The power of the mind:
From chemistry to alchemy, from lead to gold
Organizations that want to survive must transform and people make the organization. These are two facts almost no one disputes, but few draw the conclusion that follows: those who want to transform their organization must start with the people.
Petra Groot helps people who want to transform themselves. Who want to bring their self-awareness to a higher level. So that their mind become more powerful and flexible. And so that transformation is anchored within the core of the organisation.
A conversation with Petra Groot in four parts.
Part 1: Awakening
Data. It may be the magic word for 21st century organization. We want to know everything – of our customers, processes and performance. But how much do we know about ourselves?
“It’s striking how little attention is paid to self-awareness within companies,” Petra begins. “Investigating one’s own mind is still dismissed by many as mystical and spiritual. It wouldn’t fit within the rational business world. If you ask me, it’s irrational not to investigate yourself.”
What does she mean by this? “Actually, it’s self-explanatory: what could be more rational than research? It’s the basis of every science. As long as you don’t research yourself, you don’t know yourself. If you are not aware of how your mind works, you let yourself be carried away by every single thought that comes along: ‘I just hope there won’t be a traffic jam later today.’ ‘I really should start working out more.’ ‘That colleague didn’t say hello, I must have done something wrong again.’ Going along with such thoughts hinders you in almost everything you do. You’re less able to concentrate, cooperation is more difficult, you get stressed and so on.”
What you see is what you are
But how do you become aware of how your mind works? Petra explains that it starts with the awareness that you don’t see the world as it is, but as you yourself are: ‘We are all different and interpret the signals we receive from the world in our own way. Who you are determines the way you filter, the way you give meaning to the world. That’s how we each form our own worldview.”
This idea of different worldviews is reflected in the six value systems in the People Change Scan. “These were brought into the world in the last century as value systems, but you can also interpret them as worldviews or levels of consciousness,” explains Petra. “What we do at People Change is to give people a ladder so that they can observe a situation from different levels. Then, all of a sudden they can see: ‘Actually, I don’t really know why that colleague didn’t say hello, or if it even has to do anything with me at all.’”
“By becoming aware of the fact that you are producing your own worldview, you can reflect on it. Understand that your truth is not the truth. You learn to realize that other people have different worldviews. That they can assess the situation very differently and react to it in a very different way.”
The reason we all make a different truth is the same as the reason we are all different: each of us has their own history. “There’s a lot of compelling thoughts in your head. Part of these stem from our basic evolutionary needs: we all want to be safe, to be in control, to be liked and to be special. But on top of that, you also have your own personal compelling thoughts, because they were put in there during your unique past. These may be thoughts from your family, or from events you have experienced.”
“All these compelling thoughts, you’ve thought so many times that a highway has been built in your head. Thoughts can travel over it very quickly and easily,” says Petra. She does not mean this metaphorically: “A well-known saying in neuroscience is ‘neurons that fire together wire together’. In other words: neurons that you use a lot will stick together. This quite literally creates a highway.”
From chemistry to alchemy
Becoming aware of this – of who you are, how you are built up and how this works as a filter on your world view – is already an important step. But according to Petra it doesn’t end with awareness: “I am always busy with the question ‘what can you do with it?’ Throughout my life, I’ve always been interested in the potential of the mind.”
Perhaps surprisingly, this journey began with a study in chemistry. “I also wanted to do psychology but found myself a little too young for that when I was 18. Later of course, psychology did become a major part of my life.”
It is precisely the relationship between these two – between matter and psyche, body and mind – that Petra is interested in now. “You can already see this relationship in those highways: your thoughts shape the physical connections in your brain,” she explains. “And in the same way you build it, you can dismantle such an old highway, which doesn’t serve you anymore. You do it by no longer choosing the highway, but instead following the unbeaten path. And then you can speak of alchemy, which is actually just another word for transformation. Using your mind, you are transforming the neural networks in your body. And you simultaneously strengthen your mind.”
“You relieve yourself of those ‘knee-jerk’ reactions – those automatic irritations or fear reflexes. You change the way you’re programmed. Psychological triggers that previously activated a whole neural network – certain words you hear, the one eyebrow being raised – no longer have power over you then. You become freer. You can choose for yourself: do I want to invest my energy in this or not?”
This is in line with a realisation that is resonating more and more within science the last few years: “Our mind and even our genes are very flexible”, Petra emphasizes. “Where it used to be: you are the way you are and there’s nothing you can do about it, now one neurological study after another shows that the mind is not static at all, but indeed very dynamic. You can shape yourself. By increasing your self-awareness you can transform yourself: from lead to gold.”
How you can do this, Petra will explain in part two of our conversation, which will follow here soon.
Already want to start with your own development or that of your organization? Contact Petra via firstname.lastname@example.org.