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One approach that I might use with clients who are having a difficult time making a change is to help them overcome their Immunity to Change - a reason that they might be getting something good out of a bad habit:

Immunity to Change

What is Immunity to Change?

Harvard University Researchers Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey wanted to answer this question. They look at a study that found when doctors tell heart patients that they will die if they don’t change their habits, only 1 in 7 will follow through successfully. If change is so hard for people even when faced with matters of life and death, Kegan and Lahey concluded that desire and motivation alone can’t be enough to change the what people say they want to change. So, they realized that maybe it isn't about changing a "bad" habit, but rather looking to see what good purpose the habit might actually be serving.



Beliefs and Habits

Kegan and Lahey discovered that behind each of our habits is a strongly held belief that fights any change that threatens the way things are. This resistance is so strong, that Kegan and Lahey refer to it as a finely tuned immune system. We’re dealing with an Immunity to Change that first needs to be uncovered before real and lasting change can happen.


What Can Be Done?

Kegan and Lahey created an Immunity to Change Map that I use with clients both in one-on-one coaching sessions and in group workshops. The idea is to pinpoint and address whatever beliefs and assumptions are blocking you from the changes you want to make. The steps include:

  • Outline commitment to an improvement goal

  • List what is preventing progress towards goal

  • Identify competing commitments

  • Determine  underlying assumptions

Once you know your underlying assumptions there are additional steps that can be taken to help change those assumptions and then you can work on changing the habits.

Click on the video to watch Robert Kegan explain Immunity to Change

From: Kegan, R. & Lahey, L.L. (2009).Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization. Harvard Business Review Press: Watertown, Massachusetts

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