A friend and I decided that we would be spontaneous the other weekend and go to Gatwick airport and get a flight to somewhere, with no pre-determined ideas as to where.  For those naturally spontaneous people, that won’t sound particularly strange, but for us very organised types, it was an interesting challenge!  The additional goal for the weekend was to say “Yes” to everything (with the exception of a few agreed rules to save us from getting into serious trouble and from being made to eat anything revolting!!), attempting to follow in the footsteps of Danny Wallace who wrote Yes Man.

What we found throughout the weekend was that it was more difficult than we thought to just say “Yes”.  Our logical, questioning minds came in to play, especially at the beginning, and we found ourselves reverting back to our normal way of doing things.  For instance, we “obviously” said no when asked if we wanted anything to eat with our champagne shortly after we’d eaten breakfast!  We hadn’t even realised we’d said no until well after the event!

We found that we had to listen really carefully to everything that was being said to us in order for us to play the game, and not just do what we would usually do.

It did get easier throughout the weekend, as we became accustomed to our new way of thinking, but it certainly took some effort.  We still found ourselves challenging the question, even though we already knew we were going to say “Yes”, including when an artist asked to draw our picture!

An additional benefit to this experience was that it reminded me about how our ingrained  (or unconscious) beliefs and experiences affect our natural behaviour.  And how, if we want to change, we really have to identify what makes us behave the way we do before we can start to consciously adjust our mindset for our new plans or goals.  This is important in my role as an executive coach, when I find that a lot of people aren’t achieving the goals they want, or as quickly as they want, as their unconscious and conscious minds are out of sync.

Normally, when we believe we can do something (eg, “I’m very organised”), we notice the things that prove to us that that belief is true and we tend to ignore the things that may prove otherwise.  The same goes with negative beliefs, such as “I’m useless at packing all I need”, where we will only notice the things that prove that’s true and we can hear ourselves saying “see, I told you”.

When we want to change our behaviour in some way, or learn something new, then firstly we need to be aware of what beliefs we have about that subject.  For instance, in business, it’s important for people to understand themselves first before they can develop their communication skills or leadership skills for those around them.  What holds them back, what do they believe about the people in their team, what do they do well?

Just like my friend and I with our “Yes” weekend, without really taking into consideration our instinctive way of doing things (or habits), acknowledging it and then adjusting our approach in line with that knowledge, all the management techniques in the world become useless if we don’t ever learn how to apply them.

As an example, have a look at your daily routine – are you doing the same things each day, on auto-pilot?  If you want to do things differently, which of these “habits” would you need to change?

For more about developing leadership skills and self awareness in business, click HERE.

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