Sunday, November 4, 2012

Consultant, heal thyself.

This is one of my favorite weekends of the year, the first weekend in November. Every year for the past four years I have begun the weekend working as a trainer at the congregational development conference that I now help to run. Three years ago on the first day of that particular weekend, a Friday, I got the call that changed the course of my life as a parent and mother forever. So there's that. And in the curriculum of the training this is the weekend we always teach something called Force Field Analysis, which sounds like a cool sci-fi trick and is really a super helpful way to think about any sort of change on a personal or organizational level.

Credit goes to Kurt Lewin, who is one of the big superstars of organization development, who theorized that the reason systems don't change is because the forces at play in an organizational system like stability, and so they work to maintain the status quo. This means that whenever someone is contemplating a change to the current state, their are forces already present driving this potential change as well as forces already present restraining the change. The forces work together to maintain stability.

So, if one were to chart out as comprehensively as possible what the desired change is (move from _____ to _____) and the forces involved that are driving and restraining that change it becomes much clearer how to strategize about moving the desired change forward.  The theory goes that the best way to do this is to weaken a restraining force, enabling the driving forces that are already present to move the change along. If this isn't possible, one looks at strengthening the driving forces, or maybe even adding a key driving force - although some theorists think that adding forces is counterproductive because organizations tend to respond with a balancing new restraining force.

We teach this to teams from churches so they can use it to plan interventions in their congregations. But this weekend I've been thinking about it terms of my own health and well being. I want to make some changes toward overall better health in terms of exercise and nutrition. I think it is helpful to think about the forces driving this desire for change and those restraining it. On the driving side I want to feel better, sleep better, and I don't like how I look in pictures. Also, working in a hospital has gotten me in touch with how I am not maintaining my physical self to the best of my ability and some of the potential consequences of that. On the restraining side I've got my busy schedule, lack of planning, love of late-night sweet snacking, and the fact that I have that stereotypical tendency to eat my feelings. Augmenting the late night feeling eating thing is Andrew working nights - like many extroverts I have this deep suspicion that the stuff I do when no one can see me doesn't count. Alas, if only it were so!

So according to FFA, the ideal thing is to weaken a restraining force, which seems more doable than my usual plan which is WORK OUT EVERY DAY UNTIL YOU FAIL AND THEN EAT ICE CREAM. Since no forces will be strengthened or weakened during vacation week I have some time to ruminate on this - what's more effective, planning out diet and exercise or reducing time commitment so I can prioritize health? Do I need a more specific goal, like don't eat after 7pm or work out 2x a week? These are some of the things I hope to spend some of this week's downtime figuring out, so I can stage a positive intervention on that most basic of organizations - the single human self.

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