Happy New Year - Not What You Were Expecting?


At this time of year you might, like me, get a little cynical about all the messages you receive from the personal development world advising you on New Year’s resolutions, goals or making this ‘Your Best Year Yet!’

All of them are well intended.  Some of them are useful.  However most ignore a concept which impacts how successful any of our intentions will be.

This concept would make most coaches and personal development specialists shocked that I would even talk about it.  I’d like to share it with you, as it could transform how you approach 2022.   But I warn you, it’s probably not what you’re expecting!

It’s all about change

This time of year tends to focus our attention on what we’d like to change as we start a fresh new year.  Most of us start the year thinking about what we’d like to change about our lives or ourselves.  

The traditional approach to change is based on taking action to be different.  It’s about making change happen through focus, hard work, discipline and commitment.   Sound familiar?

Now this approach to change can, and does, work.  It’s an approach that I’ve used with my coaching clients and have helped them to achieve great results.  But it doesn’t work all the time and is often unsustainable. 

As many of us know our New Year resolutions and goals often fall by the wayside.  You’ve probably seen the media citing statistics about the drop off rate of people’s motivation and achievement of their resolutions.  A study by British Psychologist Richard Wiseman discovered that 88% of resolutions end in failure!  So it would suggest that something is not working with the traditional approach to change, wouldn’t you agree?

So why is this?  Where does the intention to change go wrong for most people?

Well the problem doesn’t lie in changing.  In fact the only constant thing in life is change!  As the proverb says

Change in inevitable, progress is optional

Change is not something we do or don’t do.   Change is a natural process occurring on a continual basis.  It’s our approach to change that creates the problem.  But the good news is that there’s an alternative approach to change.

Don’t try and be different!

What I hear you cry!  A coach telling me to try not to be different – has she gone mad?!

Over the past decade, as I’ve studied and trained more extensively in the psychology of coaching,  I’ve learnt a powerful (and at first counterintuitive) distinction in how to create sustainable change.  It comes from a school of psychology known as Gestalt.  

The premise of Gestalt is

Change occurs when we become more of who we are, rather than becoming who we are not

This seemingly counterintuitive approach is based on the principle that when we accept who we are it opens up possibilities and opportunities for unplanned change to emerge.  In the effort of trying to be different with willpower, we block the natural process that brings about productive change.  

When New Year’s Resolutions fail, it’s not because change hasn’t occurred.  It’s due to the simple fact that we use most of our energy to resist the change to be different.   We’re actually trying to keep things the same……only we’re often unaware of it!  There’s a deep internal resistance to the proposed change at an unconscious and unaware level.  

This approach is known as the Paradoxical Theory of Change as it seems to be contradictory in what it’s saying – change by not changing!   The Paradoxical Theory of Change was developed by Dr Arnold Beisser a medical doctor and psychiatrist.

This approach to change means that to really be able to change

We must stay with the resistance.  Until the nature of the resistance is experienced, understood and accepted, change cannot take place.

Academy of Executive Coaching

Put another way, change comes about as a result of full acceptance of what is, rather than a striving to be different.

In working with clients in this way I find that rather than using energy to try to become different, they free up their energy to move forward.  This type of approach has proven to be more transformational and sustainable – even if it might sound weird and crazy! 

So if you are hoping to make a change in your life in 2022 I hope this insight gives you a different perspective. 

Whatever 2022 has in store for us I hope we can embrace is with wisdom, grace, health and hopefulness.


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