One of the items during a talk show this week was an interview with neuropsychiatrist Theo Compernolle about burnout. Through his daily work he noticed that burnout is increasing spectacularly in the 25- to 35-year old age group. He attributes this to the fact that young people nowadays are (or want to be) constantly connected through modern technology and social media and are in fact continuously multitasking. He claims that our brain is not wired to do so, leading to all kinds of negative consequences.
A possible solution according to Dr Compernolle is to work in time blocks, without being distracted by social media and email. This way you close yourself off from multitasking and you can work more efficiently. This is also called the Pomodoro technique (named after the cooking alarm in the shape of a tomato). I experimented with this myself and I can see a lot of advantages. You indeed get a lot more work done and it gives great satisfaction to concentrate on work without any stimuli or distraction. But…. not getting disturbed is something you have to want for yourself.
And that’s where it gets difficult. I notice there is usually a wish and a firm desire to change. But all too often there is also some kind of invisible resistance to do what is right for us. It is as if we are mildly addicted to our unhealthy behaviour. This invisible resistance to change fascinates me and solving it seems to be an important key. In their book “Immunity to change” (Kegan & Lahey) the authors claim that next to a conscious motivation and commitment to change something, there is often a hidden and competitive commitment. Because this is hidden and unconscious, it sabotages our conscious commitment.
Let me give you an example from the book. A successful CEO is very motivated to develop personally, to take time for himself, to “be” more and “do” less, to be less focused on achieving goals or results. He realises that this is very important in this phase of his professional and personal life. But what does he notice himself doing every single day? He behaves in a very result- and solution-oriented manner, he wants to make a difference and often looks for situations in which he can bring about exactly that, as if it is stronger than himself. His behaviour does not correspond with what he committed himself to do, with the change he wants to make. When he is very honest, he likes playing the saviour or the hero and he likes feeling indispensable. Somewhere deep inside there is this firmly rooted assumption that he cannot feel satisfied unless he is the hero.
So what actually stops him from making a real change is a hidden emotion, the fear that he will no longer be the rescuing hero, the role he likes to see for himself. Other very common fears and assumptions are: when I depend on others and have to ask something, I lose my self-respect or others will see me as weak and stupid ; when I put myself first, others will not like me anymore ; when I do not come up with solutions, what is my added value? We must be really honest with ourselves and examine what is more important to us than the change we want in our lives. We may have to make difficult choices and adapt our behaviour accordingly. Self-reflection is the first step.
If you want to examine the hidden motivations that stop you from starting to make the changes you want in your life, consider coaching. Contact me for a free sample session and make your New Year’s resolutions come true. I wish you pleasant and warm holidays. See you next year!