When I was a child my father frequently used to greet me at the start of the day with the phrase:
“Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better”.
The mantra amused and at times irritated me, but, until now, I was unaware of its origins.
I work in the sphere of enabling personal growth and development for individuals and teams, to foster successful businesses, my father’s words, even though said in jest, resonate with my vocation and so I decided to look into their origin. The catchphrase was initially devised by a French psychologist and pharmacist called Émile Coué de Châtaigneraie. He firmly believed that to enable change we need to have both a conscious and unconscious will to transform. Coué was an extraordinary man and deserves greater recognition. He had hoped to become a chemist, but cash was tight at home (his father was a railway worker), so he had to opt for a more lucrative trade and qualified as a pharmacist. He discovered the value of the placebo effect – noticing that patients respond better to medicine if they are given encouraging words about its efficacy and will even show signs of improvement with words but no actual medication. His realisation that the mind has a powerful influence over an individual’s behaviour and physical state, lead him to study hypnosis and psychology. In 1913, Coué and his wife founded The Lorraine Society of Applied Psychology (La Société Lorraine de Psychologie Appliquée). He encouraged people to improve themselves and their health through conscious autosuggestion and gained a significant following for his approach both in Europe and in the United States.
There is a strand of training and leadership development that follows Coué’s approach – working on what drives and motivates people so that they can change themselves. I have done some interesting work with David Burnham of the Burnham Rosen Group who is convinced that true success is linked to the subconscious and an individual’s motives and I am convinced that inspirational leaders have a strong sense of purpose. We are good at providing a snap shot of individuals through assessment tools. However, most psychologists agree that although 360 degree feedback and the use of psychometric tests can enable us to know what good looks like in our organisations and to plot where an individual sits in relation to a desired norm, they seldom show the route required to effect change. Einstein was right when he observed that
insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
Personal transformation requires genuine commitment and a desire for change from the individual. Lasting alterations in performance are usually effected by a change in thinking and approach combined with perseverance and the bravery to try doing things in a different way.
We are living in turbulent times and it is all too easy to feel that the wash of economic upheaval is beyond our control. The constant bombardment of unsettling news in the Media only adds to a sense of belief that the problem is too huge for any of us, as individuals, to contend with. It is easy to place the responsibility for rectifying the situation onto the politicians – poor Angela Merkel must feel the weight of Europe on her shoulders - the rating agencies seem to be passing judgement on the American politicians for failing to take sufficient action to address the debt problem earlier this month. It worries me that we are abdicating responsibility and becoming spectators, observing rather than each doing our bit to reduce the problem. I think we do the same in our businesses, when times are tough it is all too easy to lay the blame at the feet of others without seeing what we need to do in our own area to change things. The World War Two poster “Careless Talk Costs Lives” to my mind is not just about the risk of disclosing secrets – for me it is also a reminder of the impact you have on the motivation of others by what you say and do.
I am an avid naturalist and concerned about the impact that we (humans) have on our environment. In the UK, the Environment Agency calculates the adverse effect which alien species have on our natural flora, fauna and countryside. Trying to combat alien species is costing the UK circa £1.7 billion per annum. One of the biggest threats at the moment is a tiny shrimp (Dikerogammarus villosus), with a voracious appetite, that is significantly altering the habitat of areas it invades by eating larvae and juvenile fish. Other harmful alien species include Giant Knapweed, Japanese Knotweed, American Crayfish and Mink. All of these were released into the wild (either deliberately or by accident) by people. If we took a little more care to ensure that our garden plants and pond vegetation did not escape beyond our confines, this damage would not have occurred. Inappropriate comments can be as destructive on the people around you as the appetite of the shrimp is on the species of fish and organisms living in the stream it has invaded. We need to take personal control of our actions – every little deed and statement that we make has the power to impact on the wider environment in which we live.
If we believe in ourselves and proactively try to make things better around us and to behave in the way we know we should, then indeed “every day in every way” things will"get better and better"…