Successful change requires integration and practice

integration practiceI find Virginia Satir’s change model to be the most useful of the many models of change. There’s a crucial fifth stage in Satir’s model that people often neglect: the integration and practice phase.

integration and practice
The hero’s journey shortchanges change

Why do people overlook the importance of integration and practice? Well, the hero’s journey is a common way we picture how change occurs. A hero goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed.

At the end of the hero’s journey, everyone involved, just like in fairy tales, “live happily ever after”.

Integration and practice is absent from this monomyth version of change.

Integration and practice is a vital component of change

In reality, integration and practice are vital components of change. You’ve probably experienced moments in your life when you realized that something was or was about to be different: the fourth stage transforming idea/event of Satir’s model of change. I certainly have.

Typically, however, such moments of insight or awareness do not lead to instantaneous change. Think about the times you’ve realized you can/have to/want to make a change in your life.

Some stories about working on change

Here are three stories about working on change in my life:

Losing weight.

Meditating daily.

Asking for help.

Each story includes the awakening moment(s), followed by integration and practice.

Even when we incorporate integration and practice, successful change isn’t guaranteed. Though eating mindfully has maintained my weight loss for 6 years, and I’m now good at asking for help, I still struggle to meditate daily.

As Jerry Weinberg said in his wonderful book Becoming a Change Artist:

Change requires patience. John Stevens tells this story from the martial arts:

Once, a young man petitioned a great swordsman to admit him as a disciple. “I’ll act as your live-in servant and train ceaselessly. How long will it take me to learn everything?”

“At least ten years,” the master replied.

“That’s too long,” the young man protested. “Suppose I work twice as hard as everyone else. Then how long will it take?”

“Thirty years,” the master shot back.

“What do you mean?” the anguished student exclaimed. “I’ll do anything to master swordsmanship as quickly as possible!”

“In that case,” the master said sharply, “you will need fifty years. A person in such a hurry will be a poor student.”‘

Practicing to become a change artist

We all probably hope that implementing change in our lives won’t take decades of integration and practice. So, are there ways we can practice getting better at facilitating change?

Why, yes, suggests Jerry Weinberg!

The title of Chapter 6 of Becoming a Change Artist is “Practicing to Become a Change Artist”.

In it he makes simple suggestions on how we can practice implementing change in our lives, and, in the process, become more open to and expert in facilitating change for others and ourselves.

‘The purpose is to launch your career as a change artist by experiencing some of the theoretical learnings in the “real world,” but in as small and safe a way as possible.’

Here are some exercises Jerry recommends:

  • Go to work in a different way tomorrow.
  • Make a different lunch every day, or make the same lunch a different way.
  • Brush your teeth in a different order.
  • Instead of trying to change something, sit back, listen, and observe. Notice your urge to change things and what happens when you don’t do anything about your urges.
  • Pick one habit that keeps you from being fully present, and focus on reshaping that habit in all your interactions.

Why not try some of these yourself? I enjoy this challenge!

Practicing how to implement change in small ways in our daily lives can help us improve how we facilitate change. Put another way, concentrating on the process of facilitating change, rather than the product or outcome is the way to go.

Image attribution: Close up of a girl training inside a boxing ring by Jacob Lund from Noun Project


How do you facilitate change? In this occasional series, we explore various aspects of facilitating individual and group change.

Life lesson: Rescuing the child in the coal cellar

integrating your inner childWhat’s your most important life lesson that you wish you learned ten years earlier? Julie Zhou, VP of Product Design at Facebook, asked this question on Twitter last month.

Amongst the several hundred responses, one by Amanda Goetz, VP of Marketing at The Knot and Wedding Wire, struck me. “Better understand your inner child issues so that your subconscious becomes conscious.”

A psychosynthesis workshop

Almost fifty years ago, I participated in a weekend psychosynthesis workshop. A central tenet of psychosynthesis, developed by the Italian psychiatrist, Roberto Assagioli, is that our personal unconsciousness contains subpersonalities. Psychosynthesis work aims to integrate our subpersonalities into a single adult consciousness.

The workshop used a guided visualization to uncover and explore our subpersonalities by having us visualize a house with rooms that contained them. I still remember many aspects of that house, including rooms that contained a powerful wizard, a beautiful creative woman, and several other subpersonalities.

And there was also one tiny room, a coal cellar with no door. In that room, curled up tight in the dark, was a little child.

I did nothing with this unsettling discovery for thirty years.

Another workshop

It wasn’t until 2001 when I met that lonely little child again. I participated in a different workshop, where I realized that I had been separated from my inner child, my “little Adrian”, for a long time.

That discovery started me on an eighteen-month journey involving therapy focusing on my childhood and a set of visualizations developed by the late John Bradshaw. I found the visualizations, which can be found in Bradshaw’s book Homecoming as well as audio recordings of his workshops, to be a powerful way to reconnect with my inner child.

For many years I kept by my desk a simple drawing of arms hugging, reminding me to hug myself — hug my little Adrian — when I was feeling disconnected from my inner child. Over time I needed to do this less and less, and one day I took down the picture.

Integrating your inner child

Your inner, magical child — the child you entered the world as — is the epitome of wonder, joy, curiosity, sensitivity, and playfulness. Often, experiences in childhood wound our inner child, distancing our adult selves from these essential human qualities. Integrating your inner child into your adult self allows you to be curious about and open to new experiences. You spontaneously respond with joy and wonder, and are playful when encountering silly or comical situations.

Your adult self is still present, but it’s complemented and deepened with the addition of the fundamental lightness of the child within you.

Rather than regret I didn’t meet little Adrian earlier, I’m happy that he is with me now.

You deserve integration with your “little you” too; the benefits are incredible.

I wish you well on your journey.