When it comes to change, whether at an individual, organizational, or societal level, our biggest challenge is often our own thinking. How is it possible that a thought – an entity with no physical form, substance or strength – carries such tremendous power that it can hold us prisoner to ongoing self-defeating, physically destructive patterns of behaviour and interaction? I find this truly fascinating.
The world is complex and things move quickly therefore our brain’s coping mechanism is to categorize and compartmentalize information as quickly as possible. Unfortunately once these categories are formed they create imaginary boundaries that are interpreted by our subconscious mind as definitive and rigid as opposed to integrated and permeable. This limits our thinking and flow of consciousness and traps us in false silos of thought and action.
When I am working with individuals and teams, I am very aware of the “sticky idea” phenomenon. I listen for comments that are cues to me the sticky idea tendency is alive and well. Comments such as, “I’m stuck in a rut,” “we’re stuck in our ways,” “we can’t move forward,” “we’re spinning our wheels” or “we work in silos” are often signals that a change in thinking is necessary. Change comes with insight. As we become aware of the human tendency to treat our ideas as possessions, we can begin to reduce their power over us. We can restrain ourselves from forming theories too quickly. We can control our initial emotional reactions – positive or negative – towards a new idea and take time to explore a new concept in greater detail from a position of proactive curiosity versus reactive judgement. As we make a conscious effort to separate our egos from our ideas and become more objective and open, we can override the human tendency to get “stuck like glue” by our own thinking. This is when true change can begin to happen.