Using Disruption to Create Positive Change

Pattern disruption has long been a recognized method for creating positive change. The Socrates character in Dan Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior puts it this way: “You have many habits that weaken you. The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”[1]

As humans, we are all creatures of habit – we drink coffee in the mornings, brush our teeth before bed, have brunch on Sundays. Such routines shape our lives, and yet most significant incidents of personal growth and development occur during shifts away from ‘regular life’ as we’ve come to know it. The current national educational shift to virtual knowledge content delivery is an excellent demonstration of our collective ability to adapt and establish new routines: the radical disruption of the pandemic necessitated radical creativity and growth.

The shift from high school to college presents a similar opportunity to create positive change. That this transition takes place for many students during the disruption of the pandemic can potentially amplify opportunities for those equipped to abandon their routines in a new paradigm. But not all students are so equipped.

New college students, especially those who learn differently, often realize within the first few days of the new semester in a completely new environment that the routines they followed in high school will not necessarily translate to college life. (For example, there are no IEPs or 504 plans in college, students must make their own plans.) While most colleges address the difference in well-intentioned First-Year orientation programming, these activities often assume a level of autonomy some students have not yet attained. Those students tend to fall back on the familiar when NOT following patterned behaviors is what is called for to meet the new realities of college life.

“Change may sound threatening if stability, not growth is your goal. But researchers have consistently found that all living systems change, and disruptions that disturb the status quo are what you need to enable learning, adaption, creativity, resilience, and growth.”[2] The first few weeks of the semester are the right time to start creating the new routines and new ways of being that lay the foundation for autonomy in school and ultimately independence in life. It is easier said than done.

This is where Focus Collegiate comes in. Informed by student strengths and self-created goals, we build a resonant relationship based on mutual respect and open dialogue. This relationship is the foundation for Appreciative Inquiry, a collaborative, strength-based approach to intentional change.

Psychology Today describes the approach this way:
“The appreciative inquiry process is an effective way to help you bridge the gap from the chaos of disruption to creativity and growth. Based on the premise that you learn little about excellence by studying failure, appreciative inquiry…[uncovers] what’s working well, [so you can] dream of what might be possible if you built upon these strengths, design pathways forward to move from where you are to where you want to be, and take actions to start realizing your destiny. Instead of fueling a downward spiral of fear, blame, and shame that can often be sparked by organizational change processes, this…the cycle helps to create a positive disruption by producing an upward spiral of confidence, curiosity, and hope that is grounded in the reality of the strengths your system has to build upon.”

Backed up by accountability and a learning agenda, students are empowered to explore new routines that will help them make the most of disruption in order to meet their chosen goals.

We are almost at full capacity for Fall Semester 2020 and are already fielding calls for our 2021 Summer Cohort and Fall 2021 enrollment. Contact us to get your future started.



Photo by Dan on Unsplash

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Focus Collegiate provides innovative hands-on coaching for college students with learning differences, on campus and Virtually across the country.

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