family members. I was totally deflated.
My finger-pointing inner voices went into overdrive: “See, they don’t like it, it’s no good, you’re wasting your time, forget it”. Of course, what I was looking for was someone to say “This is brilliant, Kay, just what’s needed. Get it to a publisher immediately”. Said publisher would then ensure it made the New York Times best-seller list immediately and become a blockbusting gold-mine for us both.
I wallowed in writer’s block number two for several years.
In the meantime I wrote and published another book on a completely different topic with a publisher who looked at Book 1 for me and suggested an editor who could help. The editor was very encouraging and did a great job but, instead of turning it into the best-seller for me, sent it back with tons more work for me to do.
It sat untouched for another year or two.
Eventually I picked it up again, followed her suggestions diligently and completed the second draft. This time I sent it to three publishers. The first never replied and still hasn’t, four years later. The second, an acquaintance, had someone in her office write me a kind rejection letter and suggest a coffee. The third wrote me a longer letter with very specific and sound reasons for rejecting it. She also suggested more (and different) changes. Next writer’s block.
So here I am three years later trying a different tack. Exploring what’s really getting in my way via the Immunity to Change program.
Identifying and then testing one’s assumptions is an eye-opening experience. I discovered that one of my biggest hurdles was the fear of being ridiculed when I express my ideas or opinions. That dates back to my childhood where I was often the butt of jokes. How long we hold onto those early experiences and the meanings we gave them!
Having now disproved that assumption (and others) through quite rigorous testing (not a single soul ridiculed me for expressing my ideas or opinions, I have now moved on to focusing on my writing.
I’ve stopped beating myself up for thinking that I was lazy, a procrastinator, hopeless at completing things and instead replaced these treacherous thoughts with positive and supportive ones. To counteract all my old assumptions, I remind myself that I am enough exactly as I am, I’m passionate and excited about writing, what a privilege it is to have readers and I love inspiring people through my writing.
I’m back to writing regularly and I’ve scheduled a ‘writing, rewriting and re-writing again’ day once a week which I’m really excited about. I’ve found an agent who is keen to help me get this book published and I will let you know as soon as it’s available. I know you’ll love it!
The best thing is, in just 15 weeks I’ve shifted from thinking I had to hide my light under a bushel to thinking the world can’t wait for me to shine!
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Edx.org is the website for a range of free online courses from the world’s best universities.
Kegan and Lahey’s books “Immunity to Change” and “Right Weight, Right Mind – the ITC approach to permanent weight loss” are also available.