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The Flaw in the Maturity Continuum January 28, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in 7 Habits, Change, consulting, Hope, Life Coach, Neurobiology, Systems Thinking.
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After many years of teaching the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People I started to question some of the fundamental ideas that the book presents. The reason for this is because of the way in which participants respond to different information when I teach.

A continuum is a linear pathway (line or timeline) that starts at point A and moves toward point Z in a consistent and predictable way. Understanding the continuum (no matter the context) helps tremendously in navigating processes and charting growth. In the 7 Habits Dr. Covey says we start out at a Dependent level needing everything done for us. The idea is when we are infants we depend on people for every need we have. As we grow up we should be working our way toward Independence. Here the idea is that we are capable of taking care of ourselves and can live out our lives with out the help of others. Lastly we evolve to an understanding that we live with other people around us both at work and in life in general. We need to acknowledge this by moving into the highest level of maturity, Interdependence.

Looking at the neurobiological growth of a human being and trying to see this continuum is impossible. That’s because in reality there is no continuum of maturity. We “are,” from birth to death. Do we grow and mature, absolutely. At every stage of our human development (growth) we are met with stressors and these are the points of growth and change. When we are first-born we truly are in a purely interdependent place in life. Attachment to a primary caregiver or maybe better called our “Primary Attachment Figure” is essential to proper growth emotionally. In the first 18 months of life we have little to no language so there is no way to communicate except through patterns. Baby learns intuitively that crying will bring mother or if I’m carried into the kitchen I’m about to eat. A need will be fulfilled. A good empathic relationship between mother and baby is critical. This will define all future relationships and impact our level of optimism and hope. When the child grows up the need for a primary attachment doesn’t go away. We seek out a mate and marry thus replacing mother with a wife. Needless to say the role of mother and wife are very different in our lives and they need to be to have healthily relationships but the “need” for a primary attachment will always be there.

So when am I dependent? All the time. I need someone to grow my food, construct the roads, repair my plumbing and so forth. That leaves independence. That happens all the time as well. There are several times every day that you find you need no one to complete a task, you really can do it alone. You are neither dependent on others nor do you need to collaborate to finish the task.

Maturity or just say US or WE find ourselves in the dependent/independent/interdependent state simultaneously almost all the time. The illusion of a continuum is much like our perception of time. We just can’t see all time at once so we make it a stream.

Change January 21, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in 7 Habits, Change, consulting, executive coaching, Life Coach, Neurobiology, Systems Thinking.
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Change is a natural part of life. It is really a natural part of existence. A volcano or an earthquake can change the landscape as well as peoples’ lives. We live with constant change but that doesn’t mean we like it.

Nothing feels better than what’s comfortable. The thought of curling up with my wife in our sunroom and just watching TV feels very good. When I have that image in my mind while heading home from the office I’m disturbed by the fact that once I get home, I find I have to take a child someplace then clean out a drain. The comfortable evening just evaporated. Most of the time my reaction to this is, OK. This is what my family needs right now. Let’s get on with it, but once in a while I feel anger. That’s when I mess up and get people mad at me.

When I think about the idea of stimulus and response I have come to believe that using some technique like “Being Proactive” is not really possible. When you first touch a red hot burner you experience the sensation of being burned. Pain followed by treatment.  The next time you see the hot coils of a range you don’t even try to touch it. A pattern has been made.

If I find that when I see someone in a green coat I can’t help myself, I start yelling at them there is no amount of proactivity that I can stick between the stimulus and the response. The reason is neural wiring.

I know that this habit is very bad for me so I have to make a plan that can help me stop. This means I have to be use cognition to be aware of my actions and how they upset people. I know my first response is going to yell so I have to get out the wire cutters and trim out the yelling at green coated people wire. Then I want to replace it with the wire that enforces NOT yelling at people in green coats.

I don’t call this being proactive, I call it Initiative. I take the initiative to do the trimming and rewiring. When it’s done people like me again. This is basic science not wishful thinking and I believe this is where we need to be headed as a society.

Hope January 14, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in 7 Habits, Change, executive coaching, Hope, Life Coach, Neurobiology.
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I’m writing a new workshop that’s primary task will be teaching Hope. I know that it seems natural for people to be just hopeful or not but that isn’t really the case. As it turns out science has been able to displace malformed ideas and misunderstood concepts about why we do what we do. Hope falls into that category.

If the idea that genetic determinism has much impact on our daily actions and decides major overall traits such as intelligence, then eugenics would have proved to have been a successful experiment. As we know all eugenics did for us was pave the way for the Holocaust of WW II.  I say that but must also mention eugenic experiments were also tried here in the USA before WW II through the sterilization of certain groups of individuals mostly those perceived as under privileged and unintelligent. To learn more about this blot on US history read the book War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race by Edwin Black.

Genes determine the shape of a jaw or the color of the eyes and may indicate some possibility for future illness but it does not make us who we are. Environmental determinism plays a much larger role in two ways. First the physical location where people live brings with it environmental factors people have to adapt to. Climate, geography and even political realities set up a situation that will bring on certain actions by the people impacted. Eskimos have distinct differences from Arabs and a large part of that difference is caused by environmental conditions.

The second type of environmental determinism includes the smaller family unit. As a child grows patterns are set in a neurobiological way that may cause the child to live out certain choices when she grows to adulthood that may be positive or negative. This is especially true for what happens to a child during its first 18 months of life.

So if environmental determinism creates a negative impact we are told building a proactive nature will eventually cause change in our way of life that creates a positive impact. I don’t think so. Like a smoker, the quitting of smoking is a very difficult things. Seemingly impossible for some. Why? The nicotine addiction is over in two weeks but the wires in the brain are still there telling the smoker to have a cigarette now. What has to happen is the cutting of the wires in the brain that drive smoking and putting in new wires for non-smoking. This is a very painful and difficult task.

We call it a smoking habit and like any other habit we have wiring in our brain that reinforces our actions. Wearing a nicotine patch doesn’t solve the problem. I think you’ll find that in smoking there isn’t enough proactivity in the world to help a person stop. I know. I’ve been there.

Dr. Norman Dodge suggest in The Brain That Changes Itself that that the process of rewiring our brain is not only possible but can be controlled. Only through this effort can a habit be changed. How this relates to hope is coming…

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