To be able to achieve the things we really want in life, we have to do what we haven’t done yet. We have to do something different, change a parameter in our life. This is common sense. Everyone knows that if they want to achieve something different from what they currently have, they have to change.
So why is it that despite most of us knowing that it is essential to change something about what we do in order to be successful, we still shy away from making that change? Why is it that individuals from under-represented communities have a hard time when it comes to change? To find practical insights on these questions, I sat down with ideamix coach Tanya who has a wealth of experience working on helping her clients effect change to achieve their goals.
Tanya is experienced in empowering individuals from under-represented communities, particularly women of immigrant background. Her style of coaching is best described as “self-rediscovery,” which plays an important role in coachees developing a better understanding of themselves, and thereby unlocks her coachees’ abilities to make the changes necessary to empower themselves to succeed.
The biggest obstacle
When it comes to seeking growth, embracing change may be our only necessary tool. However, it is often our biggest obstacle. Working with individuals from under-represented communities over many years, Coach Tanya sees a primary reason why they struggle in particular to respond effectively to change. Fear – specifically, the fear of doing things differently is the biggest reason. Often, individuals are “conditioned to believe that there’s one correct path to move forward in our lives, which in reality is never the case.” When this is a deeply held belief, it creates a fear of change, especially when the change involves asking for help or outside support.
This fear of asking for help is acutely felt by individuals from under-represented communities. For them, the biggest enemy is cultural conditioning: the process through which we absorb and interpret the influences, norms, and messaging from our environment and translate them into what we believe to be acceptable behaviors. For individuals from under-represented communities, change therefore implies going against family expectations. In addition, individuals from under-represented communities tend to want to fit in, and doing something different makes one stand out. Coach Tanya sums it up well when discussing her work with individuals from under-represented communities: they “already have the inherent belief that they are always going to have to work and try harder, which then is coupled with the cultural belief of there only being one correct path to success which you are not allowed to leave.” All of this conspires to make individuals in general, and individuals from under-represented communities in particular, inherently resistant to change.
Creating conscious change
How is it possible to deal effectively with change? How can any of us create change? Based on her experience, Coach Tanya has developed her own methodology: the 7C Cycle. At the foundation of the 7C Cycle is the idea that change is constant and happens in cycles. As a result, individuals must adapt to change in order to evolve. The dinosaurs tell us what we need to know about what happens to beings that do not evolve in the face of radical change. We all navigate micro changes, but the key to personal growth is conscious and greater change which requires a lot more effort.
Conscious change involves choosing to want to change or deal with change as a first step. Change is an active choice to make, it will not wash over you passively. After that, you need courage to go through the process of change, during which you build confidence. Confidence grows when you see the decision to change as an active one, and creates a positive flywheel enabling you to make choices more readily.
The fluid element of the whole change process, as Coach Tanya sees it, is commitment, which gets you through the messy middle. Commitment carries the whole process of change and empowerment because when you’re committed, you don’t stop the process, even when it feels hard. Going through the growth process helps you gain clarity on the importance of the change, its benefits and how it moves you closer towards your goals. After gaining this clarity you create and achieve the conscious change you wanted all along. Given the importance of courage and commitment in the process, it’s clear why individuals from under-represented communities sometimes struggle to make changes in opposition to strongly help cultural beliefs in their families and communities.
Responding to change
When trying to respond effectively to change it is most important to understand that there’s always something positive to be found in every kind of change, even in negative change like divorce or loss. Naturally, it always makes sense to understand what triggered and caused the change. During our conversation, Coach Tanya proposed this question: “Do you want to be a victim of change or do you want to be a conscious collaborator in the change?”
While change might be inescapable, it always presents a choice between collaborator and victim. As collaborators in change, we retain our power and agency. As victims, we lose both, and get dragged along by the change either way. The loss of power and agency leads to us feeling stuck and a downward spiral ensues.
The learning is clear: it isn’t enough simply to want change. You have to sit down and break down what you want to change and then create a roadmap to get there. The 7C Cycle is an amazing coaching tool to enable change.
Empowering individuals from under-represented communities
What is the first step towards empowering individuals from under-represented communities? Coach Tanya tells us: “Believing that you don’t have to do everything the way that everybody else has done it, and that change is available to you and you have the power to create it,” is the first important thing individuals from under-represented communities have to believe in. This first step involves leaving your comfort zone even when it looks good on the outside and you know it shields you from judgment. Being comfortable is different from being satisfied: when you’re satisfied, you don’t feel the need for change.
“Allowing yourself to let go of those expectations, to let go of other people’s opinions, to let go of what looks good and instead tap into what feels good, and what resonates deeply is the piece that’s empowering.” Bottom line? Allowing yourself to seek change, separate from your cultural mores and others’ expectations to create conscious change.
Support is vital
To be empowered to go through change, support is vital, and this where coaching is the obvious answer. When attempting change without support, it’s easy to fall back into doubt and familiar behaviors. In Coach Tanya’s work with individuals from under-represented communities, she’s learned they’re sometimes resistant to getting the support they need. It’s why coaching is so impactful for individuals from under-represented communities, because a coach acts as a “guide and cheerleader who is there to show you the things you can’t see or are resistant to seeing.”
Coaching is an objective extra set of eyes, which everyone needs, but is especially helpful for individuals from under-represented communities at times to help them embrace change outside their culture conditioning. A coach gives you an essential, different perspective to see things we are not able to see on our own.
Be a supporter and an ally
Change is an issue every individual has to deal with but it’s vital to recognize that some groups of people need more support to be empowered to feel confident in changing. As a white woman, I often think about what I can do despite who I am, to help women and individuals from under-represented communities in general feel empowered. I might never know what it’s like to be in the shoes of a person of color but every individual and group in our society deals with its own distinct problems and experiences.
For Coach Tanya, “empathizing and understanding that someone else’s experience is inherently different from yours” is the first step towards being supportive, empathetic and an ally. Support matters especially in helping people change and when you’re not alone but scaffolded, you don’t fear judgment, failure, or change.
What are your goals that remain unfulfilled? How will you create the changes necessary to achieve these goals? Coaching is an essential tool that asks precisely these questions and then helps each of us create a practical path to achieve our goals.