It’s that time of year again—we’re about to transmit our long-held aspirations into dazzling New Year’s Resolutions.

Fueled by the inspiring intentions of our family members, friends, and colleagues, we aim high... just like last year and the year before. Come February, we will realize once again that optimism, resolve, and a few well-meant first attempts alone don’t make change happen. What makes personal change so difficult?

Picture yourself twenty years ago and compare this with the wisdom and competence you have today. Chances are that you have come a long way in your development. At a deep level, life is change. It is the seasons coming and going. It is being born, growing up and growing old. It is distinct events – beautiful and sad ones – that bring an end to life as we knew it. And it is thousands of small, slowly-building shifts of mind, emotion, and behaviour that pave the way for a lifelong movement toward greater freedom, fullness, and functioning in every aspect of our lives.And yet, certain unhelpful, limiting, and painful habits remain.

Developmental psychologist Robert Kegan and education expert Lisa Laskow Lahey have done some of the most insightful work on why this is the case. They argue that, as well as our enormous capacity to develop and change, each of us holds within ourselves a powerful set of assumptions about the world that keep us locked up in certain behaviours; these behaviours are meant to keep us safe from shame and embarrassment. It is easy to see how an attempt to change those behaviours – thereby putting our big assumptions at risk – meets with unconscious resistance, fear, and anxiety. And so it is that we continue to prefer a known hell over an unknown heaven.

Until we reflect on our behavioural patterns and until we develop the willingness to reach deep into our self-image and identity, change remains difficult – even change that is deeply desired.

Often, we find ourselves in environments that aim to keep us the same. Our families want to avoid feelings of confusion and discomfort when we act differently from what they expect. Our organizations demand we continue speaking and acting in precisely the way company culture has dictated for years.

Change can make us feel utterly frustrated and lonely. At those moments, it can be helpful to look at yourself from a distance: what are you in the middle of? What would it look like from the viewpoint of the moon or from the viewpoint of someone on a distant star? How about from the point-of-view of twenty years from now? Or hundred? Such shifts in perspective allow us to transcend our restricted versions of ourselves, to tap into something bigger, and perhaps even to let go of the prevailing narrative that change is so very difficult.

The leaders who visit THNK find themselves immersed in deeply changing social, ecological, and technological contexts. To make their way in this complex world requires a high level of skill, resilience, and adaptability. In the Executive Leadership Programme, participants take time away from work and day-to-day life. They enter a space where they can reflect on who they have become and set a direction for who they want to be. They are surrounded by peers who go through a similar process. Together, they create a brave space to test their big assumptions and to try out new behaviours. With this support network in place, THNKers experiment without fear of failure, creating lasting change for themselves – and for the world.

The most successful leaders are the ones who see personal change as one of the most profound adventures of life. They see the process of learning as the unchangeable nature of things.

This article, written by Natasha Bonnevalle originally appeared on the THNK School of Creative Leadership.The THNK School of Creative Leadership stands for creativity, innovation, and leadership to drive positive societal impact. Our international programmes and growing community enable the most audacious, curious, and committed from any sector to solve challenges, improve industries, and change systems. Learn more about THNK at"

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