Overcoming Immunity to Change

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Sarah Dianne Jones is curating a series written by our workshop leaders at the 2017 National Gathering. What excites them about the Gathering? What are they looking forward to sharing and discussing during their workshop? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Michaela Daystar

I’m silently observing from the back corner of the classroom. The usual loud din of conversation is now punctuated by slicing scissors, ripping paper, the rattle of a pen dropping to the floor. Bent over paper, the students are bringing to life images of a world at peace, drawn from a guided meditation I’d led them through moments before  A visitor to the room might guess that they’d entered an art class, rather than the women’s leadership seminar I had the honor of teaching at Mills College for seven years.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-11-28-04-amOverseeing this happy chaos, a part of me feels excited and proud. But that part is drowned out by my beating heart, sweaty hands, churning stomach–physical manifestations of genuine fear and dread coursing through me. In this moment–the first time I’ve brought my identity as an artist into this space–I feel exposed and vulnerable. I feel afraid. For my students, the point of this exercise is to make images of a world free from injustice. For me, the point of this exercise is to stand in this fear, to observe myself within it, and to answer the question of whether or not I can survive it.

Words like “dread,” “fear,” and “survive” may seem strange ones to describe a classroom activity. Their very strangeness throws into relief how deeply resistant to change I had become. I was caught within my own Immunity to Change™, a subconscious self-defense reflex that attempts to protect me from pain and embarrassment that I experienced as a child at school when I let myself be vulnerable enough to be my true self. Those experiences created a core belief that it is unsafe to be myself, and that belief shaped my behavior for thirty years, until I learned to overcome it.

Most of us–dare I say all of us?–move through life with silent, subconscious beliefs about the world that are left unexamined and taken for truth. Drawn from our early experiences, these beliefs serve an important purpose: to keep us safe from re-experiencing fear, pain, trauma, and embarrassment by limiting and defining our behavior. But at a certain point, our Immunity to Change™ becomes a serious hindrance to our personal and collective growth and development, preventing us from taking risks and actions necessary to fulfill our goals and be the people we wish to be.  

Organizations can also form collective immunities to change, as the unexamined beliefs of their members create a collective aversion to risk and growth. As our church communities seek to evolve, and thrive in the twenty-first century, it is important that we bring limiting beliefs to light, and work together to shift them. The process termed Overcoming Immunity to Change™–developed by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey over twenty years of research and practice—is designed to do just that. It’s helped numerous individuals and organizations shift their limiting beliefs to achieve their goals.

In this workshop, you’ll experience a taste of this powerful process, and leave with the tools you need to bring it to your community.

Overcoming Immunity to Change is offered on Tuesday during workshop block 3 at the 2017 National Gathering, and is part of the new Church Transformation Track.


daystarMichaela Daystar is an accredited Values Coach and SoulCollage® Facilitator in Davis, CA.  Drawn to methodologies that uncover our innate wisdom and creative nature, she designs experiences that help people connect more deeply with aspects of their identity and purpose, and that transform barriers to living into that purpose.  She has ten years of experience in social justice leadership development, and currently serves as the Assistant Director of Career Connections & Community Engagement at Mills College in Oakland, CA.