January 18, 2018

Ian Paisley and the influence of personal change

Ian Paisley and the influence of personal changeIf Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness can become best buddies, surely just about anyone can be reconciled…

It seems to me Ian Paisley is an interesting example of how changing yourself changes the system—the world around you—especially if you are known to a lot of people.

If you’re not so familiar with the history…

As a Unionist preacher and politician in Northern Ireland, “Big Ian” began implacably and stridently opposed to any accommodation with the Republican side, and was a problem—repellent probably at times—to many. Yet he eventually travelled a journey of change (over decades) which led both to peace in Northern Ireland, and strong friendship with his principal adversary, Martin McGuinness—truly remarkable, considering the level of violence between their communities.

Disturbingly, in a way, if he hadn’t expressed (“bellowed” might be more accurate) such extreme views in the beginning, he might not have taken so many people with him—a critical mass—on the journey to reconciliation. It must have seemed that if he could move, anyone could move.

So “being the change” works. It’s influential.

With luck, you might not even need to bellow.

The story also shows…

To solve big, complex problems, we need to bring the pieces together, rather than have them separate, and apply a level of sophistication at least equal to the complexity.

If you use your authority, do you diminish your strength?

Meeting roomQuite often it’s appropriate, necessary even, to use whatever positional authority we have to get something done. Indeed we probably have a duty to do so.

But perhaps there is a cost…

Could be we use up some of the goodwill in the relationship and so our natural authority is a little bit diminished. We use up some of our strength.

A good idea, therefore, to work on the relationship whenever we can. That makes for natural authority, and builds our strength.

Then we can get things done because people want to do them rather than because we tell them to.

Standing for balance

Three people in a meetingDo “they” want to know what you stand for?

Do they want you to be on one side or the other?

Much easier for them to deal with you that way; clearer too, I suppose.

But wrong, if you actually stand for balance.

Hold your ground.

You and your unconscious

Woman reflectingYou and your unconscious.

How have you been getting along lately?

I’m serious.

You’re like two people: One being your conscious mind, and the other that person in the background who actually runs most of your life, and your relationships with other people for that matter, and keeps you alive—your unconscious mind.

Some say our conscious mind accounts for 5% and our unconscious for 95%, rather like captain and crew.


All learning and change happens in the unconscious mind because that’s the only place it can be sustained. Conscious will-power doesn’t really cut it when it comes to making something different happen.

And you see…

If you give your unconscious more options, you can be sure it’ll choose the best one. That’s more or less a biological certainty.

So you and your unconscious—how have you been getting along lately?

Is your inner being content with your outward behaviour, or are you conflicted inside? Are you paying attention to those inner signals?

Is your conscious mind effective in training your unconscious with the patterns which will help you?

In other words, you and that other (very powerful) person you live with inside…

How often do you talk? How’s your relationship with yourself?

Is it a mistake to focus when you don’t know what works?

Signposts pointing in all different directionsFocus, focus, focus—the key to having an impact, making progress, gaining traction.

But what if you don’t really know what works, or don’t know yet?

If you’re doing something new, you’re very unlikely to get it right first time. If you had enough knowledge to hit the target at the first attempt then it probably wasn’t such a new thing you were doing.

If your idea or product or service hasn’t engaged a market or an audience before then it’s unlikely you really know what they want, not least because they probably don’t know yet either. Only when they see something that makes some kind of connection will they realise what their true need is.

So maybe you do need to keep things more open than conventional wisdom would suggest. That’ll cost more and take more effort than just following one option, but not as much as focusing on the wrong thing—the one it turns out nobody actually wants.

The gradual narrowing of options toward a truly effective focus is an art in itself, and a welcome development when it comes.

To mangle Albert Einstein’s words… Everything needs to be as focused as possible, but no more focused than that.

What’s your experience?