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Can People Really Change?

You often hear the question, “Can people really change?”  Given my line of work, not surprisingly,  I come down on the side of saying, “Yes people can change and yes they do change.”  But clearly, a lot of people are more talk than action and conviction when it comes to personal change.

Last Saturday, I ran into a woman at the Farmer’s Market who is my poster child for the human capacity to make life-changing, positive change and sustain it over time.

When I first met this young woman, she had hired me as a coach to do a single coaching session (that was all she could afford) to help her figure out a career transition.  When we met, I saw across from me a person who was miserable in her job, bored with it, 30 pounds overweight, unhappy that she didn’t have a life partner and uninspired in how to find such a partner.  We had an hour and a half to spend together.

Before our session I had asked her to take the Strong Interest Inventory to get a fix on her professional interests.  As a Master Practitioner in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®), I had also asked her to do the MBTI®.  The assessments clearly showed that her job was a poor fit and pointed to some jobs with her current employer that would be better fits.

As we talked, it was clear she had many interests, none of which she was pursuing.  It was clear she wanted love, but wasn’t even looking in “all the wrong places.”  She wasn’t looking at all and wasn’t putting herself in any place she could even be found.  She was unhappy with her weight, but wouldn’t even take the stairs rather than the elevator at work.

After an hour, I asked her what seemed the obvious question:  “Why don’t you just do it?  Do something, almost anything instead of just complain about it?”  I gave her several specific suggestions:  for a new job at her current employer, for some groups where she could explore her many untapped hobbies and maybe even meet “Mr. Right,” and for some sports she clearly liked and didn’t pursue.”

The young woman flinched, swallowed hard and thanked me.  End of conversation.

Fast forward a year and a distantly familiar voice on the patio of Whole Foods said, “Hi, Carol.”  I looked and I couldn’t place the face, although she looked vaguely familiar, standing there and grinning at me.

There stood a radiant version of my previously miserable client:  30 pounds lighter, toned and fit, relaxed and smiling.  She simply said, “I did it.”

“Huh?  Did what?” I cleverly responded.

“What you said.  I did it.  All of it.  And I love my new job.  Let me introduce you to my fiance.  And, oh yes, I’m doing my first triathlon next week.”

I saw her again the other day–it’s now been about four years since our initial meeting–and she looks better than ever and still loves her job.  She and her husband are remodeling their  home.  And now she’s a competitive swimmer.

Why was she so successful?

Certainly her own readiness was a huge part of it, as well as her strength of will.  The assessment data provided clarity and diagnostic insight.

And as I look back, I think the simple, uncomplicated question of  “So why don’t you just do it?” nagged at her until she came up with the simple answer: “I will.  I’ll do all of it.”

Personal change is often a whole lot simpler than we make it.  Never easy … but often pretty darn simple.  So whatever it is that you want to change, “Why don’t you just do it?”

Austin, Texas

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Carol Kallendorf, PhD. | (512) 417-9756 

Jack Speer | (512) 417-9428


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