Braiding My Hair Changed My Life (Well, Kinda)

My hair has grown quite long. I was braiding it this morning for the first time in a long time. I’ve always braided it the same way but soon found that my arms were not long enough. So I leaned over to braid my hair upside down. But then I noticed that I proceeded to unbraid my hair! That was not expected! So I tried a different way to finish my braid.

This was a simple analogy but it made me start thinking about change. I personally don’t handle change very well unless I know why and how. It has been commented on that I derive pleasure from implementing action plans for forced improvements. But I do not see action plans that way. When introduced correctly action plans do not have to be a purely punitive endeavor. I enjoy the action planning process because it can be used as group decision making. It holds each player accountable, and, most of all, it tracks the changes and successes while striving for a goal. Too often we work hard but do not realize exactly how much we do. Action plans outline all the details and evidence toward hard work. After completing an action plan with a group, I’ve received many thank-you’s for the process and can see the boost in self-confidence of the group. (This certainly was not the reaction at the beginning of the change process!)

Changes don’t always work. I changed how I was braiding my hair to better reach it and ended up un-braiding it. I did not anticipate that! Learning from unsuccessful attempts to change leads to thinking of new ways to complete a project – in short, the creative process. This leads to new understandings of how things work and new thought processes. I certainly did not think that messing up my braid this morning would lead me to writing about change!

In Mezirow’s (1991) Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning, Popper explained that “we learn in order to change the structure of our expectations rather than to fill in gaps in knowledge. New knowledge resulting from problem solving is a correction rather than an extension of old knowledge” (p. 39). Change our expectations. You would think we should change the situation. I expected to turn my head upside down and continue my braid. That did not work. Therefore, I problem-solved a new way to braid my hair, thus correcting my expectations.

This was a pretty thought-out analogy. Imagine all the situations we encounter each day in which we make changes and change our expectations. We usually do it automatically, without thought. Consider the positive transformations we are capable of when we consciously change our expectations.

~Emily Aragon

Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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