How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
That’s not your usual kind of question. Its not even a trick question The answer is below the picture!


Are you ready?
Just click the continue reading button below to find out and learn about the deeper question behind this one.

It only takes one psychiatrist to change a lightbulb, but the lightbulb must really want to change! (Its a weak joke – I apologise!)

The serious question behind this joke is why is it a lot of people don’t change in spite of their best intentions and efforts? Why can some people learn a truth or value they know they need to change about themselves or their lives, but just keep on doing the same things again and again and make the same mistakes? In some cases that can go on for decades and even a whole lifetime. They say one definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again while expecting a different result!

By contrast there are others who are able over time to change in such radical and fundamental ways that it goes beyond even their wildest expectations. (For some humorous real life examples see Do You Still Believe Your Old School Report?)

It seems a little harsh to say no one can change unless they really want to. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that change is actually a process over time with a number of cross roads and different decision points.

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we first created them.” In other words we need to look at the world differently and do things in a different way if we want to see a different result to the one we are currently getting.

I was helped in my understanding of this by Pete Scazzero who introduced me to something called Bloom’s Taxonomy. A taxonomy is simply a classification. It explains how people learn something and the process by which that learning can move from their heads into their lives. It also explains why people get stuck and are not able to move forward even in spite of the best intentions.

Part of the reason for this is that we learn at three levels:

Mind (thinking or cognitive)

Heart (feelings or emotions)

Body (actions or psychomotor)

To really learn something we have to be engaged at all 3 levels.

Benjamin Bloom was an educational psychologist who built on these ideas to explain his taxonomy in 1956. it has since been adapted and revised, but the steps outlined by Wendy Sideman are particularly helpful when it comes to understanding personal change and transformation.

While we tend to think in one of two ways, saying something to ourselves along the lines of I know something or I don’t know something that is not strictly true. An example might be when we say I know how to drive a car or I don’t know how to drive a car. Granted that you do have to pass a test to ‘know’ how you drive a car, but the reality is it takes time to learn. In fact it takes many small incremental steps until you can actually say you know how to drive a car (or, as another example, learn a language).

There are 5 distinct levels you have to move through:

1. Awareness: I have seen people drive. I know it is something I would like to do.

2. Ponder: I know they have to turn the ignition key; put their foot on the clutch and change gear while at the same time gradually putting their other foot on the accelerator, looking in the mirror, turning the steering wheel and slowly moving forward. (Assuming the car is not an automatic!)

3. Value: I think learning to drive is important to me. I am going to set aside time and money to actually try out and practice all that is needed to be done to pass the test.

4. Prioritise: I make a decision to actually ensure I do what I say is important to me. I stop doing or rearrange other things to actually do all that needs to be done in  order to learn.

5. Own: Driving is so natural to me. I don’t even think about it. I drive to work or somewhere and I have no recollection as to how I got there!

With those 5 steps the largest gap is between levels 3 and 4. Moving from valuing something in my mind and actually making it an actual priority in my life requires a significant amount of intentional and deliberate energy and commitment.

It can come gradually over time or it can come surprisingly quickly.

The Law of Process illustrates about how change can occur gradually but then have a dramatic outcome. Take, for example, the story of the Chinese bamboo tree. It is planted in the ground and after 5 years of tender loving care and nurture all that you can see is a short stump the size of a man’s fist. The reason is that all the growth has gone on under the ground and the roots have gone down deep. In the 6th year the Chinese bamboo plant grows as much as 80 feet in just 5 weeks!

In terms of rapid change, I recall the story someone told me about how he studied and read about the dangers of cigarette smoking as a child. The harmful effects terrified him. He went to his father (who had been a long term smoker and had never been able to give up) crying saying he did not want him to die. This father seeing his son crying so sincerely ended up immediately giving up his habit that he had never been able to conquer before! His mind, heart and body were in complete alignment because of that experience.

So while it takes only one psychiatrist to change a light bulb assuming that light bulb really wants to change, the potential for growth and transformation is far more than any of us can think or imagine.

Where are you on the journey of change you want to see in your own life?