Strategies for Personal Change

I. Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? Does It Matter?



Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

When I was a kid, this question always pulled me into a philosophical mindset, and I can remember many conversations and/or debates working it from both a logical and emotional point of view. What I most remember about those sessions is that we’d often end in either a stalemate (we’re both equally right!) or a happy yet resigned exhaustion (who cares, anyway?).

My adult self encounters this question all the time. Not about chickens necessarily, but about what comes first?

Clients usually bring agendas that focus on changing results, so in a coaching session we will explore what needs to shift for that new outcome to occur. We can go in many directions, for example:

  • What new behavior will you need to demonstrate?
  • What habit must you create or eliminate?
  • What do you need to pay attention to that you’re not aware of now?
  • How does your thinking or speaking need to change?
  • What emotions are you having now that keep you stuck in the old pattern?
  • What emotion(s) are required for you to be in that new place?
  • How might you need to prepare differently, or show up differently for that new outcome to become real?
  • What might you need to change in your environment to support the new outcome?
  • Who might you enlist for help or support?

Of course, we don’t consider all these questions at once. Still, a client can feel overwhelmed at their options.

So a natural next question – voiced by either the coach or the client – is, “what’s the best place to start?” Which comes first, the emotional shift or the behavioral one? Which comes first, changing my environment or changing my story? YIKES!

In my first two months of training as a Health Coach, I’ve learned that every dimension of wellness or disease is part of a complex web of connections to all other dimensions. Diet affects blood sugar, blood sugar affects blood pressure, blood pressure dances with stress, stress affects diet and exercise and vice versa, and sleep – well, sleep affects everything!

So if you want to address issues of weight, cardiovascular health, hypertension, AND stress, where do you start?

The best answer is that it doesn’t matter where you start, JUST START SOMEWHERE! Because everything is connected, benefits you generate will eventually flow through to other areas.

That said, sometimes there is a best answer to “which comes first?”

Calm or Organized? When a client shows up with an out-of-control calendar or workspace AND is stressed to the max, we could certainly begin with a lesson on KonMari and talk about organizing their paper. But who can make good decisions when their neck is so stiff they can’t feel their head?

In this situation, it’s best to start breathing and grounding and slowing down to get the blood circulating again. A calm brain that’s getting oxygen can handle all that paper.

Risk or Confidence? “I can’t do that, not until I feel more confident.” Interesting theory, but you can’t build confidence without failing a bit and learning that you can live through the experience. If you currently freak out on stage and your goal requires that you present to 150 people at the annual leadership retreat, you will not “think” your way to success.

Try speaking up more at meetings, then in front of a team, then maybe at a department meeting, each time pausing to build off what you learned in the process. Your confidence will emerge from embracing both your mistakes and your wins. Take the risk first; confidence will follow.

Much of the time, however, it really does not matter which comes first. Sleep or Exercise? Health or Happiness? Chocolate or Beer? Just pick one and move forward, trusting that the other will also shift as you move.

Back to that Chicken…

So, which DID come first, the Chicken or the Egg? In this podcast by Seth Godin, he makes the best case I’ve ever heard for the EGG. The relevant part of the recording is the first 20 minutes.


Read more articles like this one in: About Happiness, Communication, Executive Coaching, Happiness, Health, In the workplace, Practicing Happiness, Strategies for Personal Change