Limiting Beliefs and Attitudes Assignment
Achieving results Key questions in achieving results in an organizational context, as shown in Figure 1.5, are:
- Self-concept and values: what are my core values and how do they dovetail with those of my organization?
- Beliefs and attitudes: what are my limiting beliefs and attitudes and with what do I replace them?
- Feelings: what is my most effective state of being to accomplish my goals and how do I access it?
- Behaviour: what specifically do I need to be doing to achieve my goals and what is my first step?
- Results: what specific outcomes do I want and what might get in the way?
The cognitive approach advocates the use of goals. The assumption is that the clearer the goal, the greater the likelihood of achievement. Consider the following case study. Graduates at Yale University in the United States were surveyed over a period of 20 years. Of those surveyed, 3 per cent were worth more than the other 97 per cent put together. There were no correlations with parental wealth, gender or ethnicity. The only difference between the 3 per cent and the 97 per cent was that the former had clearly articulated and written goals, and the latter grouping did not. (This is perhaps just an apocryphal story, as the details of this case study are much quoted on many ‘positive thinking’ websites but we have been unable to trace the research back to where it should have originated at Yale.)
Self concept & values � Beliefs � Attitudes � Feelings � Behaviour � Results
Figure 1.5 Achieving results
However, research undertaken by one of the authors (Green, 2001) into what makes for an outstanding sales person suggests that in the two key areas of business focus and personal motivation, goals setting looms large. The outstanding sales people had clearer and more challenging business targets that they set themselves. These were coupled with very clear personal goals as to what the sales person wanted to achieve personally with the rewards achieved by business success.
This is further backed up by research conducted by Richard Bandler and John Grinder (1979), creators of neuro-linguistic programming, who found that the more successful psychotherapists were those who were able to get their clients to define exactly what wellness looked like. This in turn led to the idea of a ‘well-formed outcome’ which enabled significantly better results to be achieved by those who set clear goals as opposed to those with vague goals. The goals themselves were also more ambitious.
Making sense of our results
The cognitive approach suggests we pay attention to the way in which we talk to ourselves about results. For example, after a particularly good performance one person might say things such as, ‘I knew I could do it, I’ll be able to do that again.’ Another person might say something like, ‘That was lucky, I doubt whether I’ll be able to repeat that.’ Likewise after a poor or ineffective performance our first person might say something like, ‘I could do that a lot better next time’, while the second person might say, ‘I thought as much, I knew that it would turn out like this.’
Once we have identified our usual way of talking to ourselves we can look at how these internal conversations with ourselves limit us, then consider changing the script.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Reflect upon a time when you did not achieve one of your results. What did you say to yourself? What was your limiting belief? What is the opposite belief? What would it be like to hold the new belief? How might your behaviour change as a result? What results would you achieve as a consequence?
The underpinning theory
Techniques for change
The cognitive approach has generated numerous techniques for changing the beliefs of people and thereby improving their performance. These include the following.
Simply list all the positive qualities you have, such as good feelings, good experiences, good results, areas of skills, knowledge and expertise. By accepting that these are all part of you, the individual, you can reinforce all these positive thoughts, feelings and perceptions, which then lead to enhanced beliefs.
An affirmation is a positive statement describing the way that you want to be. It is important that the statement is:
- personal: ‘I am always enthusiastic when it comes to work!’ It is you who this is about, and it is as specific as you can make it;
- present tense: ‘I am always enthusiastic when it comes to work!’ It is not in the future, it is right now;
- positive: ‘I am always enthusiastic when it comes to work!’ It describes a positive attribute, not the absence of a negative attribute;
- potent: ‘I am always enthusiastic when it comes to work!’ Use words that mean something to you.
Try writing your own affirmation. Put it on a card and read it out 10 times a day. As you do so, remember to imagine what you would feel, what you would see, what you would hear if it were true.
Visualizations are very similar to affirmations but focus on a positive, present mental image. Effective visualizations require you to enter a relaxed state where you imagine a specific example of the way you want to be. You imagine what you and others would see, what would be heard
and what would be felt. Using all your senses you imagine yourself achieving the specific goal. You need to practise this on a regular basis.
Reframing is a technique for reducing feelings and thoughts that impact negatively on performance. You get daunted when going in to see the senior management team? Currently you see them looming large, full of colour, vitality and menacing presence? Imagine them in the boardroom, but this time see them all in grey. Maybe shrink them in size, as you would a piece of clip art in a document that you are word processing. Turn down their volume so they sound quite quiet. Run through this several times and see what effect it has on your anxiety.
Pattern breaking is a technique of physically or symbolically taking atten- tion away from a negative state and focusing it on a positive. Take the previous example of going into the boardroom to meet the senior management team (or it could be you as the senior manager going out to meet the staff and feeling a little awkward). You find you have slipped into being a bit nervous, and catch yourself. Put your hand in the shape of a fist to your mouth and give a deep cough, or at an appropriate moment clap your hands firmly together and say, ‘Right, what I was thinking was…’. Once you’ve done the distraction, you can say to your- self, ‘That wasn’t me. This is me right now.’
