Putting the Success Books On The Couch: Notes from Dr. Kevin Fleming

About 80% of my clients are in that population where information doesn’t change them. Telling, prodding, pointing out, pushing, convincing and outlining a plan doesn’t cut it— no matter how “right” the ideas are.

There are now 5,421 book titles on Amazon.com that have the “7 Secrets” in their title. Maybe the best way to create sustainable impact is to “shrink” the best success secrets down to actual reality; that is, to see what is more instrumental to change—the half truth that is silently on the other side of these quick tips. Ever try to bargain with one of those seven tips you read about? To see how you can keep one foot on one side of the fence doing something you don’t really want to change about yourself, while seeming to do the quick tip fix? If you have, then you’ve been bitten by a pseudo-attempt at transforming your life and potentially you could use a new paradigm. One that uncovers the half truth—the real key to change— that eludes the best of the best success-oriented books because it sits underneath mere information or advice, like a germ spreading and outwitting the best antibiotics.

In my research I’ve found that good habits form not just by practice, but by unlearning the illusionary aspect hidden beneath each well-intentioned tool. In every truth, there is a half-truth lurking and enticing one to believe that by doing the half-truth you are “basically” or “for the most part” doing what needs to be done. If you have a success book on your shelf, and its potential is gathering dust, maybe you need a model of unlearning, of behavior change not information—a book on un-learning your “would do’s” first in order to learn a new “should do.”

Below summarizes what I’ve seen in my executive coaching practice as the most common client-initiated factors in the beliefs about success—and then what I see as the half-truth that’s truly stopping one from reaching a personal or business goal.

SUCCESS FACTOR #1: Don’t Sit Around Wondering What to Do—Just Do It! Half-Truth: Search for the elements in your life where pro-activity has gotten the job done and use that as comfort for the reactive elements that you say you don’t need to look at now.

SUCCESS FACTOR #2: Have a Vision of the Endpoint in Mind Half-Truth: Define a vision in life, set goals, then accept your own early successes as evidence that it is your own goal and standard of success, that you are on your track, not that of someone else (parent, spouse, advisor, or for that matter a career professional).

SUCCESS FACTOR #3: Make Your Pile of Priorities Half-Truth: Get jazzed that because you’ve graphed your urgency and importance matrix, then you’ve adequately addressed time management effectively, while ignoring that many of your perceptions for each factor actually come from reactive parts of your brain (thereby violating Success Factor #1).

SUCCESS FACTOR #4: Smart Negotiations of a “Big Picture” Type (Win/Win) Half-Truth: Because conflict sucks, reinforce the belief that your solution truly is a win/win and not just a rationalization that someone actually does “lose.”

SUCCESS FACTOR #5: Get a Deep 360-Like, Self-Detached Understanding of the Other Position Half-Truth: Seek to understand but do so as a technique and hope that the other party won’t see that you’re using empathy so strategically that you’ve become inauthentic.

SUCCESS FACTOR #6: Brainstorm Non-Defensively/Creative Solutions Half-Truth: Brainstorm beyond reactive “gut” solutions until you are utterly convinced that you are co-creating an “optimal solution” and not one of mere compliance.

SUCCESS FACTOR #7: Seek Enlightenment Half-Truth: Get so caught up in the mechanics of self-development that this turns into narcissistic self-absorption. If one could really connect with these half truths, one is for sure on their way to success—the kind that lasts. The kind that is real, not the kind that you want it to be.

Reprinted with permission by Executive Decision Magazine, May/June 2007


Kevin J. Fleming is President & CEO of Effective Executive Coaching, Inc., his international coaching and transformative behavior change firm. Dr. Fleming received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame. Fleming's organizational and clinical practice for the past ten years has been devoted to refining “the neuroscience of leadership and behavior change in society” Please click here for the full bio on Dr. Fleming: http://effectiveexecutivecoaching.com/about-dr-fle...

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