By Coach Susana Lindblom
I have repeatedly heard people comment that “this person is too old to change his/her behaviour” or “it is impossible to change certain behaviours”. And, repeatedly, I have seen that this is not true: Transformational change, change that last in time, is accesible for everyone, no matter who you are. The problem is what people normally percieve learning to be and the misconception around how human beings actually learn.
Trained in the rationalistic tradition to value theoretical knowledge we tend to think of learning as something that happens in the mind. We even often consider learning to be about accumulating knowledge.
Learning by doing still works
Recent neuroscience gives scientific grounding for that learning actually occurs through practice and training, not just through acquiring knowledge and understanding. This is a completely different way of viewing how human beings learn and, therefore, how to generate change and if change even is possible.
To become skillfull in any discipline, we need to practice. We normally take that for granted when it comes to activities such as music and sport, and we don´t think of it as applied to leadership and personal transformation: New practices will lead to you embodying your new behaviour and skills, that is to do them and be them, not just acquire knowledge and understanding.
This is explained by the fact that whatever we do as human beings we do in or with our bodies. The history of our lives shape our body and we act out of this history – it steers how we show up at work and in the world, it´s our physical shape. This is what other people percieve about us before we even say anything. This is so obvious and simple that we might not even think about it. So to be able to reshape our future we need to reshape ourselves: work including the thinking self and the feeling self and use the body in the process for change and create muscle memory.
If you think about it, do we learn how to ride a bicycle by reading about it on the internet or watching a video on YouTube? That might help us understand what it´s about, but in order to be skillfull we need to practice riding bikes.
Learning is easy if you see it as something physical
Once we understand this we see that learning actually does not only happen in the mind and that there are no quick fixes if we want transformational change, change that lasts in time: We have to train and strengthen through repetition, concentration, presence, and awareness of ourselves. Repetition and concentration establish form, a new physical shape. When this occurs, we no longer have to think about how to place our body or how to respond in a business environment, for example. A new dimension of ourself begins to open up and we become different people.
And just like it would be extremely difficult to unlearn riding a bicycle, what is learned through embodied learning permanently becomes part of our nervous system and of who we are.
Unless we decide to change it, of course.