Summary sentence of “Recreate your Life”: Morty Lefkoe invites us to transform our current beliefs through the implementation of one of his methods, the Lefkoe method; because it is these beliefs that shape our lives and determine who we are, our choices and our impact on the world; if we can transform these beliefs, we will be able to access new, previously unimagined, opportunities to change our lives.
By Morty Lefkoe, 1997, 256 pages
This guest article was written by Alexandre Lagoutte from the blog dependance-affective.fr
Review and summary of “Recreate Your Life:
Chapter 1: Is profound change possible?
As you look around the world, you may feel a sense of despair about the fate of humanity. There are many problems such as crime, poverty and violence that seem impossible to solve.
Take a moment to imagine a different society. A society where people live with respect for each other and work together to build a better world. Also Imagine companies that value creativity and collaboration above ego and greed. Who wouldn’t want to live in such a world?
Now take a moment to look at your own life. You may have your own problems and they may seem impossible to overcome. You may have already tried many methods to improve your life, to become a better parent, or to achieve greater success in your job.
Yet, you always fall back into your old habits. You often wonder why you are not able to achieve what you think is within your grasp.
In the end, what can be done about it? What is it that doesn’t seem to connect between you and the rest of the world?
Something is wrong.
These scenarios may sound familiar:
You feel depressed from the moment you wake up. You can’t summon the energy to do everything you need to do. It’s even difficult for you to get out of bed in the morning. This is not really a case of depression but rather a lack of enthusiasm for your own life.
You lack motivation. At last, you manage to get out of bed but as you look in the mirror you remember the promise you made to yourself, the one to exercise a few times a week. You see that there is still time to do it this morning but you just can’t motivate yourself to do it.
The world seems lost to you. You turn on your television and settle down to watch the news. The world just seems full of problems, each one even worse than the previous one.
You are caught up in the “Rat Race”. You get to work and are immediately called into a meeting. And you are asked by management to deliver an even better service to your customers and you are promised a bonus if you meet your goals. You are fed up with your boss.
By the end of the day, you are exhausted. You return home to find you children slumped in front of the TV. They don’t seem to want to do anything else. You have suggested that they try various other activities, but they don’t seem to have any interest in anything else.
You may well be familiar with one or more of these scenarios. In fact, there are many more. In the end, you simply start to wonder if there are actually solutions to all these problems.
A promise of new possibilities.
It is after this rather grim start to the book that the author introduces us to a method he calls “Decision Maker Technology/Process” (later named “DM Process” and which I will simply call “the method” in this column for the sake of literal translation). It is a set of tools designed to help us solve the various problems presented above.
After he had studied hundreds of cases, the author noticed that the main problem was not a lack of commitment to positive changes. Rather, it was the inability to initiate and sustain them over the long term that seemed to be the main problem.
The goal of this method is to eliminate dysfunctional behavior patterns and emotions that prevent change. This method can, therefore, work extremely well for problems with alcohol, food, phobias or even violence.
This is not a new kind of psychotherapy.
The author informs us that many clients have already consulted psychotherapists in the past. Though this demonstrates their desire to improve themselves, they have not managed to achieve permanent change in their behavior.
Lefkoe believes that the reason people fail to change is that they think that all the change requires is for them to obtain the information and be motivated to implement it. But, for him, the equation “Information + Motivation” is not synonymous with change or success.
A seatbelt is an item that protects us when we drive. Everyone knows this and it is easy to appreciate why you should put one on. Yet, many people still decide to drive without one.
And because we think that information and motivation are all we need to make a change in our lives, we blame ourselves that we didn’t act beforehand.
One of the problems with the many different types of psychotherapy is that their main focus seems to be on the need to change bad habits, but they neglect to take into consideration what each individual actually believes. Some of them will only take into account the person’s symptoms and ignore all other aspects.
Lefkoe’s method focuses directly on the remedy of each person’s beliefs in order to solve the problem in its entirety. It also promises rapid and definitive changes. Ultimately, this method is presented, above all else, as a process that must be creative and spiritual in order to unlock an infinite number of new possibilities.
Does what you believe in hold you back?
Our beliefs have a tremendous influence on our lives. They are how we perceive reality, how we judge things and decide if they are correct or not. But in reality, beliefs function primarily as boxes that restrict us in our choices and actions.
For example, you may believe that relationships never work. If this is one of the things that you believe, then you may behave in this way:
- You don’t want to let people get close to you.
- You don’t want to try to solve your relationship problems.
- Don’t want to spend time alone.
- You don’t want to turn superficial relationships into more meaningful ones.
As long as you continue to hold this belief, you will not experience relationships that satisfy you fully. In order to solve your relationship issues, you have to remedy how you perceive this attitude to life.
