It’s that time of year again when we start thinking about the changes we want to make and which new year’s resolutions we will commit to.
Deciding to do something and then actually doing it are two different things. All of us make a decision to make a change, but when that doesn’t happen we get upset, frustrated or we see it as more validation to our view that ‘people don’t change’ or that ‘change is hard’.
The personal change cycle seeks to lift the covers on the mysteries of change. The aim is to show you ‘how’ to make change happen….unfortunately, it doesn’t automatically just do it for you.
What makes change seem so difficult is when we try to do it from the outside in – meaning, to change our external behaviour without making any changes to how we see the situation from the inside. When there is no internal basis for change, we need threats, reminders or someone to nag us into making sure we stick to the new behaviour. When we truly connect with the change from the inside out, it becomes so much easier.
The first stage of embarking on any significant change is to spend real time building up awareness. Understanding ‘why’ there is a need for change at a deep level, and ensuring you are connecting to your emotional brain as opposed to the logical brain, as emotion will always win at the end.
Look at how your current behaviour serves you – there will be some pay off from what you are doing right now; it will make you feel good in some way.
Once you have understood what the need is meeting, think about how you will meet that need going forward. Think about the beliefs and biases you have which shape your mindset and drive the behaviour.
For example, if you want to stop working so hard because of the resulting stress but have a deep-rooted belief that to be successful you must work long hours, you will need to address this belief before a a change can work.
Once we have a deeper awareness of why we do what we do and why we want to change we need to make a conscious choice about the actual change we are going to make.
For example, we may have started off wanting to spend more time engaging with our team, but as awareness grew it became apparent the change required was a change in mindset to start valuing the opinion of people less senior.
Once we are clear on what the change actually is and why it is so important, we need to strength test it by creating an emotional vision of what “good” looks like and checking your commitment to the change. Far better to go back to the awareness building stage now as opposed to proving to yourself again that change doesn’t work.
Most people make the big mistake of thinking that having decided to change they can make a few steps in the right direction and all will miraculously fall into place.
Imagine you decided to become a professional hand gliding instructor having never been in a hand glider before. What would you do?
Among other things, you may read some books, find an instructor, buy a hand glider, research the market, find out who employees instructors, how much they earn etc.
Personal behavioural change is no different. The most successful change happens when people consciously create the right environment for the change to happen. They make it easy by getting help, buying the kit, making the time. They make it attractive by staying focused on the benefits, having fun with it and rewarding their success. They recruit help by advertising the change and getting people to give them feedback. They decide to intentionally exercise their new behaviour and review their progress. They don’t throw the towel in when they get it wrong as they see it as an opportunity for further learning and a way of building their own awareness.
Final reality check
If you have been thinking about an area of personal change while you have been reading through this or have winced at/brushed aside any of the activities we mention in Conscious Change then you may want to revisit the Conscious Choice stage and check in on your chosen change (have you gone deep enough?) or your level of commitment (how much do you want this?) No judgement, this is what its all about – and why it is drawn as a circle!
Here are some questions you can ask yourself at each stage of the cycle, we call this blind coaching.
- What is the current behaviour or mindset?
- What is the impact of the current behaviour or mindset?
- When do you notice it most?
- What is the specific change you want to make?
- How will this change serve you?
- How would these changes improve your performance/life?
- What are the benefits of changing?
- What do you lose by not changing?
- What is your level of commitment to change?
- What is getting in the way? Barriers?
- Reasons you may have failed before?
- In light of this, revisit your choice. Are you prepared to make a genuine commitment to change? (or is this something that would be ‘nice to have’ but not worth working hard on)
- Therefore, are you going to change or stay the same?
- What is your conscious choice?
- What is your level of commitment (1-10) to make this change?
- What action do you need to take to make the change?
- Do you need to make changes to your home or work life to support the change?
- What can routines can you change to make it easy? i.e. leaving your running shoes at the end of the bed?
- Create leverage – who will be on your learning council?
- Who will you advertise the change to?
- What kind of intentional practice will you commit to?
- What will be your process for review and reflection?
- Do you need to acquire some specific skills or knowledge?
- What will be your power questions or statement to return to at crunch times? (when you are slipping into old behaviours)
- If you shy away from some of the activities, revisit your commitment levels
- What measure of success will you have?
- How will you stay focused on this choice?
- How will you ensure that you don’t take off with great enthusiasm and then slip back?
- What is my reward?
For some great tips on breaking habits, check this link http://charlesduhigg.com/how-habits-work/