This is a similar technique with the same aim. Imagine a time when you did not like who you were. Perhaps you were in the grip of a strong negative emotion. See yourself in that state, then imagine yourself stepping outside or away from your body, leaving all that negativity behind and becoming quite calm and detached and more rational. When you next catch yourself being in one of those moods, try stepping outside of yourself.
Anchoring and resource states
These are two techniques where you use a remembered positive experi- ence from the past which has all the components of success. For example,
The underpinning theory
remember a time in the past where you gave an excellent presentation. What did you see? What did you hear? What did you feel? Really enter into that experience, then pinch yourself and repeat a word that comes to mind. Rerun the experience and pinch yourself and say the word. Now try it the other way, pinch yourself and say the word – and the experience should return. Before your next presentation, as you go into the room reconnect to the positive experience by pinching yourself and saying the word. Does it work? If it does not, simply try something else.
Rational analysis is a cognitive technique par excellence. It is based on the notion that our beliefs are not necessarily rational: ‘I could never do that’ or ‘I’m always going to be like that’. Rational analysis suggests you write down all the reasons that is incorrect. You need to be specific and not generalize (for example, ‘I’m always doing that’ – always?). You need to set measurable criteria, objectively based, and you need to use your powers of logic. By continuously proving that this is an irrational belief you will eventually come to disbelieve it.
STOP AND THINK! Q 1.6 What might the main benefits be of a cognitive approach?
Q 1.7 What do you see as some of the limitations of this approach?
Summary of cognitive approach
The cognitive approach builds on the behaviourist approach by putting behaviour into the context of beliefs, and focusing more firmly on outcomes. Many cognitive techniques are used in the field of manage- ment today, particularly in the coaching arena. This approach involves focusing on building a positive mental attitude and some stretching goals, backed up by a detailed look at what limiting beliefs produce behaviour that becomes self-defeating.
A drawback of the cognitive approach is the lack of recognition of the inner emotional world of the individual, and the positive and negative impact that this can have when attempting to manage change. Some obstacles to change need to be worked through, and cannot be made ‘OK’ by reframing or positive talk.
THE PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACH TO CHANGE
The idea that humans go through a psychological process during change became evident due to research published by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (1969). The word ‘psychodynamic’ is based on the idea that when facing change in the external world, an indi- vidual can experience a variety of
internal psychological states. As with the behavioural and cognitive approaches to change, research into the psychodynamic approach began not in the arena of organizations, but for Kubler-Ross in the area of termi- nally ill patients. Later research showed that individuals going through changes within organizations can have very similar experiences, though perhaps less dramatic and less traumatic.
The Kubler-Ross model
Kubler-Ross published her seminal work On Death and Dying in 1969. This described her work with terminally ill patients and the different psycho- logical stages that they went through in coming to terms with their condi- tion. Clearly this research was considered to have major implications for people experiencing other types of profound change.
Kubler-Ross realized that patients – given the necessary conditions – would typically go through five stages as they came to terms with their prognosis. The stages were denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.
People faced with such potentially catastrophic change would often not be able to accept the communication. They would deny it to them- selves. That is, they would not actually take it in, but would become emotionally numb and have a sense of disbelief. Some would argue that this is the body ’s way of allowing people to prepare themselves for what is to follow. On a more trivial scale, some of us have experienced the numbness and disbelief when our favourite sports team is defeated. There is little that we can do but in a sense ‘shut down’. We do not want
The underpinning theory
to accept the news and expose ourselves to the heartache that that would bring.
When people allow themselves to acknowledge what is happening they enter the second stage, typically that of anger. They begin to ask them- selves questions like, ‘Why me?’, ‘How could such a thing happen to someone like me? If only it had been someone else’, ‘Surely it’s the doctors who are to blame – perhaps they ’ve misdiagnosed’ (back into denial). ‘Why didn’t they catch it in time?’
Anger and frustration can be focused externally, but for some of us it is ourselves we blame. Why did we not see it coming, give up smoking? ‘It’s always me who gets into trouble.’
In some ways we can see this process as a continuation of our not wanting to accept the change and of wanting to do something, anything, other than fully believe in it. Anger is yet another way of displacing our real feelings about the situation.
When they have exhausted themselves by attacking others (or themselves) people may still want to wrest back some control of the situation or of their fate. Kubler-Ross saw bargaining as a stage that people would enter now.
For those who themselves are dying, and also for those facing the death of a loved one, this stage can be typified by a conversation with them- selves. Or if they are religious, this may be a conversation with God, which asks for an extension of time. ‘If I promise to be good from now on, if I accept some remorse for any ills I have committed, if I could just be allowed to live to see my daughter ’s wedding, I’ll take back all the nasty things I said about that person if you’ll only let them live.’
Once again we can see this stage as a deflection of the true gravity of the situation. This is bargaining, perhaps verging on panic. The person is desperately looking around for something, anything, to remedy the situ- ation. ‘If only I could get it fixed or sorted everything would be all right.’