Another common belief is that you must never make mistakes if you wish to succeed in life. Failure is one of the worst things that can happen to you in life and needs to be avoided at all costs. If this is your thought process, these may well be the kind of things that you do:
- You do things the same way every day and never change anything.
- You are more focused to try to find an external cause for your mistakes rather than to question yourself.
- And you are defensive as soon as someone criticizes you.
You find yourself trapped when you believe things like this. You show no desire to approach situations from a new perspective, which may involve you to take risks or accept criticism to improve yourself, which may then lead to new opportunities in your life.
Ultimately, your beliefs shape your life in important ways.
Beliefs also shape your emotions.
Just as your beliefs shape the way that you behave, they also shape your range of emotional experiences.
For example, when you see a dog jump up and down, you might find this funny, if you think dogs are friendly animals. On the other hand, if you think dogs are dangerous, it may well frighten you when see it do this.
Your beliefs shape your own perception of life.
Everything you see around you is conditioned by your belief system. For example, in winter when you see snow you will simply call it “snow”. For Eskimos, there are a dozen different shades of snow with completely different names. You can choose to believe that Eskimos see optical illusions, rather than truly different snow, and just stick to your own perception of snow. The same rings true for everything around us. Each individual perceives the world differently based on their beliefs.
Put your beliefs to one side and allow yourself new opportunities.
Quite simply, eliminate your beliefs to create new possibilities for yourself. If you are able to do this, you will gradually learn to open the door towards other opportunities which will enable you to implement new solutions.
If you can implement the principles of the author’s method, presented in the second part, you too can learn to eliminate your beliefs. The result of this will be that you become the creator of your own existence.
You can also change the world.
With this approach, you will also be able to change the world around you, even though this may seem extremely far-fetched at first. Beliefs come into play in all aspects of life, such as laws and procedures. It is totally plausible to be able to act on these points.
Chapter 2: Principles of the method.
The author asks you to reflect on these principles:
- Existence is simply a function of consciousness. In order for something to exist in your eyes, you need to be aware of it. This principle can be applied to objects or concepts. Your vision of the beautiful or the ugly for example depends ultimately on your consciousness.
- Our language is our main tool to enable us to differentiate. What you perceive is also determined by your personal beliefs, which depend largely on your culture and environment. The most important cultural element is language. Language is our main communication tool. It is through language that we can categorize and separate things and thus create our reality.
- There is no such thing as truth. There is only your own interpretation of the world around you. For example, there are no comfortable chairs. There are only chairs that you find comfortable. It is how you see the world that builds your own reality and beliefs. But ultimately your interpretation of the world only exists in your mind.
- To create a belief is to create your reality. Your life is continuously constructed in accordance with what you believe to be true. As a result of this, it is increasingly difficult to change a belief once it is well established in your mind.
- When you reject a belief, you change your reality and create new possibilities. Lefkoe bases his methodology on this principle, in order to help people develop and create a new reality. There can be no real change in your life until you change your beliefs.
Before you can change a belief, it is important to identify it and ask yourself how it got there. This is what the next chapter focuses on.
Chapter 3: What Holds You Back?
Belief in yourself is something that is developed early in childhood. It shapes who we are and how we see the world. Lack of self-esteem is often the source of many other problems such as violence, addiction, relationship problems, etc.
In the beginning.
We are born with an abundance of possible routes to follow as we grow. We do not yet have a label that defines who we are. But we do begin, nevertheless, to create our own beliefs about the people around us and our environment.
Your parents are not the cause of your beliefs.
Your parents may have neglected some aspects of your childhood, or they may not have shown you as much love as they could have. But your own beliefs come from your interpretation of their behavior towards you.
The consequences of low self-esteem.
Let’s imagine that you have built up this belief system: “I’m not useful enough; I’m not a good person; There’s something wrong with me; I’m not worth it; I don’t matter.” Now let’s imagine that you have created the exact opposite belief system.
Which belief system is likely to cause depression or anxiety? And conversely, which one can help you to establish fruitful relationships with others? The answer may seem obvious, but many people forget this.
People identify with their own belief systems. An example of this would be that they rationalize their lack of confidence as part of their own personality.
Create a survival strategy.
Imagine that you are still a young child who has created many negative beliefs. Gradually you realize that you will grow up and determine your own path in life.
That’s when you realize that you have a problem to solve: how will you be able to build your own life with so many negative beliefs? And will you actually be able to succeed in the end? These are the questions that will cause you a whole load of anxiety and worries.
Most people will adopt survival strategies to avoid the negative emotions that are caused by this anxiety. From there, they may become addicted to something or develop new beliefs that will seek to help comfort them.
For example, a person who believes that they are worthless will say to themselves, “I am useful because…” in an attempt to justify themselves. These are strategies that will only increase anxiety in the long run. When we do this, the life we live ends up based solely on the strategies we have put in place.
