written by Gary Montavlo, via Latitude coaching
At some point you may have heard the analogy that your brain is like a super computer. Well, there is a great deal of truth in that. Since birth every thought or behavior, regardless of how insignificant, has been stored in your brain. These thoughts/behaviors bring about experiences that are then assessed, compared and judged against other experiences and eventually we begin to form a pattern and create beliefs about these experiences. We all develop patterns of thinking and behavior through habit, and while it’s possible to adjust these patterns, as we meet new challenges many of us get stuck in the patterns that we know.
Cognitive theorists such as Piaget assert that conscious thinking is the basis for most human behavior and emotional experiences. Piaget had assessed that “the capacity for reasoning develops in stages from infancy through adolescence and early childhood.” He goes onto say that “our internal perspectives about the world, based on unique life experiences, lead to assumptions and related coping strategies.” (Walsh, 2006)
Eventually we accumulate enough of these experiences and begin to formulate a system of beliefs; the “Rules of the Game” if you will. Or rather, the rules of YOUR game since everyone’s experiences are different. Later in life these rules become the program for which you base all of your decisions. It’s a cognitive program which determines what you consider right and wrong, if there is some type of danger or threat approaching, and the ability to determine if you have reached success and/or failure.
Now, bring all of this to the present time in your life. As most of us do, you probably have a current goal you’re trying to achieve or a challenge you are trying to overcome. When faced with these circumstantial instincts your brain goes searching through its archives for similar situations it’s been up against in the past. It finds a pattern and formulates a strategy based on what you have experienced. In many cases this is enough to find a solution or a plan of action. But what if your goal or challenge is something you have never experienced before? Or what if the only events you can compare it to were past “failures”?
As coach and social worker we often see this happen with many of our clients. We work with clients to produce extraordinary results. Obtaining these outcomes can entail doing the “unthinkable” and stepping out of ones comfort zone. It no longer works for one to think that these results will arrive through your current belief system. Your existing “rules of your game” won’t work. It will keep you stuck and give you more of the same results.
Well, now the obvious question is how do you get unstuck? You can create a set of “new rules” to support your current goals or challenges. This is not an easy process and for some can take some time to master, depending on how you’re feeling about letting go of your past. It takes a cognitive shift towards learning a new way to think, behave and take actions. A formula that we utilize with many of our clients its the STOP, LOOK, CHOOSE, AND DO model.
STOP: Take a pause. Get present to the choice that’s in front of you. Allow this to be a new distinct moment in your life. Get off the automatic reaction.
LOOK: Really look at the choice in front of you. Look at the new possibility of the choice. Look at it for what it truly is. Not just your interpretation/judgement/assessment of it. Look at what you are experiencing and notice if it’s playing a role in your actions.
CHOOSE: Make a new choice. Not one based on what you have done in the past. Or one based out of automatic reaction, but one based on your goal and commitment. Step outside of your box, be willing to risk and create a new possibility for yourself.
DO: “Vision without action is merely a dream.” Put into action the new choices you have made, free from the influences of the past.
There is great value in using the events of the past to support you with facing future events. However, it’s important to remember that every time you do that, you are bringing all of your history (baggage) with you to the present. Every bump in the road, every failure, every painful experience you have comes back to the present and it gets measured against the current goal or challenge you are facing. Either way, keep in mind what happened in the past has nothing to do with what is happening now and it has even less to do with what’s possible for your future.
Tina Puccio is a certified Business Coach, MSW and Gary Montalvo is a certified Life Coach and Leadership Trainer. Together they founded Latitude Coaching – A full-service coaching firm committed to empowering creative professionals and organizations to take action consistent with their vision to produce extraordinary results.
Copyright 2011, Latitude Coaching, (346) 448-0967