“Pessimism never won any battle.”
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
In our last lesson, I talked about making personal changes this year and the success my students have had when they followed Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler’s (2011) Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success.
In my business networking group, I offered to work with anyone who was interested in the change process. If you are interested in taking on a personal change project, you need to find at least one other person who is interested in making a change. You don’t need me. There is nothing magical about my presence, but I will do my best to guide you through the change process through each lesson over the next month.
Let’s begin with the concept of willpower. Willpower is a good starting point. As Eisenhower said, “Pessimism never won any battle.” Nevertheless, willpower isn’t a magic bullet. It is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for change.
The authors argue that the reason you fail is that you do not realize how much the odds of change are stacked against you. Many people rely on willpower only to be outmatched as the other sources of influence conspire to overwhelm them. They wrote:
The willpower trap keeps them in a depressing cycle that begins with heroic commitment to change, which is followed by eroding motivation and terminated inevitably by relapse into old habits. Then, when the built-up pain of their bad habits becomes intolerable, they muster up another heroic but doomed attempt at change. We feel as if we are ascending a summit when in fact we’re simply walking a treadmill: Lots of effort; no progress. That’s the willpower trap.
Ego scire Latine
I am not sure that my translation is correct, but it should read: “I will learn Latin.” I am just learning.
Since students in my Organizational Behavior class are taking on a change project, I decided that this year I would learn 7th grade Latin so that I could help my daughter when she gets into it next year. We homeschool, and our curriculum will have her translating large sections of the Iliad by her senior year. I need to be able to help her. I realized that, despite my best intentions, I have not learned any Latin last year. I had the Latin books sitting on my desk for the better part of a year, and I told myself that I would do it every day, but despite my desire, I have not learned Latin. Over the last year, I read the first three pages of the book. And this is the point: Willpower is not enough.
Now, I have fully embraced the change process and I have gained leverage on myself using the six sources of influence. As I write this lesson, I have completed 2 & ½ of 15 lessons covering 39 exercises and 42 pages of the First Year Latin book. I have completed this in 16 days.
How did I do it? It wasn’t a fresh burst of willpower; I did it by harnessing the six sources of influence outlined below. If we can get these sources on our side, we significantly increase the odds that we will be successful.
The Six Sources of Influence
The six sources of influence are listed below. Over the next three weeks, I will describe each of them in greater detail, but for now, here is a list:
Source 1 – Personal motivation (What do you need to do to “love what you hate?”)
Source 2 – Personal ability (How will you “do what you can’t?”)
Source 3 – Social motivation (What must you do to “turn accomplices into friends?”)
Source 4 – Social Ability (What must you do to “turn accomplices into friends?”)
Source 5 – Structural motivation (How will you “invert the economy?”)
Source 6 – Structural ability (What will you do to “control your space?”)
Three months from now, we will look back and see how much we have changed.
What About You?
Are you ready to commit to a personal change? Join us. Get the book. Find at least one other person in your group that will be an accountability partner, and choose a goal. Make sure that you can quantify that goal. Let’s get started.
 Patterson, K., (2011). Change anything: The new science of personal success. New York: Business Plus. (pp. 5-6).
[i] Patterson, K., (2011). Change anything: The new science of personal success. New York: Business Plus. (pp. 10-11).
Dr. Darin Gerdes is an Associate Professor of management in the School of Business at Charleston Southern University. All ideas expressed on www.daringerdes.com are his own.
This post was originally created for Great Business Networking (GBN), a networking organization for business professionals where Dr. Gerdes is the Director of Education.