So it is important to eliminate both the core beliefs and the compensatory beliefs that have been implemented in order to try to deal with them.
Genuine self-respect is unconditional.
Genuine self-respect is not vanity, arrogance or boastfulness. Nor is it a matter to convince others that we are important. It is about the ability to be in tune with yourself and to create your own reality.
Be a creator.
You are the creator of your own emotions and the moment that you change your distorted beliefs is when you will be able to transform them. You will change and, as a result, so will your reality.
The author ends this first section with this and then he encourages us to explore his process to change our own lives.
Chapter 4: How does this method work?
You may well have experienced the issue of a failure to notice any long-term results from when you have read and tried to apply the methods written about in personal development books. It might work for a short time and you feel inspired to implement what you have learned, but ultimately you end up back where you started. The purpose of the DM Process is to put in place definitive results.
There are 7 steps in this method. The author proposes to illustrate each step through the example of one of his former clients, Joan.
- Pinpoint a problem in your life. Joan suffers from impostor syndrome. She feels that she is not nearly as good a person as others say she is. She feels depressed about her life. More than anything, she seeks meaning in her life.
- Identify the beliefs that are the cause your problems. Joan thinks she is not a good enough person, she does not feel worthy enough. It is important to determine the primary negative belief. In Joan’s case, it is the belief that she is not worthy of the attention or praise that other people give her.
- Identify the source of your core belief. Most of our beliefs are formed before we are six years old and are as a result of events that were often repeated in childhood. So it’s important to explore this part of your life to find the source of your beliefs. Joan had no one to play with as a child. She often felt very alone. Joan rarely received love or praise from her parents. It seems that Joan’s belief that she was not worthy enough for others came from her parents’ behaviour towards her.
- Find other possible interpretations. Based on what you were able to put forward in step three, you will now need to look for other possible interpretations in relation to this. The author asks Joan to interpret her parents’ behavior towards her from a different perspective. At the end of this step, she will come up with these six new interpretations:
- The problem was her parents’ behavior and attitude towards her, she wasn’t the problem.
- Her parents may have experienced problems when they were children. It was just a repetition of their upbringing.
- Her mother may not have known how to demonstrate her love.
- Her mother was frustrated with her own life.
- Joan may not have been the person her parents wanted.
- Maybe her parents were just not aware of how to bring up a child properly.
The author demonstrates that each of Joan’s interpretations is viable and may explain her parents’ poor behavior. Joan thought that the fact she didn’t receive much love from her parents was her fault, but there are alternative explanations.
- Learn to appreciate the fact that you can’t “see” this belief in reality. The author explains to Joan that she can’t physically observe the fact that she is not worthy of love. It is purely down to how she was treated by her parents and how she came to believe that it was her fault that they acted the way they did. But in essence, this is just one of her interpretations of reality and it only exists in her mind. Everything you think is true is just your interpretation of reality.
- Discard the old assumption. There are two ways to know that a certain belief has been eliminated:
First, when you actually think about it you can see that it doesn’t reflect who you are. Joan eventually recognized that she was not unworthy of those around her and it wasn’t who she was. It did not fit in with her true character.
Second, you can notice new potential options in your life that were blocked out by the old belief.
As a general rule, it is necessary for you to eliminate a number of long held views in order to make a complete change in your life. Joan is not yet totally confident in herself because she still harbors other negative beliefs. She will have to repeat the same process for each of her beliefs in order to overcome her depression and find meaning in her life.
Become a creator. Once you finally understand that your beliefs are only one possible interpretation of reality, you will be able to recognize this more clearly throughout your life. You will be able to easily eliminate beliefs that hold you back so that you can create a reality that fits in with who you really are. The task now is for you to transform yourself from an interpreter of your reality to a creator.
A spiritual process.
The author explains that there are three ways to know something. Understand it; experience it; and create it. You can understand how to ride a bike but not really know how to do it until you actually ride it.
The author explains that you should now seek to take the process further and create your own reality. With the use of this method, you will need to look further than just what surrounds you, in order to successfully create the kind of life that you want.
Chapter 5: Use this method every day.
Have you ever overslept and thought that the day ahead of you won’t be a good one? If this is your immediate thought, it will have a huge influence on the rest of your day. “Today will be a bad day” will be what you believe for the rest of the day.
It is possible to use a simplified version of the author’s method so that this kind of belief does not become the actual reality of your day. The most important aspect of this method is that you must be able to identify the causes of what you believe in so that you can use it to its utmost efficiency. This explains why you need to practice before you can use it effectively on yourself and your loved ones.
On the other hand, it is possible, and much easier, to use it for small everyday problems, because you already know the cause of your beliefs. In this case, it is simply the fact that you got up late that gives you the impression that you will have a bad day.
The author then suggests a number of practical examples to illustrate this simplified version of his method.
