On limiting beliefs

Contrary to what we assume, human beings aren’t often all that great at something that seems simple, and that’s critically important—especially for human beings tasked with getting good work done together. We’re not great listeners. We’re deeply attached to our own stories of why our world is the way it is. Why things work, why things don’t, and who’s to blame. New ideas threaten our assumptions, knocking our habitual BUTs off their thrones. All of us are drawn to recycle, restate, and protect the very narratives, hesitations, and blocks that keep us stuck.

Why? Because change is scary. It’s uncertain territory. Even when we think of ourselves as pretty open to change—even actively seeking it—we’re more skittish and territorial animals than we like to think.

The good news: forging a way through stuckness is a skill and a self-awareness we can practice. As facilitators, we warm up a new room with very particular marching orders.

Think about things you can actually touch.
Street-level rather than pie-in the sky—where do you have some power to control a process, a team, an outcome?
We don’t want to hear what other people should do. What can WE do?


At the Regional Enterprise Networks' working session on systems change in Digby, Nova Scotia in September, Tim and Tuesday's opening remarks extended those marching orders, reminding participants how to listen and how to speak:

“If you hear yourself saying something today that you’ve said for the past 20 years, don’t say it. It brings nothing new to the conversation. Shake off those limiting beliefs. Let them go. There isn't a capital ‘T’ truth of what we are and what we do. And we need that multiplicity. Don’t let yourself get stuck in the typical ways you relate, or in the typical rabbit holes you go down. Keep moving.” —Tuesday

“If you walk out of the room today saying the same things you said when you came in, you’ve largely wasted your time. A measure of the success of the day is how uncomfortable you’ve let yourself become. Have you been able to listen to opinions fundamentally different than yours and take them in? Have you been genuinely curious? Sitting in comfort is a sign of doing the same thing you’ve always done. And that is the opposite of innovation.” —Tim

‘Systems change’ is a big concept. It might even feel pie-in-the-sky, like a problem that dwarfs anyone who might try to tackle it. Alright, then: begin by considering just one slice of that pie. When you enter a room with easy collaborators or difficult ones, vow to refrain from talking about things you cannot control or influence.

A useful conversation is talking about what YOU can do rather than what other people should do. Keep it real, and keep it focused. And get uncomfortable. That’s how you know you’re on the right track.