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Unlearning

“Change is easy!” said no one ever.

Learning new things is hard. Adjusting to new circumstances is uncomfortable. It’s widely accepted that to do something new it’s going to be a little tricky.

There’s another part of change that’s rarely mentioned and that’s the unlearning. Whenever you’re doing something a different way or trying to create a new habit or making a big change in your life there’s a whole lot of unlearning that has to happen. Even when the change is good and something you highly desire there’s still unlearning that has to happen.

Unlearning means looking at our ways of being – the things that on most days we accept as a given.

There are a couple of examples I see over and over.

The first is folks who are transitioning from working in an office setting to a remote setting. This is a chance they want, often one they’ve asked for or sought out for years, yet when they finally get the ability to work remotely or land in a company that allows remote work, the change is extremely difficult.

You go into working from home with high hopes:
I’ll use my commute time to work out instead.
I’ll be so much more productive because I won’t have co-workers distracting me.
I’ll be able to cook myself healthy foods during the day.

Reality often looks more like this:
Why am I sleeping until the moment before my first meeting?
Why am I working whenever I walk past my computer?
Why do I feel more sluggish at the end of the day?

There’s a huge amount of unlearning that has to be done in this situation. In a traditional office setting someone else creates the structure for you. You’re expected to arrive at a certain time and leave at a certain time. When it’s up to you, you not only have to create your own structure, but you’ve got to unlearn the ways of being that have existed for years.

Communication is another huge place unlearning is needed. We all grew up learning ways to communicate from the people around us. Maybe you saw explosive arguments or maybe you saw very limited communication. If you now want to communicate with others in a more productive way, not only do you have to learn those new skills, you have to unlearn all of those early observations that shaped you. Those are the things that tend to feel almost like you have no control over them. They can feel so deeply ingrained that you don’t even realize they’re there.

As I’ve said before and will say over and over again – pause. Take a deep breath. Be gentle with you. Change is hard. The unlearning is a bumpy ride…but you can totally handle it.

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