Example 1. When you wake up: “Today will be a bad day”.
How many times have you told yourself that you will have a bad day because your alarm failed to go off, your car wouldn’t start, you missed a bus or you spilled your coffee? This belief eventually becomes reality and you do happen to have a bad day. Here’s how to avoid it, should you happen to find yourself in that kind of situation in the near future.
- What is the belief? “Today will be a bad day”.
- What was it that led to this conclusion? Your car wouldn’t start, your alarm clock didn’t go off, you were late for work… There are many possible scenarios.
- Are there other ways to interpret this? In fact, there are quite a few, such as:
- The first event of the day has no connection with the rest of the day;
- If the first event of the day is negative, the others can all be positive;
- You just got off to a bad start and the rest of the day will be fantastic.
And there are many other possible interpretations of this event.
- Is this the sort of attitude or outlook that you have? Can you actually physically see this belief? Can you actually see that your day will be a bad day? Is it not just one of your interpretations of a situation?
- Do you still think what you believe is correct?
Example 2. A child’s fear: “Crowds are dangerous”.
The author tells us about one of his daughters, Blake, who was scared of crowded places. She believed that “crowds are dangerous”. This belief became reality one day when Blake walked along a crowded street and was accidentally burned by a lady’s cigarette.
The author then asked Blake to come up with other possible interpretations for what happened, such as that most other people are more careful, that this lady didn’t pay enough attention to what she did with her cigarette, but not everyone behaves in that way.
“Crowds are dangerous” is ultimately an interpretation of the situation that Blake experienced but is not necessarily typical in such situations.
Example 3. A belief held in relation to success: “I’ll never make it”.
If you are someone who likes and plays sport, have you ever fouled out of a team sport or made a mistake in the game? How did you feel at the time? You may have felt discouraged, and believed that you would never really be any good at the game. This becomes your belief, and it may slowly creep up on you when it happens again.
You can interpret this situation differently, just tell yourself that you simply lost your concentration for a moment and that for the rest of the game you performed well, for example.
If you are able to immediately alter your interpretation of the situation, you then have the ability to stop it in its tracks permanently.
Example 4. A child’s belief: “I suck at math”.
The author explains that a girl he knew, Elizabeth, thought she was bad at math. This belief came about as a result of a pop quiz, in which Elizabeth failed, and the teacher named all of the students who failed the test, in front of the whole class.
So Elizabeth sought out other possible interpretations of this event: She just didn’t prepare well enough for the exam; she may not have been good at math today but she has the capacity to improve in the future or the test that day was really hard, for example.
The belief “I suck at math” is just an interpretation of what happened but is not reality.
Example 5. A common phobia: “Flying is dangerous”.
Have you ever read about a plane crash and concluded that “airplanes are dangerous”? This is a perfect example of where you can easily find the source of a belief.
“Airplanes are dangerous” is only one of your interpretations of an event, it is not reality. You could very well tell yourself instead that plane crashes rarely happen or that some airlines are less safe than others.
Example 6. Work scenarios.
This method can also be applied to many work situations. Whether it is due to a change of strategy within your company, with the thought that “this new direction will not work”. Or the arrival of a new manager who seems “rather incompetent” for the job.
Example 7. “A belief cannot be eliminated forever”.
If this is what you believe, and many people do, then what you actually believe will eventually come true, it is probably the fundamental reason why you find it so difficult to change, in spite of your many attempts.
If you feel that it is not feasible to eliminate restrictive beliefs or to change the way you behave, you can choose to look at it in a different way. You can tell yourself that you haven’t yet tried the right method; you just weren’t ready to break down that belief, or you weren’t aware that it was your own way to view reality, not the reality itself.
To be able to rid yourself of this core belief is essential to the successful elimination of all other beliefs.
Chapters 6, 7 and 8:
The author describes three specific scenarios over the next hundred pages of the book. These different stories simply serve as an illustration of the method used by the author. I have not included them in my review, as they are too lengthy. Ultimately, they do not provide any essential information.
Chapter 9: Raise Your Children
Parents’ words and actions with respect to their children can create beliefs, which may be mostly positive, if they are reiterated over and over again. The purpose of this chapter is to support parents to provide the best possible attitudes and values for their children.
The “job” of parents.
Parenthood is a full-time job. To do it well, requires you to be properly trained and educated. All jobs, whatever they may be, demand some form of training. Yet, for most people, you become a parent as a natural process without the need for training. For the author, this is an absurd way to look at the role of a parent. You are almost obligated to learn a variety of things in order to offer the best choice to your children.
Before you become a parent, it is important to learn:
- What you want for your children;
- How your children can build their self-confidence, both in themselves and in life;
- That your children’s beliefs are mostly shaped by the relationships you have with them;
- And that your main role is to help your children build positive beliefs.
What do you want for your children?
