One of my favorite books is Fifth Wave Leadership – The Internal Frontier by Morris R. Schechtman. The concepts in this book were instrumental in my career development. A critical component is the discussion around familiars, and how clinging to them can stop you in your tracks.
What Are Familiars?
Familiars are those things that we return to over and over, a safety blanket. Subconsciously these are the patterns we fall back into that were solidified when we were younger.
Familiars are feelings, not behaviors—it’s how you felt when you were in certain situations, which translates to how you feel today when confronted with similar situations.
How Familiars Hold You Back?
“Our impulse to reproduce the familiar is so strong that we do it regardless of the negative behaviors that result.” – Morris R. Schechtman
Your familiars can resurface when you come face to face with situations that draw those feelings to the surface. The actions that result from your familiars can slow your effectiveness, and might even cause self-destructive situations. They hold power over your feelings now and hold you back from achieving professional growth.
Determine Your Familiars.
It isn’t always easy to uncover the familiars in your life. Schechtman lays out a process in his book that can help you transition from a past familiar to a healthier, more productive familiar. Here are some points to consider when determining your familiars.
• Identify repetitive feelings. Familiars are a feeling, not a behavior. You need to continue to ask yourself what feelings you were experiencing at specific defining points in your life. Keep asking yourself “why” until you get to the core—the actual feeling.
• Create a reverse timeline. This helps you to follow a feeling back to its source. The key is first to discover the feelings from your past that you default to today and then identify where they originated.
• Express your feelings without blame or forgiveness. At this point, you want to articulate what it is you were feeling and still feel today. Schechtman tells us, “Acknowledgement and acceptance of your feelings are what’s important; blaming will only get you stuck in the past. Some people take the opposite approach and magnanimously forgive everyone for everything. This forgiveness is just another way of not dealing with these issues.”
These initial steps will help you take a leap towards pinpointing those feelings before you can even consider exploring how to change those patterns.
For more on familiars and how to identify them, make sure to check out Fifth Wave Leadership – The Internal Frontier.