Sharma: Avoid the 4 F’s Syndrome

Most training and learning doesn’t last. No stickiness. We attend a seminar and vow to transform our lives. We say we’ll be better parents, more effective leaders and wiser human beings. Two days later, it’s back to business as usual—seeing the negative, playing the victim and being cranky. The learning didn’t work because we didn’t change.

Having helped thousands of people create sustained change, and businesses around the world win in their markets, I’ve identified four main reasons people resist change and often don’t take the steps to elevate their careers and their lives, even when they have the opportunity to do so. With greater awareness of these four factors—which I call “The 4 Fs Syndrome” —you can make better choices. And when you make better choices, you are certain to experience better results.

Big idea: Personal leadership begins with self-awareness because you can’t improve a weakness or a blind spot you don’t even know about. In other words, once you know better, you can do better. Here are the four things that keep us from making the changes we want to make:

Fear. People fear leaving their safe harbor of the known and venturing off into the unknown. Human beings crave certainty—even when it limits them. Most of us don’t like trying something new—it brings up our discomfort. The key here is to manage your fear by doing the very thing that frightens you. That’s the best way to destroy a fear. Do it until you’re no longer scared. The fears you run away from run toward you. The fears you don’t own will own you. But behind every fear wall lives a precious treasure.

Failure. No one wants to fail. So most of us don’t even try. Sad. We don’t even take that first step to improve our health or to deepen our working relationships or to realize a dream. In my mind, the only failure in life is the failure to try. And I deeply believe that the greatest risk you can ever take is not taking risks. Take that small step and do it fast. Sports superstar Michael Jordan once said “There was never any fear for me, no fear of failure. If I miss a shot, so what?” Failure is just an essential part of realizing success. There can be no success without failure.

Forgetting. Sure, we leave the seminar room after an inspirational workshop ready to change the world. But then we get to the office the next day and reality sets in. Difficult teammates to deal with. Unhappy customers to satisfy. Demanding bosses to appease. Uncooperative suppliers. No time to act on the commitments we made for personal and professional leadership. So we forget them. Here’s a key to success: keep your commitments top of mind. Heighten your awareness around them. Better awareness—Better choices. Better choices—Better results. Keep your self-promises front and center. Don’t forget them. Put them on a 3 x 5 card that you post on your bathroom mirror and read every morning. Seems silly—works beautifully (you should see my bathroom mirror). Talk about them a lot (you become what you talk about). Write about them each morning in your journal.

Faith. Too many people have no faith. They are cynical. “This leadership training and personal development stuff doesn’t work.” Or “I’m too old to change.” Cynicism stems from disappointment. Cynical and faithless people were not always like that. They were filled with possibilities and hope as kids. But they tried and perhaps failed. And rather than staying in the game, recognizing that failure is the highway to success, they shut down and grew cynical. Their way to avoid getting hurt again.

So there you go, the “4 Fs” of why we resist transformation and show real leadership within our lives. Understand them and you can then manage and overcome them, because awareness really does precede success. And ordinary people really can craft extraordinary lives. I see it happen all the time. You truly can get to greatness. Trust me. But you have to start. And how will you know if you don’t even try?

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