Take a piece of paper and simply write down the three attributes you would like your children to develop by the time they are adults.
Some of the possibilities are: self-discipline; responsibility; good habits to learn; self-confidence; good relationships with others; and financial success.
Once you have written down the attributes that you would like them to acquire, ask yourself how you can help them to achieve them. Make a second list, on your sheet of paper, and write down the things you can do every day that would help them accomplish this. It’s not about what you should do, but what you will do.
Make a third list and write down the attitudes and habits you can use to help your children develop self-confidence. You can be a source of encouragement, if you can offer them unconditional love, for example.
A final list can be used to identify certain things that you do which can prevent your children’s development of their self-confidence. It may be that you try to exert too much control over them or that you are too protective of them.
You are not a bad parent.
The purpose of this exercise is not to make you think you are a bad parent. The purpose is simply to help you do the best you can to create the most positive attitudes in your children.
The primary role of parents.
The author believes that the primary role of a parent is to help their children in their ability to make positive decisions for both their own lives and their own well-being.
To assess if you are currently able to fulfil this role perfectly, you can ask yourself this simple question: what will my child conclude about life and themselves from all the things that we have experienced and discussed together? If the results seem to be positive, then you’ve succeeded in your goal. If not, just apologize to your child and try to improve next time.
It is essential that you are very careful about what you do or say in front of your children. Your own behavior is a model for how they form their own beliefs. However, remember that you do not create their beliefs. They only come about as a result of the way they interpret a situation.
Beliefs that inhibit your children’s behavior.
Next, the author outlines six of the most common beliefs held by parents that can hold back how their children behave and view the world.
- I am responsible for my child’s behavior. If you think this your child will never be fully independent.
- Children should behave the same way as adults. A child is not like an adult. They may be livelier and more energetic in certain situations, for example. It is important that you don’t attempt to make them behave the way you do, as this will only limit their life experiences.
- Children cannot be trusted. The author suggested to her daughter, Blake, that over the course of a few weeks that she could ask for whatever she wanted to eat. Blake went a bit wild for a few days, which made her realize that she couldn’t control her diet herself. So she decided to ask her parents for help in order to get back to a healthy routine in terms of her food intake. Children always return to things that are good for them if you have instilled the right beliefs in them.
- I’m the boss. When your child asks you “why?” if you turn down their request, are you are the sort of person who replies “because I’m your mom/dad”? The need to give genuine reasons is important for your children’s development. They need to be able to understand why you turned down their request so they can better interpret your thought process.
- My job is to get results with my child. If this is what you think is important, it will only detract from the pleasure you get as you watch your child grow. Many parents believe that the outcome is more important than anything else. They ask their children to finish a book, to finish their meal, to play a game with them and to follow the rules perfectly. You may have been frustrated if your child failed to do something you had expected them to complete. For some parents, the most important thing is to have the “best” children. Ultimately, this is just a projection that adults make on their own children. Remember that children should not behave the same as adults and the most important thing is to help them develop the best possible views about themselves
- I have control. One of the most common beliefs is that parents have the power to determine how their children’s lives will turn out. Many of the things children do or feel are not due to what they learn directly but rather to the beliefs they have developed from what they learn. It is not possible to control your children’s beliefs and if you attempt to do so, it will only create a negative environment in relation to the development of their confidence. What you can do is build an environment that is supportive of the development of good beliefs.
The beliefs that can lead to child abuse.
Much of what we believe can affect our children’s behavior. But sometimes certain things we hold to be true can lead to the worst kind of behavior: child abuse.
The author tells the story of Harold who used to spank his children when they didn’t behave the way he wanted them to. Nowadays, he no longer acts like this, but he still continues to yell at them. When the author discussed things with him, he discovered that Harold has a belief that he is not a good enough person if everything is not under his control. This belief, as a consequence, has an effect on his own children.
The author then tells us the story of Peter, who finds he instinctively shouts at his children if they do not listen to him. Peter believes he is “too weak a person” and therefore needs to impose his authority to comfort himself. The end result is that his own children suffer the consequences.
Most of the time, it is the fear of “weakness” or “the loss of control” that will cause parents to become violent with their children. It’s in an attempt to control their anxiety, or make up for a lack of self-confidence, that leads them to be brutal with their children.
Victims create victims.
Many adults behave as if things that aren’t relevant to them have an influence on their lives and the way they live. They imagine they could live a better life if their spouse, boss or children were different. In other words, they “victimize” themselves.
We often are subject to orders or instructions, such as “don’t do that” or “do it quicker”. On top of that, people may have blamed you for the fact that they are sad. This will cause you to believe that all the things around you determine how you live your life and how you feel. You may even be convinced that this is true.
The author points out the comparison with society’s problems. Many people complain about problems and prefer to blame others rather than do something about the problems themselves.
How I operate as a parent.
