In many ways it’s a wonder anyone manages to change at all. First of all we need to understand: what we should change, what we can change, and how to workout the difference. After that the process itself is far from easy. Even when the change we are looking for might appear straight forward, like a decision to get fitter or learn a new skill, success can be elusive.
That said there are a few steps we can take to tip the balance in our favour. Here are 4 steps you can use to support successful change.
Step 1 – The Vision
Creating a vision complete with imagery and emotion is an important first step. After all if you don’t know what it looks and feels like how will you know it when you see it? So questions like “What do you want to do or be?” Are fine but to get more clarity try asking, “What will it look like and feel like when you are finished?” This step requires a clear vision of the end state as this is what will keep you motivated. Your vision should be something that creates strong positive emotion in you. That way you will be able to engage your subconscious mind in the actions required to succeed.
Step 2 – The Plan
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupery
First step in planning is to gather your resources. This might include talking to people you know to find out if they have any advice for you. It might be reading a book or searching the internet. Whatever source you choose, finding out how other people have achieved goals that are similar to yours is a good place to start. Here are few suggestions for questions to consider at the planning stage:
- What resources are available to you that will help you succeed?
- How much time will the activities in the plan take?
- Will you need to consider giving up some other activities to reach your goal. If so which ones?
- Do you have the energy to complete the actions in your plan if not how will you find the necessary energy to succeed?
- What will be your measures of success for each of the actions on your plan? Making a note of these “mini successes” as you go will keep you motivated and on track. So it’s great to have a few “proof of progress” measures thought through before you start.
Once you have decided how to create the change you want then plan the details of the actions required and in the order you need to take those actions. For example if you want to learn a new language, you would start by getting your resources together maybe a class or buying some software. From then on your plan might be a schedule of what vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation you plan to learn and in which order.
Step 3 – Stay motivated
Writing a plan is probably the easiest part of creating change. Staying the course when the going gets tough is definitely more difficult. Who hasn’t at some stage given up on some new years resolution? Similarly, a plan that includes for example running at 7am in the morning might be just doable in the summer but may be tortuous in the winter. Being able to stay motivated is a top skill when it comes to reaching any goal. Here are some suggestions on how to stay on track:
- Goals: review your goals – are they exciting enough to keep you going?
- Expectations: Manage your expectations. If you think the goal is taking too long to achieve you may be disheartened simply because you have not accurately predicted how long the skill will take to build etc. remember 10,000 hours is the amount of deliberate practice it takes to become an expert. This might seem fairly arbitrary figure but it is useful in terms of perseverance if you have not succeeded yet but have not done 10,000 hours of practice you shouldn’t quit yet!
- Sticking to the task: If you find focus fading, you might like to try these strategies:
- Make sure your environment is free of distractions.
- Avoid fear of failure by viewing actions and events as learning opportunities.
- Check your big goals hold meaning for you. Some of the tasks we need to do to build mastery are not fun but our big picture goal should see us through. If it does not, it may be time to reassess.
- Make it easy to get started. Overcome inertia by giving yourself a small task.