…my wife, Carol [Bolles], is a well-known career counselor in her own right. She was meeting with a client who worked in the rubber industry — let’s call him George. George told her in their first session, “I’ve got to get out of the rubber industry.” So she gave him some homework to do before their next session. He came back the next week, and he hadn’t done a lick of the homework. My wife, rich with intuition, asked him, “What will happen if you don’t get out of the rubber industry?” George said, “My wife will divorce me.” Carol said, “Do you want your wife to divorce you?” He couldn’t keep the smile off of his face. She knew then that he would never change his job until it had given him what he wanted: a divorce, with his wife taking the initiative — and the guilt. Based on his behavior, my wife named this “the doctrine of the prior agenda.” You can’t help people change or find their mission when they have a conflicting prior agenda.
Source: What Happened to Your Parachute? / Daniel H. Pink, Richard Bolles / Fast Company, September 1999