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Jun 12, 2013

Pull Out the Weeds & Plant New Seeds

Many people fail to reach their potential because they look only at their behavior and their conditions or results. They only scratch the surface. But, again, picture life as a tree. The roots and seeds are your thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, and conclusions as well as your conditioning. The fruits on that tree represent your behaviors, results, and conditions. People often ignore the seeds and roots, and address only the fruits.

Many people don’t understand that the physical/material world is just a projection of your inner world, your mental, emotional, & spiritual world. In traditional training, we pay too much attention to the fruits, the visible results above the surface. The skillsets, not the mindsets. But, don't you agree that what you cannot see is far more powerful than what you can see? If you don’t believe this, you will NOT be successful because you will continue operating at a superficial level. Remember, if you want to be successful, if you want to change your outer world, you must first look at your inner world!

Rather than focusing merely on skills, my training focuses on thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and conclusions of successful leaders. This is not your usual training program. After years of working with and studying the most successful leaders, I’ve learned not only what successful leaders do but also what they think--the inner game of leadership. 

This is why, in your counselor training programs, you should not only provide theory and skills, but also provide your students with supportive, empowering mindsets while removing negative self-limiting, disempowering thoughts & beliefs regarding how people change. You have to blend the outer tools with the inner tool box. You can teach your counselors active listening, case management, & case conceptualization. You can teach confrontation, interpretation, & other critical tools. But, if your students don’t have a big enough, strong enough tool box, they'll never retain this learning! Even if they do learn something from your training, it will only be temporary. The learning is seldom sustained.

So, if you want to have a long-term impact on your students, you must ensure that their toolbox is strong enough and big enough to handle the tools. And, you can do this by re-wiring or re-conditioning your students/supervisees with the mindsets of the greatest counselors/therapists.

In my Motivational Interviewing training, for example, I start the process of "pulling the weeds and planting new seeds" with the following questionnaires. The first list represents the negative, self-limiting beliefs some behavioral health providers hold regarding behavioral change. How many of them can you find in yourself?

Identify the Roots & Pull Your Weeds:

Belief Questionnaire

Please rate each item from 1 to 5 with 1 representing total disagreement and 5 representing complete agreement. Also consider, in your rating, how emotionally charged each belief is. Rate a belief 1 if it does not evoke any emotion and 5 if it evokes strong emotion.

1.     ___ People don’t change

2.     ___ Ambivalence about change is bad

3.     ___ When people don’t change, it’s because they haven’t suffered enough

4.     ___ When people don’t want to change, someone needs to force them to change

5.     ___ Threatening people with consequences is often the only thing that causes them to change

6.     ___ Motivation to change is something a person either has or doesn’t have—there’s nothing anyone can do about it

7.     ___ Listening is a waste of my time; I just need to tell them what to do & “ride them”

8.     ___ People don’t have any insight into what will work for them; they need to be told what to do to be successful

9.     ___ We are responsible for making people change

10.   ___ He/she says they’re going to change.” Yeah, that’s what they all say. They’re just trying to pull one over on me.

11.   ___ That sounds pretty lame. Until I see some action, I’m not buying what they’re saying.

12.   ___ He/she keeps talking about changing…but the wrong thing!

13.   ___ Finally, she mentioned something about wanting to change. Now it’s time to go onto the plan!

14.   ___ He mentioned only one reason to change. I’ll just list the rest of the reasons he missed. That’ll convince him.

The second list represents the positive, proactive, empowering beliefs we sometimes hold regarding change. How many of these do you hold?

Step 3: Pick a New Belief:

Plant New Seeds

What alternative belief would enable you to be successful? Please rate each item from 1 to 5 with 1 representing total disagreement and 5 representing complete agreement. Also consider, in your rating, how emotionally charged each belief is. Rate a belief 1 if it does not evoke any emotion and 5 if it evokes strong emotion.   

1.      ___ When faced with change, we normally waver

2.      ___ When we listen with empathy, people are open to change

3.      ___ We like to say what we’ll do & do what we say

4.      ___ So we start to change when our words don’t match our actions

5.      ___ Pointing out these discrepancies for people motivates them to change

6.      ___ Motivation can grow from positive interactions

7.      ___ Many of our answers come from within us

8.      ___ People are responsible for their own change

9.      ___ They might be telling me they’re ready to change when actually they’re not.

10.  ___ If I encourage small changes now, maybe larger, more important changes will come later.

11.  ___ Even small changes are steps in the right direction. It doesn’t happen overnight.

12.  ___ This change is important to this individual. If I can relate it to other changes I’d like to see, we may be able to work together.

13.  ___ This person is getting ready for change. But, we may need to address obstacles before moving on to a plan.

14.  ___ If I look at all angles, maybe that’ll help the person feel comfortable going forward.

15.  ___ People can be trusted to change. Change happens.

16.  ___ People will think of reasons to change until they eventually become committed to changing.

So, if you want your training programs to be successful, focus not only on providing your students with the necessary tool sets. Focus also on eliminating disempowering mindsets & replacing them with empowering ones.
Barbara Jordan is a counselor, counselor educator, author, trainer, and leadership coach. For more information go to

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