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  • Writer's pictureValerie D' Costa

Why is change so hard?

Updated: Jan 21, 2019

Are there behaviors you wish you could change to be a better leader or manager? Do you wish you could delegate more effectively, or focus more at work, or not get sidetracked by a hundred daily demands?

Harvard Graduate School of Education professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey developed an interesting diagnostic tool called the “Immunity Map” to get to the root causes for why it’s so hard to change. There are four steps in this Immunity Map:


First, set an improvement goal that identifies a single concrete change that is important to you and/or to people in your life. It should be something you can change, not anyone else. Ask the key people in your life for input as you set your goal.

Doing/not doing

Next, take an honest and courageous look at what you do today that works in support of this goal, as well as everything you are doing that works against your improvement goal. List everything down, but be concrete about what you write. Really examine your behavior!

Hidden competing commitments

Now answer the following question about each of the things you wrote you are doing or not doing: “If I did the opposite of this, what risk, discomfort, or fear arises? What makes me feel vulnerable or in danger?” This step shows you where you are held back from changing because of core contradictions that live inside you; it uncovers root causes for feeling stuck or unable to change.

Big assumptions

The final step is to brainstorm all the possible assumptions you might be making in holding those competing commitments. For example, if you wrote: “Not feeling in control” as a competing commitment, your big assumption might be, “If I’m not in control of this situation, nobody else will be able to do it right.” Some big assumptions may be grounded in fact, others may be ideas you have come to believe to be true.

Once your Immunity Map is done, you’ve just unlocked the secret to overcoming your resistance to change. Explore the actions you take that work against your improvement goal. Examine the big assumptions you identified. Share what you’ve written with people you trust.

Then the really hard work can begin to actually change your behavior!

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