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Notes from the Nexus


1 Comment / in Blog / by Bebe Hansen

What does 10% mean? I hope I’ve stirred your curiosity!

I’ve been contemplating how change really happens. We’ve just completed our PBC Certification course (LIPCC) with a highly motivated and intimate group of learners, burgeoning coaches, and precious human beings. These folks came together for a six-month intensive container of learning, laughter and professional and personal development. I am grateful to play a part in their growth, supporting and nudging them to be their biggest and best selves as coaches. I found myself holding them firmly at times and loosely at other times as they each navigated their own territory of becoming. This coaching stuff is an art! I witnessed in awe as each of them grew to reveal and embody their unique style and expression of the Presence-Based Coaching work. I took note of how they held their collective intentions and were a true support for each other’s growth during this time frame.

So How Does the 10% Fit in Here?

As I’ve watched the sometimes tentative and indeed delicate process of student’s and client’s evolution over the years, I’ve come to understand that the way we might hold the notion of change through our personality or ego is not necessarily how change actually occurs. What I notice in myself are my own ideas about the way it has to be to actually “count” as change, which involves more wholesale and sweeping change. This way of viewing change does not actually reflect my experience as I train adults in a new skill of coaching or coach leaders to be more effective in their organizations. Hmmm, what’s that about?

Change Happens in Incremental Bits

What I actually experience is that change happens incrementally, in small and sometimes imperceptible bits. Change is not discernible until we reflect back to realize that in a particular moment, we did something differently than our usual conditioning or Habit Nature would predict. Evidence of the incremental path of change looks more like 10% more of this perspective or 10% less of that behavior. Of course, it’s important to cultivate our awareness of these present moments, so we can notice these tiny shifts. And over time, these incremental moves build on each other through practice, ongoing adjustments of application, and persistence. Seeing what looks like big changes at the end of this six-month container of our certification class was something to celebrate. And, as I reflect, I remember that the change journey really did happen in 10% increments.

Notice and Name Change

Speaking of celebrating, another way to apply the 10% concept is to look at how we actually notice and acknowledge (or don’t) our small wins. As I continue to shift my own perspectives about change, it’s useful to access both my mind-set and my behavior. How many of us have that inner critic voice that refuses to notice the small changes or blows past them in a whirl of busyness? How many of us feel selfish for tooting our own horn? What if, instead, we notice and name any 10% change of thinking, perspective, ability to pause before acting, or new behavior, no matter how small? We do this for our clients, right?

There is Investment in You Staying the Same

Offering this important noticing of change to ourselves and our clients nurtures the practice of providing internal and external support for the newly growing, often delicate green shoots of what’s emerging now, from the soil of our experience. These new and tender indicators of change often meet our cynical internal stories or external nay-sayers.

It’s also helpful to remember that when we change, the bigger relational systems we are embedded in may be invested in our staying the same! There could be push-back for any change endeavor we undertake. I remember a moment from my teenage years when my mother finally went on a real diet, and my father surprisingly and blatantly pressured her into eating dessert every night after dinner. Not only did she have to fight her own urges to eat more than her diet allowed, she felt added pressure to not please her husband, who was invested in her remaining overweight!

New links in our System

This points to the importance of finding those like minded souls in our systems (or joining some new systems!) who are supportive of the developmental changes we are making. This is where a community of practice, like in PBC, or with other groups of which we are a part, can play a vital role in witnessing and acknowledging our small steps. It is in the company of those who are on a similar change journey as we are where we find new connections and stability that supports us to experiment, stretch and grow. Of course, this is also what coaching provides!

Circumvent the Ego’s Warning System

Another way I see the 10% idea is at work is when we embark on a new behavior that feels daunting, overwhelming or there seems to be a big wall in front of us. I’ve been experimenting with taking very small steps, inspired by the Kaizenphilosophy. The idea is to make such a tiny move of change that the ego’s warning and defense system against change is not activated. An example would be putting on exercise clothes for a few days, before even venturing onto the treadmill, where you then stand for a few days without actually walking on it. You get the picture.

I’ve found these 10% change strategies to be highly effective for getting me to take time to move my body. The 10% also works with time: like when I’ve finally sat myself down to a task I don’t enjoy (ok, I feel some hearty resistance to doing – I suspect you have some of those tasks you could name right now!). I set the timer on my phone for 15 or 30 minutes and tell myself that’s ALL I have to put into that task right now. And usually once I start, I get into the flow and I ignore the timer when it goes off. It’s the moving over that seeming abyss of the threshold into actually doing the task that seems to be the hardest part.

Ask Yourself This Question

Here’s an idea I learned from Wendy Palmer as part of her regular centering practice.  Once we are centered into ourselves, we can then ask (I’m paraphrasing here): Can you bring into yourself 10% more of a quality you’d like to embody? For example, self-compassion, courage, serenity, boldness, etc. Pick whatever one you like. I find this practice to be enlivening and useful for my own embodiment, and the specific qualities I focus on can change even daily, depending on what’s needed in the moment.

Adjust Your Sails

Another idea that involves the 10% concept is the overall trajectory of change. It’s a sailing analogy (my husband loves to sail). On a sailboat, when you slightly adjust the sails to accommodate changing wind conditions, even at 10%, this change of direction, will lead you to a very different destination over time. And isn’t that what we are all about as coaches, change agents in organizations, and those committed to our own development? A useful frame is to remember that small, 10% changes will bring a big impact over time. We can develop the patience and trust in the process of change itself, while encouraging those we serve to persevere over time.

Now, Invent Your Own 10%

  • I encourage you to find or invent your own 10%, in whatever way it might work for you or your clients.
  • I’ve offered many angles here, and I feel sure you’ve got others to share with our community.
  • Please do offer your additions to these thoughts below and let us know how applying the 10% is working for you and for those you serve!
  1. Maurer, Robert One Small Step can Change your Life: The Kaizen Way Workman Publishing, NY, 2004
  2. LeadershipEmbodiment.com
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  1. Peggy Huston
    Peggy Huston says:

    There are many suggestions here that are helpful for me and my coaching practice. Some of these are good reminders, for example, small steps are apt to incur less resistance. I especially appreciated your analogy to sailing – an incremental adjustment in the sail can have a big impact on supporting one to achieve their goals.


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