Taking a Stand
What does it take to create change? It requires, for one thing, a high level of commitment. We may start out with great energy, enthusiasm and excitement and say that we are definitely committed. We will take action and start down the road to what we say we want. But then things arise to challenge our commitment. It is useful to know this and to be prepared for it. One of the main things that will arise is your “drift”. What is a “drift”?
I learned the concept of “the drift” from my mentor coach, Barbara Fagan. I met Barbara in a leadership program in 2007 and I remember her standing in the middle of a carpet in a conference room in a hotel in San Francisco. The carpet had a pattern that looked a bit like a river. “We all have a drift,” she said. We have individual drifts, family drifts, company drifts and cultural drifts. “The drift” is the norm, what occurs when we are not conscious and purposeful. We are always in the drift, whether it is our individual drift or a collective drift. What can we do to create change in the middle of the drift? We can stand. This requires consciousness. Barbara demonstrated by standing firmly in the middle of the carpet-river.
Your Personal Drift
What is your drift? It can be challenging to ask yourself, but very valuable toward creating the change you want. What is your unconscious way of being that does not work for you? How do you sabotage your own progress? If you cannot see it right away, ask people who know you: what do you see me do that you believe hinders my progress?
What is an example of a personal drift? One of my drifts (and we all have many) is to over-analyze. If I am not being conscious or am feeling tired or run down, rather than take action and move forward, you will find me thinking about it. I have clients at the other end of the spectrum who don’t think much about what they are about to do, but just take random action that is not planned or thought out. This also doesn’t work. This is just one area/type of drift.
How does the drift get in the way? It interferes in two ways. Take my over-analyzing drift, for example. First, if I do not know to expect my drift then, as stated, under pressure or when I am feeling non-resourceful, I will go to over-analysis, without realizing. When I see my drift is this over-analysis tendency, I can be watching for it. When engaging in analytic behaviors – which certainly can be useful in certain contexts – I can ask myself if consciously this is what I want to do right now and what serves me best or if I am doing it without thinking. If I see I am in my drift, I can intervene in that pattern by taking action — so my over-analysis is interrupted. It is a way to make conscious choice.
The second way the drift can interfere is that the human tendency is to seek out, and hang out with, people with similar drifts. I am not sure why this is, but I can tell you that if you are around people with your drift they will not challenge you on it. The drift promotes mediocrity. If you are striving for excellence, you must have people in your life who will provide you with truthful feedback. Those who are solidly in your drift won’t do it. Therefore, your associating only with people of a similar drift is a commitment mediocrity – having things stay the way they are.
The Group Drift
All groups have a drift–families, workplaces, communities, countries. One way you can see a cultural drift is this. Notice where you personally have behaviors that don’t work. Perhaps you are chronically late and you are realizing this does not work to generate the effect you want. Then notice if anyone in your firm or family calls you on it. If not, there is a good chance the drift in your firm or family is: time is not important. Another way to check in on this is to notice if others in your firm are late to meetings. Are people expected to be on time? Is there any consequence for not being on time? This is a drift in some law firms and certainly in the culture of doctors’ offices. If you are regularly late to meetings and no one in your firm says anything to you about it, you know two things. First, you have a personal drift that causes you to be late. Second, the people you work with are “in your drift” regarding time. It is most easy to be pulled into a group’s drift when your drift is similar.
What is your family drift? There will be more than one.
What is your firm or workplace drift? How many can you identify? (See below for examples.)
Taking a Stand
“What is an example of someone who stood out of the drift?” Barbara asked us. I had just read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. I offered him as an example and she asked, “What was the drift?” After Mandela left prison, the black population in South Africa wanted him to run the country without his former oppressors. They wanted him to exclude the white people from the government. The cultural prevailing drift at that time was the people who had been oppressors were not to be trusted, were bad people, and should be excluded. Mandela made a values-based choice. He said, I am about inclusion. I always have been. I stayed in prison as a stand for inclusion and now that we are in power, I remain a stand for all people to be included. He refused to join a drift that held some people should be included and some should not. He re-built his country by including all people, even those who had imprisoned him.
Taking a stand requires courage and conviction and is a consciously-made choice and often can have challenging ramifications. If you say you want something to be different, but you do not stand up for the change, the drift will carry you along.
What does it take to create change? Learn your various drifts and those of the groups you’re involved with. Then be prepared to take a stand to have what you say you want.
[Go to www.sourcepointtraining.com to learn about personal growth and coach trainings facilitated by Barbara Fagan and the phenomenal team of trainers at this company where I also received my coach training.]