The author states that the only time to intervene forcefully is when children are about to do something that could harm someone or when it’s something really important.
Focus on the possibilities, not the problems.
It’s impossible for parents to give their children too much encouragement to explore new possibilities in their lives.
Each child is unique, but parents are sometimes too worried that their child will not behave the same as others (and they believe that they should).
The author uses the example of Leonardo da Vinci who, as a child, loved to experiment with new things. His father was convinced that he would never achieve anything worthwhile in his life if he continued in the same way and was very concerned about his dysfunctional behavior in relation to others. History shows us that Leonardo da Vinci was one of the greatest geniuses ever.
There are plenty of examples throughout history of geniuses who behaved differently from others as children. The author also names Albert Einstein, Picasso and Thomas Edison.
It is important not to try to change your child’s behavior because it is unique. The most important thing is to help them to believe in themselves and be self-confident. Obviously, if you think their behavior will hinder their progress you can sit down and discuss things with them and give them some guidance on how they approach life’s challenges.
You still need skills.
Skills can only work properly if they are connected to your own beliefs. It is not possible to use skills effectively if you don’t really believe in them. So, it is important to work on your own beliefs first.
You could read some books on how to be a better parent. But it is important to remember that it is how you interpret situations that is most important for your children. For example, when your child becomes a teenager, it is really important to read books that relate to this stage of life to understand them and how they behave.
Lefkoe tells us about his daughter, Blake, who was a lot less communicative as she became a teenager. He felt responsible for this situation but, as he learned from what he had read, that adolescence is a time when people need to assert their independence. This was what Blake chose to do to assert her independence.
That’s why it’s important to constantly learn when you are a parent. It makes it easier to discard certain beliefs about your children’s natural development.
Chapter 10: Companies that thrive on change.
The key is culture.
The author has observed that people’s behavior at work does not depend solely on their own personal beliefs. The beliefs they share with their colleagues are also very important. Kefkoe refers to this as the corporate culture.
The culture of the company can be observed through its rules, procedures, organizational methods and management style. The company cannot apply an effective strategy, be it marketing or financial, if it is not aligned with this culture.
Kefkoe uses department store chains as an example: over a long period of time, their culture has been based on the idea of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to business. Their culture has long been based around the premise that they sell the cheapest possible products, with the best possible presentation and quality, in order to make a profit. This manifests itself in a number of different ways:
Salespeople have the primary goal to get money from customers but they do not have a “high profile” status in the company.
- It is important to choose the right products to sell to customers.
- Management compiles customer data from items that have been purchased.
- It is beneficial to spend time on “customer satisfaction” in meetings.
In the 1980s, many of the big chains began to collapse. But one of them still managed to grow rapidly at that time, Nordstrom (note: a chain of stores in the U.S.A.). The main difference was that its corporate culture was based on customer service, that had to be faultless in order to make a profit.
The culture of a company plays a huge role in its evolution. It can lead to its failure or its growth. This is even more pronounced in a world like ours that evolves and changes continuously.
Create real change.
In order for a company to adopt a culture that is always able to adapt to its environment, it must implement what the author calls a “third-order” change. The author first explains what “first-order” and “second-order” changes are.
“First order” change: This relates to the improvement of what we currently have but without the need for a change in beliefs. It could be, for example, the installation of new software to speed up various procedures. This is often the result of the “Motivation + Information” formula we talked about earlier.
“Second order” change: This is just the need for a change in beliefs to create new behaviors. It is important to keep in mind that it is not possible to be completely sure of what the results of these new beliefs will be.
A change of “third order”.
In our fast-paced world, the need for only second order changes is no longer enough for business. Besides, to change your beliefs, to create new possibilities, will just result, once again, with you trapped in these new convictions, as you were with the old ones. It’s as if you escape from one box, only to lock yourself into a new one. The goal of the third order change is to no longer lock yourself into any box.
It requires you to pose the question “what do we need to succeed today?” rather than have ready-made answers about how an employee or the company should operate, in order to be more successful.
If a company can approach things this way, it will continually and automatically update its corporate culture in response to the environment in which it operates. This should be the ultimate goal of every company.
The need to implement a “third order” change.
We live in a world that continually changes. The only way to learn is to recognize that there are no definitive answers and that we must continuously look at things in order to always be ready to evolve. Continuous improvement is, therefore, first and foremost a process and no longer a change of state as “second order” change used to be.
People and companies are not reluctant to make changes.
The author proposes a short experiment related to change and resistance to change.
Think about how you work today. The chances are that you do your job or task as best you can and have no reason to change that. Now imagine that you can see what will happen to your work a year from now. Do you really think you can continue to work the way you do now for yet another year?
Eventually, small changes in your environment lead to changes in your own behavior.
