Poking Holes in ‘This Is the Way I Am.’

January 26, 2014

‘This is the way I am.’
‘This is just how I am.’

I sit and listen to the leader across from me utter statements like these, definitively. Case closed, mind closed—at least for the moment.

Embedded in these statements is the unspoken but perhaps suggested or felt, ‘I can’t change,’ or ‘I’m not sure I can change.’ With a very few, there’s a deeper, more determined, ‘I don’t need or want to change.’

‘I shall stay the way I am because I do not give a damn.’

                                                                                                                   Dorothy Parker

My job is to challenge beliefs and assumptions that stand in the way of the learning and growth needed for today’s leadership. So what do I have to back me up when it comes to challenging these lines of thinking and believing?

Well, science for one thing.  Our cells, the foundation of our physical being-ness, are in a constant state of change—multiplying and dividing, dying off and growing. We are constructed for ongoing change.

Recent brain research is finding that contrary to earlier conclusions, our brains have incredible plasticity.  In simple terms this refers to our brain’s ability to constantly create new connections and neural pathways—making us highly capable of changing the ways we think— even as we grow older. It appears that even old dogs can learn new tricks, as long as they continue to challenge their brains with new learning.

If ‘this is the way I am’—is the unabridged and last edition of an intelligent adult’s life, leaving no possibility for revised editions, then it begs the question as to why therapy, training, coaching, and adult learning ever came into existence and why they haven’t disappeared like zoot suits or cabbage patch dolls.

People can change the way they are.

Veering away from the scientific and moving toward the spiritual realm, we find too many inarguable accounts from real peoples’ lives documenting how meditation, prayer, faith, grief, serious illness or near death experiences radically altered their beliefs about ‘this is how I am’ and dramatically impacted their future behaviour.

The good news is that dramatic life events are not required for us to re-examine ‘this is the way I am,’ thinking that may be working against us rather than in our favour, or to realize that we can change with conscious choice and support.

This is the way I am compr larger

Don Miguel Ruiz, bestselling author of The Four Agreements and The Mastery of Love and also a Toltec spiritualist, believes that we are all artists and that the story of our lives is our greatest creation. He says that we live in the story we create and therefore believe it’s true. The main character in our story is our self—who we believe we are, our identity. Our identity is what we believe about ourselves and incorporates the opinions and judgments from everyone around us.  As we live our story, we have the sensation that what we see and hear is real. But even though it feels real, it’s simply a self-created story!

The direction and tone of our story can and will shift —as soon as the main character does.

I have observed the pain and self-imposed limitation of people holding on to old beliefs like ‘this is the way I am.’  On the surface it seems to provide a solid sense of security, but smart people like the ones I work with, come to see the real Oz behind the curtain.  The remedy I can offer is to challenge this belief and provide the space and dialogue to replace it with the truth: that we can all change and grow. We have everything it takes to rework or rewrite our story.

By its nature, leadership needs to be an ongoing self-evolution or it will lose its edge. Our self, which is largely governed by our brain, our thoughts, and our beliefs is expansive, renewable, regenerating. To believe anything less is to short-change ourselves and those we lead.

Happy Monday!

Warmest regards,


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