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This article is provided by kind permission of Michael Shenker. This article MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED without the permission of the author.

Self Improvement - Don't Try This Alone!

By Michael Shenker

Most of us would like to improve some aspect of our lives. It could be making more money, getting a better job, losing weight, accelerating our learning ability and so forth. Indeed, there are very few of us who aren't interested in changing certain aspects of our lives. As someone who has been involved with personal and organizational development for over twenty five years I have seen a dramatically high failure rate in those who were determined to proactively improve their lives.

When you consider the number of self help books, tapes, systems, methods and techniques available to assist us, does it make sense why self improvement is so hard? In a word "Yes".

The following are the five "opponents" of change:

  1. Our subconscious mind. Our subconscious mind or "conditioned mind" does not like change. In fact, it is designed to resist change and to keep us where we are. The reason for this is the subconscious is primarily a survival mechanism. Its primary function is to survive. It perceives any type of change as a threat to survival.
  2. Fear (associated with the subconscious). Irrespective of how negative our current situation is, we're dealing with one of (if not the most) powerful emotion there is - fear. The cold hard reality of change is it's scary.
  3. Lack of support (misery loves company). Even friends and family, who should typically be our staunchest supporters, have a tendency to feel uncomfortable when those around them change. I suspect that part of the reason this happens, is that someone else changing is a poignant reminder that they haven't.
  4. Lack of confidence. Most of us have tried and failed at self improvement in the past. Each time we fail, we feel less and less confident we can change or improve.
  5. We Focus on WHAT Instead of WHY. When trying to initiate a change, most of us focus on WHAT we need to change as opposed to WHY (the motivating factor). If we lose focus on the objective of WHY we want what we want, we will give up when the going gets tough. Unless we constantly focus on the WHY (the benefits), we will not be able to make the changes you desire.

The preceding looks pretty formidable. Isn't it a wonder any of us proactively grow and change? Yet we do! There are always exceptions to the rule, and if you think you're one of them, stop reading and keep on doing what you're doing.

For those of you, however, who would like to know a better, easier, faster way to improve and change and enjoy yourself in the process, keep on reading.

My story...
For many years, I was a motivational speaker. I did that for three reasons: one, I had fallen in love with the whole field of personal development; two, I loved talking to people about the subject and; three I wanted to make a difference in the world. Over time, however, I began to realize that my speeches, though educational and motivating we're not effecting change. So I stopped doing them. However, I kept on reading anything I could lay my hands on in the area of personal development. For, besides my family, personal development was and continues to be my primary interest.

One day, however, while speaking at a luncheon about my consulting practice, I met a woman who was the Executive Vice President of a credit card bank. She wanted to know if I could speak to her Marketing Department. When I asked her what she hoped to accomplish by this, she said that the bank was having a lot of growing pains and she felt many in her Marketing Department were going to leave.

I told her that although I wished I had the power to impact people by just giving them a speech, I couldn't. She would be wasting her money to have me try. As she was pretty much at her wits end with the situation, she asked me if I had any suggestions.

I told her that she should first find out the truth as to why her people wanted to leave. If she understood their reasons, perhaps there could be ways to stop the exodus. Long story short, she retained me to conduct an internal audit in order to find out what was on her Marketing team's mind.

Once completed and analyzed, we discussed my findings. I made several recommendations, none of which seemed to solve her problem. By now, she was getting a little panicky as her department was bringing in an average of $42 million a month in business and people leaving would certainly threaten her revenue stream.

She then asked if there was anything else I could do to help her. As I had continued to educate myself on the latest personal development trends and techniques, I told her that I could develop an experimental program which I believed could solve her problem.

Initially, the president of the bank turned the idea down flat as he said he wasn't going to experiment with $42 million a month. However, within the next three weeks, he became concerned about the impending turn-over in Marketing and decided to retain my services.

This Pacific North West bank was being purchased by a large conglomerate on the east coast. The bank's Marketing Department was suffering from a multitude of issues including:

  • Negative attitude about the impending takeover
  • Poor morale
  • Unstructured goals
  • Outdated technology

I developed a unique organizational / personal development program called A-TEAMS ("A" stands for Achievement)

The results from the program were taken from pre and post A-TEAMS audits. The pre-program audit survey established a base line of the status quo prior to A-TEAMS. The post-program audit measured and quantified the A-TEAMS results over the next six months.

Audit interviews were conducted in person, one-on-one and held in the strictest of confidence. Pre and post audit reports were presented in a format which maintained confidentiality.

The following represent just some of the positive results A-TEAMS produced.

  1. Their perception of how the company was run improved 115%.
  2. Their perception of how their boss managed the department improved 133%.
  3. Their perception of their boss's ability to motivate them increased 200%.
  4. Their attitude regarding their incentive to accomplish their goals improved by 196%.

Bottom line: A-TEAMS rocked! Over the course of six months, the only people who left the Marketing Department were those who were promoted to other departments within the bank. Additionally, 92% of the participants achieved their personal goals, which, by the way was part of the overall strategy.

A-TEAMS deals with the 5 "opponents" to change:
First and foremost the A-TEAMS participants discover they are not alone. They play a dual role in (1) receiving support from their team mates and (2) providing support to their team mates. This, sometimes dialectical process, substantiates that (1) People have better ideas for their team mates than they do for themselves and (2) People have more courage for their team mates than they do for themselves.

"Alone we can do nothing, but together our minds fuse into something whose power is far beyond the power of its separate parts"...A Course in Miracles.

Next, we take everyone through a process called BACK-ON-TRACK.

When we first come into the world, our instincts are perfect. We knew exactly what we want to do, where we want to go and how we we're going to get there. Unfortunately, as time goes on, many of our natural instincts fall by the wayside through a process called socialization. Aspects of socialization include: culture, parents, friends, spouse, occupation and how we responded to all of these influences.

In time the process of socialization get's us off-track and out of alignment with our innermost motivations, desires, values and beliefs (core programming). As this happens, our lives become far less joyful and fulfilling than nature intended.

The BACK-ON-TRACK exercise is a simple, easy way for getting back into alignment with our core programming. The end result becomes a life that is lived "by intention” rather than randomly. Living intentionally produces happiness, joy and inner fulfillment.

In addition to the preceding, A-TEAM participants are taken through a myriad of exercises allowing them to understand who they are and how and why they function.

To add to their knowledge base, the participants read and report ("One minute book reports") on a number of books. Examples include: The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, If Life is a Game These are the Rules, by Cherie Carter-Scott, Ph.D and The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle.

Eventually A-TEAMS transitions into activities for achieving personal wants and needs which are lovingly supported by the participants.

Over the years, A-TEAMS has grown into a national program conducted for both individuals and businesses.

If you would like to know more about A-TEAMS and what impact it can have on your life,
contact Michael Shenker at or by phone at 503.431.9502.