If you implement “third order” change, you will find it easier to understand the evolution of your environment. It is essential to constantly reconfigure things so that your company does not become a “dinosaur”.
Why are corporate cultures so slow to change?
It is important to take the time to analyze each and every aspect of a company before you can determine the best culture to embrace. To do this well, it is necessary to take the time to analyze the competition, the customers, the employees and the technologies used within the company.
Conversely, once the company has clearly defined its own culture, as a general rule, it doesn’t take the time to observe the culture of others. It is important to constantly monitor the situation and never think that you have adopted the best possible strategy that will last forever.
How to unlock corporate cultures?
The key is not to tell others they shouldn’t do something. This is likely to hinder them or lead to resistance to change.
Instead, try to get them to understand that the beliefs they currently hold may not be accurate in an environment that changes continuously, but rather ask them about it.
A “third order” change in fundamental beliefs.
There are two fundamental beliefs about employment that managers and employees must change in order to achieve a “third order” company:
- Most managers believe that their job is to determine what employees should do and then let them do it.
- Most employees believe that they should do what managers ask them to do and to complete it to the best of their ability.
To achieve a “third order” business these are the new beliefs that have to be put in place:
- Managers must help employees make the changes that they suggest.
- Employees need to think that their most important job is to identify and remove the barriers that mean they can’t work to the best of their ability.
Why should managers tell others what to do?
One of the most common held beliefs in the workplace is that the manager’s job is to determine what employees should do and then allow them to do it. And if they don’t specify what to do then nothing will get done.
This is a common belief because it is usually based on your first experience in the workplace. Again, this is just one of your interpretations of that first experience and it is possible to identify several others if you think about it from a different perspective.
How to create a “third order” business.
If you run a “third order” company, it allows you to change the way employees view their work and to change the behavior of each department within your company. There are five steps that allow you to create a “third order” company.
Step 1: Create a mission statement and function in accordance with it. The company’s mission should serve as the standard for all its operations. At the outset of every meeting, reference should be made to the company’s mission and every employee should have that goal as their sole purpose.
Step 2: Employees need to change their perceptions about their work. The policies that need to be put in place are:
- Managers must help employees make the changes that they suggest.
- Employees need to think that their most important job is to identify and remove the barriers that mean they can’t work to the best of their ability.
Step 3: Don’t just solve the problems. Eliminate the roots of all the problems. Everyone in the company should be focused on the search for the best possible corporate culture, not just the success of the current one.
Step 4: Teach employees to remove the obstacles that block the implementation of the company’s mission. Establish a rule whereby employees are not allowed to report problems, only solutions.
Step 5: When employees come up with solutions, management can’t say no. If an employee suggests a way to change the company culture and it doesn’t adversely affect other employees, then the management can’t refuse.
Chapter 11: Build a society that works.
Once you fully understand the impact beliefs can have on your behavior, you will be able to understand why so many of society’s problems seem impossible to solve, even today.
We have simply tried almost every option in relation to the current way we think, the “old belief box”. The problems we face today, in regards to nearly every aspect of life, cannot be solved with the options we presently have available to us.
Therefore, the goal is to make people understand that their old beliefs cannot bring about meaningful change. A new belief system must be implemented with the appropriate strategies.
The ultimate goal is to build a society with beliefs that are never fixed and that can always evolve when the situation requires it.
The madness of our beliefs.
If you need an example of an institution that continues to adopt old beliefs to deal with new problems, you can look at our school system.
Most people think there is a problem with our educational system. And many think that the problem can be solved, to some degree, with the introduction of national standards. This line of thought is based on a belief that there is a certain amount of information that should be learned in school and the establishment of national standards is a very good way to ensure this.
This belief came about a hundred years ago when most people worked in a factory and, therefore, there was no requirement for people to develop their creativity in order to be successful in their jobs. They only needed to be able to read, write and understand instructions. In our world of constant change, our success depends on our ability to continually be able to learn, to be able to think and act for ourselves.
Today, people don’t just change jobs, they totally change careers. Additionally, purely professional success no longer constitutes a meaningful life in the eyes of many. To give meaning to one’s life, to know how to build meaningful relationships with others, these are things that we are increasingly in search of today.
This makes it imperative that we change our belief system in order to establish a new educational model. The one we have today does not meet the challenges that we now face. For example, it is important to give more responsibility to students in terms of how and what they learn, we need to give some value to their own knowledge and experience outside of the classroom.
Create a new paradigm.
Our institutional problems lie primarily in the beliefs that make up our current paradigms. The question now is how to eliminate a current paradigm and replace it with a new one.
The author uses the American health care system to illustrate each step:
Step 1: Identify the current issues.
The main trouble with the U.S. health care system is the inability of some people to be able to afford adequate insurance to cover their medical needs. Insurance prices climb sharply each year. This means that many people are unable to access the care that they need.
Step 2: Review the strategies presented as solutions.
