Bob Quinn is a management professor at University of Michigan. He has devoted his life to studying change at both personal and organizational levels. He has written the best book on change that I have ever read: Deep Change.

He recently published a new fantastic book call the Economics of Purpose.

In this book, he pulled upon his decades of studying change to reveal that there are two reasons people transform themselves.

To me, it is interesting that decades of studying change has led him to surmise that there are essentially only two reasons why people transform. Seems like something we should all know and appreciate. And, to me, what is interesting about these two reasons is that the first one is something that is essentially forced upon us, while the second one is something we have to proactively choose to do. They are:

  • Crises
  • Deep learning

Interesting, right!?!

This suggests that if we want to go from who we are to become someone better, it is going to require that we either go through a crisis or engage in deep learning.

Further, this makes me wonder… If we were to line up all of the people in the world who have transformed themselves and asked them the primary source of their transformation, what do you think the majority would say? My guess is that over 90% of them would say “crisis.”

To me, this suggests that “deep learning” is a hugely under-utilized tool of transformation.

Why is this?

I assume that deep learning is an infrequent tool of transformation because it requires a proactive and intentional investment on our part. And, few are willing to get intentional as research has found that 90% of our thinking, feeling, judging, and acting are driven by our nonconscious automatic processes.

In other words, we are really good at being reactors, and generally not very good at being intentional pro-actors.

Personal Observation

I have been doing a fair amount of consulting and speaking at organizations. Generally, they bring me in because they want me to present information to their leaders so that their leaders can “transform,” and become more effective.

While I definitely believe that what I share with leadership groups empowers them to think about their leadership and personal development differently, the reality is that the leaders in the room are not going to transform unless one of two things occurs:

  • They are already in a crisis and see my ideas as the life preserver to pull them out of the crisis
  • They follow up on the material I present with deep learning (and hopefully the organization provides resources for that)

Deep Learning → Personal Transformation

If you are a person or leader that wants to use deep learning to initiate personal transformation, I want to share one basic way that you can do this.

This recommendation is based on a piece of wisdom that I have read about in a variety of self-help books: live by principles, not by emotion.

What does it mean to ‘live by principles, not by emotion?’

Many people let their emotions dictate their behaviors. This is a nonconscious way of living.

They feel scared, so they lash out. They feel out of control, so they micromanage. They feel ignored, so they act out. They feel undervalued, so they disengage.

This is all very reasonable. But, it probably isn’t the most effective way to operate. One of the reasons why is because our emotions may cause us to act in ways that run against what we normally consider to be our principles.

For example, it is my guess that we all want to adhere to the principle of being a kind person. But, unless we value that to the point that we don’t let our emotions get in the way, there are going to be times when our emotions cause us to act in unkind ways.

When we live such that our emotions drive our behaviors, regret and guilt often follow

It would be better if we identified principles, and own them to the point that when emotions arise, we have the ability to suppress them so that we can fully adhere to our principles and values.

How does one ‘live by principles, not by emotion?’

This is where deep learning comes in. If we want to live by principles, we have got to become deep-level experts in those principles.

Let’s take some principles that you may want to live by:

  • Humility
  • Courage
  • Charity
  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Purpose-driven
  • Open-minded
  • Growth-oriented

What are other principles you want to live by?

Do you feel like an expert in any of these principles? Have you engaged in deep learning on these principles?

And, for the record, deep learning is more than just reading a few HBR articles on the topic (although there is nothing wrong with that).

As we engage in deep learning in principles, we empower ourselves to live those principles, allowing us to override our emotions when they suggest that we should operate in a manner contrary to the principles.

Key Message:

If you are wanting to transform yourself, identify a principle that you want to more fully espouse, and set a plan for engaging in deep learning on that principle.

If you are wanting leaders in your organization to transform, invite and help them to engage in deep learning.

If you would like me to help your leaders engage in some deep learning about themselves and leadership, let’s chat. You can connect with me here:

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