Are You Willing to Change?



“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” — Leo Tolstoy

It’s one thing to know how to change.

It’s another to be willing to change.

When you aren’t really willing to change, you get stuck in limbo.  You tell others, or even yourself, how you will “try” to change.

But you don’t really mean it with a whole body YES.

When you own your unwillingness, you can face your resistance.   When you face your resistance, you can do something about it.

When you admit you are unwilling to change, you’ll be surprised how the excuses disappear and the truth comes out.

In The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, authors Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Warner Klemp help leaders get out of limbo and create change in themselves and help others so the same.

Willingness to Change

Everybody might say they want to change.   But few are actually willing.

Via The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:

”It all comes down to willingness.  Willingness to change is every different from knowing how to change, or further still, truly wanting to change.  Many, many people want to change, but most are not willing to change.”

“I Don’t Know How” is an Excuse

Confront your unwillingness.  “I don’t know how” is often an excuse to avoid your resistance.

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership,

“What in your life do you want to change? Make a list.

Now ask yourself, ‘am I willing to change? Am I really willing to change?’

At this point, you might find yourself saying, ‘I’m willing but I don’t know how.’  And we’d say that this is just an excuse to avoid your resistance.  If you’re like many of he people we work with, you’d get frustrated, even angry, when we challenge your willingness. 

But we don’t do others or ourselves any favors by giving them temporary relief from their unwillingness to face their unwillingness.  In fact, we think that one of a coach’s core commitments is to lovingly hold pressure to help others confront their resistance.”

We Think We’re Willing to Change

Our ego tries to protect us.  It helps us think we’re willing to change, when we’re really not.

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership,

“Remember that the ego/identity is powerful (and that’s good).  It doesn’t want to let go of control and step into the unknown.  It equates control with security and safety.  One way it most likes to stay in control is to allow us to think we’re willing to change when we’re really not.”

“Trying” is Wanting Credit for Something You’ll Never Do

Trying is not the same as willing.   You “try” when you want credit for something you don’t really intend to do.   As Yoda said, “Do. Or do not.  There is no try.”

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership,

“You might also here yourself say, I’ll try.  I’ll try to change.’  Our mentor and friend Hale Dwoskin says, ‘Trying is wanting credit for something you never intend to do.’  So true.  When asked by friends if you’ll stop by after work for a drink, you find yourself saying, ‘I’ve got a lot to do before I leave, and my kid is not feeling well, but I’ll try.’  You want credit from your friends for ‘trying’ but you never honestly plan to join them.  You might even want to stop by, but the reality is that you’re unwilling to go.”

Own Your Unwillingness

When you own your unwillingness, things get real, real fast.

Via The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:

“When we coach leaders and teams, we often ask them these specific questions to support them facing their unwillingness to change.  Surprising things happen when a person owns their unwillingness and simply says, ‘I’m unwilling.’”

Test Your Willingness to Change with Willingness Questions

You can test how willing you are to change with a simple set of questions.  The key is to answer the questions, as honestly as you can.  Don’t try and fool yourself.  The truth is for you.

Via The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:

Are you willing to take 100% responsibility (not more or less than 100% responsibility) for this issue?
Are you willing to stop blaming and criticizing others and yourself?
Are you willing to let go of being right?
Are you willing to get more interesting in learning than defending your ego?
Are you willing to fell all of your authentic feelings?
Are you willing to stop all gossip about this issue?
Are you willing to clear up all past issues with all relevant parties?
Are you willing to clean up all broken agreements related to this issue?
Are you willing to shift from entitlement to appreciation about this issue?
Are you willing to let go of taking this issue seriously?
Are you willing to see that the opposite of your story is as true as or truer than your story?
Are you willing to welcome and release all wanting of approval, control, and security?
Are you willing to let go of win/lose (competing) and lose/lose (compromising) views regarding this issue?
Are you willing to create authentic win-for-all resolutions for this issue?
Are you willing to be the resolution that you are seeking regarding this issue?

Stay Stuck in Limbo or Own Your Unwillingness

We put ourselves into limbo when we think we want to change, but we aren’t really willing to change.

Via The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:

“Any answer other than a whole body YES reveals a lack of willingness.  This is not a bad thing.  The ego will want to make it bad, but it is not.  It is just the suchness (as the Buddhists say) of where you are and it’s prefect.  Even so, if we don’t face and own our resistance, we can stay stuck forever.  We call it being in limbo: thinking we are willing yet not facing that we are really more committed to staying where we are than to shifting.  We tell leaders all the time that the first step to willingness is owning—fully owning—our unwillingness.”

We Need More Motivation

The way to break free from limbo is to add more motivation.

Via The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:

“When we own our resistance, we see that we simply need more motivation, more vision or dissatisfaction.  This is not a problem.  It is just what is so in this moment.”

So now, let me ask it again, or rather, you should ask yourself:

Are you willing to change?

Let me leave you with perhaps one of the most profound insights on personal change by Reinhold Niebuhr

“Change is the essence of life; be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”

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Image by Herbert.