There are many proposed strategies to address this problem. These include price controls, competitive price management controls, or make the government pay for the majority of care. However, each of these has its drawbacks, such as higher government debt or a loss of salary for medical employees.
Step 3: Identify underlying beliefs.
Over the last few years, the proposed solutions have never really led to improved results. Sometimes they have even made the situation worse. So, new ideas are needed to provide new solutions.
The beliefs that exist in the current model are:
- Health care should aim to eliminate symptoms and illness.
- The body and mind are considered two separate things.
- The first steps should be medication or surgery.
- The focus should be on treatment of symptoms.
- The patient is dependent and the health care professional is the authority.
Step 4: Discover the source of the beliefs.
A medical doctrine that existed for many years was that “all diseases and infections are caused by easily identifiable microorganisms”. The role of the mind was totally set aside. The problem is that all institutions have regarded this theory as true for years and, as a result, have built their beliefs around it.
Step 5: Study the current environment.
Today, we place much more importance on the connection between the body and the mind. New approaches to recovery have emerged, such as hypnosis. The placebo effect is regularly used to heal some patients.
There are also many physical symptoms that can change, based on our mental state, such as blood pressure or skin sensitivity.
Numerous studies are also available that demonstrate that the risk to develop cancer is higher when we are constantly in a state of depression because our immune system loses its effectiveness. This also applies to cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes or even with cigarette addiction.
Our knowledge about diseases is much more advanced today than it was a few years ago and the link between body and mind is unquestionable. The belief system built on old beliefs can no longer operate effectively today and it must be changed.
Step 6: Create new beliefs.
These are some new lines of thought that could replace the current ones that exist in our health care system:
- The focus must be on wellness.
- The body and mind must be linked.
- The minimum possible level of treatment, along with the correct technology, should be applied first and foremost.
- The causes of the symptoms must be sought.
- The patient is autonomous and the health professional is a therapeutic partner.
- Prevention is achieved not only through sport, diet, but also through relationships and the goals that the person sets in life.
Step 7: Design strategies that are compatible with this new framework and enable us to solve the current issues.
But, before we are able to try to change the world, we have to initiate a change in our own beliefs. Lots of people have an urge to change the problems that exist in the world but no willingness to alter what they believe in themselves: they are convinced that their beliefs are correct, but, in fact, they are not.
In fact, their perception of reality is simply their interpretation of what goes on around them. The only real way to change the world is to start to change your own mind in order to open up new possibilities.
I also invite you to read my column entitled “Professional identity, out-of-the-box strategies to reinvent your career” which discusses the book Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra, professor of organizational behavior at the London Business School.
Conclusion on the book Recreate Your Life:
Recreate Your Life is one of the 99 books on the Personal MBA list but it is still relatively unknown. It is an extremely detailed book that demands for you to be fully engaged when you read it in order to grasp all its nuances, especially as it is only available in English, so it may not be suitable for everyone.
Nevertheless, Recreate Your Life is very informative and powerful! It is supported by numerous examples that give real meaning to Morty Lefkoe’s words.
Recreate Your Life refocuses our thoughts and beliefs. Sometimes we focus so intensely to try to find new ways to improve our lives externally that we forget that everything actually takes place inside our minds. I have been guilty of this myself when I tried to implement the best possible methods and failed to make any progress. If our beliefs do not evolve, change is not possible.
The strength of Recreate Your Life is also its weakness: not everyone can appreciate the author’s approach and may find it too optimistic. There’s a chance that Recreate your Life hinders some people because what we believe in is often something that we treasure.
The author manages, in Recreate your Life and through the Lefkoe method, to make us question our own beliefs and shows how biased our vision of reality can be. The end result is that he provides us with a method to change our beliefs.
But Recreate Your Life is a book that aims to go further and propose a new mental template. I don’t know yet if this book will have a significant impact on my life, but it can only make me more aware of my own vision of reality.
However, I have started to advise people to change their beliefs as part of my blog on emotional dependency.
So I fully recommend Recreate Your Life. It is not flawless and can be somewhat repetitive in places. Nowadays, we are more aware of the importance of our beliefs. But, Recreate Your Life is a genuinely intellectual and inspirational book. It also includes a lot of practical cases, which are very detailed, that I can’t include here, as it will make the review too long, and which are of great interest should you wish to do in to more depth on the subject.
- Numerous practical cases fill Recreate your Life, which back up what the author has written.
- Recreate Your Life is a genuinely intellectual and inspirational book that really makes us consider how we think about the world and our lives.
- A true representation of the author on his own method (the Lefkoe method).
- Can be a bit repetitive.
- Not translated into French, which can be a hindrance for non-English speakers.
- Not everyone can relate to the author’s vision. Some people may not find what they are in search of when they read Recreate Your Life.
My rating :
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