3 Secrets to Make Changes "Stick"
Why can’t I do what I say I’m going to do? I’m overwhelmed and exhausted. I vowed not to take on any more projects. But, then my manager asked me to work on something, and before I knew it, I found myself saying, “Yes.”
Lisa, a self-proclaimed workaholic, is frustrated. Her goals are to define herself beyond work, to enjoy her personal life and to have more fun! But some of her habits are hard to leave behind. What’s a girl to do?
Fortunately, Lisa (not her real name) isn’t relying on willpower alone to reach her goals. Many people do exactly that–set goals and depend upon self-discipline alone to reach them. This may work in the short-term, but it seldom brings long-lasting results. Here, I’ll share three keys that lead to lasting change.
1. A vivid picture of where you’re headed.
One of the biggest obstacles to lasting change? Rushing ahead to set action steps before considering the big picture. Begin with the end in mind and create a vision that draws you forward. Consider:
Why is this goal important to me?
What do things look like now?
Where do I want to be?/How will life be different?
How do I feel now? How will I feel when I get there?
And go beyond simple logic–sometimes the logical choice isn’t what will fulfill you most. Tap into your emotions and the right side of the brain. Take time to do things that will bring you new insights, like praying or meditating, writing in a journal, going through magazines and selecting images that speak to you.
Be as specific as possible. Take, for example, the statement “I see myself with greater balance in my life.” That’s great, but too vague by itself. Focus on how you’ll feel. Come up with more specific statements:, like:
“I wake up excited about the day.”
“I’ go on vacations, without a care in the world.”
“My work is fun again.”
“I picture myself having time and energy to play with my children without getting winded.”
2. Specific objectives to get you to your goal
Once you have a solid vision in place, it’s time to establish SMART objectives. (SMART=specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) For each objective, consider:
What is the specific objective?
How will this help reach my ultimate goal?
What steps are involved?
Is this achievable, realistic?
What does a successful outcome look like?
How long will this take?
How will I track my progress?
Who will support me?
What other resources might I need?
3. Plans to address internal barriers to success.
We encounter external obstacles in reaching our goals (e.g., lack of money, transportation, education). Yet, I’ve found that internal obstacles–things like fear, negative thoughts and mistaken beliefs–are much bigger threat to creating the lives we want.
For clues as to your internal barriers, first look at your thoughts. When you consider your goals, what goes through your mind? What objections might distract you from your goal?
If I say, “no,” he’ll think I can’t handle the job.
It’s just part of the culture here.
Next, consider emotions you have relative to your goal/plans. Are there any feelings that could be counterproductive (e.g., fear of failure, uncertainty, frustration)?
Frustrated. Resentful. Tired. Worried.
Addressing your beliefs is a critical component for lasting change. You can manage your thoughts, feelings and habits. But, if there are mistaken beliefs underlying them, it’s impossible to maintain change for the long haul.
I’m successful because I’m the “superstar” in our department. I have to go the extra mile.
Saying “no” means I’ve failed. Failure is not acceptable.
I don’t have a choice.
Your thoughts and emotions give you clues as to underlying beliefs that are getting in your way. Dealing with those beliefs is key to lasting change.
Once you’ve uncovered those beliefs, challenge them. Are your perceptions accurate?
In Lisa’s case, she naturally took on the superstar role. She felt she had to work harder than everyone else to be successful. When she challenged that assumption, Lisa realized that she was tired of trying to prove herself to everyone. She didn’t have to be a superstar to do great work and be well-respected. We worked together to redefine what success meant for her–not just at work, but in all areas of her life.
Lisa also began to consider the possibility that she did have choices when it came to her work. She could negotiate deadlines and workloads with her manager. She could look for ways to enhance her productivity. Doing these things improved her work life immensely. Ultimately, Lisa decided the culture was no longer a good fit and went on to take a position with another organization.
Wishing you a vivid vision, SMART goals and empowering beliefs!