For most of us, change can be a little bit daunting. We usually prefer certainty, security and the places, people and habits we’re familiar with. Which is why we hang onto jobs that we no longer love, partners that treat us poorly and behaviours that aren’t serving us. We prefer the things that we know.
Changing your life in even a small way may not be easy. The process quite often involves a few steps forward and a few steps backward. One research study showed that for most people, change takes up to seven attempts. And once you’ve created a new habit there’s a chance you’ll slip back from time to time.
Understanding these things will help you to be a little kinder with yourself as you go through the process of change. It might also help you to know that there are some steps you can follow to stay on track.
If you’re even thinking about change, you will probably have become aware of some level of discomfort in your life. It’s usually this awareness that motivates you to think about change in the first place. Developing your self-awareness will help you gain clarity about the best kind of change for you. One way to do this is to practice some form of yoga or meditation.
Once you’re aware that something in your life isn’t working for you, you need a vision for an alternative that looks more appealing. Sometimes you won’t know what you want. Which means you may prefer to spend time at this step exploring your options. Some great tools to help you create your vision are mind mapping, brainstorming with a friend or using guided meditation.
3. Creating a plan
Once you’ve worked out your vision, the next step is to break it down into a workable plan. Create a series of manageable action steps. If it’s a big change you’re planning, begin by developing monthly milestones. As you approach the first month, break down those steps into weekly or even daily activities. So that you don’t become overwhelmed, begin by just focusing on the first few steps.
4. Taking the first step
For some people, this can be difficult. This may be a time where you need some support. Ask a friend to be your sounding board and ideally, get them to hold you accountable for taking the first step.
5. Evaluate and remove any obstacles
Stand back and evaluate. Look at what’s working, what isn’t and take note of any insights you’ve had. Sometimes taking the first step helps you to recognise that you don’t actually want things to change at all. You might have noticed that there are a whole lot of obstacles in the way. Don’t be disheartened if things haven’t gone exactly to plan. Create some space and consider whether your vision needs to be modified and think about how you can move beyond the barriers.
6. Modify your plan
You need to be flexible when you’re creating change in your life. You’ll continue to have insights about how and where you want to change your plan. This is all part of the process – go with it. And remember, nothing about the process of change needs to be perfect. As long as you have a sense that you’re generally moving in the right direction, you’re doing ok.
Sometimes you’ll feel stuck after the first step. When you’re first starting out, your motivation is high but over time you may notice that it lags. You might feel drained by the work you’ve already done. Creating change can be tiring so it’s important to take care of yourself throughout the process but the real key at this point, is self discipline. Having the discipline to follow through with your commitments is the single most important factor in the entire change process. If this isn’t a strong point for you, develop the strength of discipline by creating just a small amount of structure in your day or week, for example, getting out of bed early and walking for thirty minutes three mornings a week. Building discipline in this way, builds discipline in other areas of your life. And if you still find you’re not making progress on your own, the next step will help you.
Answer to someone else. Nothing is more effective in helping you to create new habits in your life. Ask a friend to hold you accountable, set up your own Change Project Group or seek the help of a professional.
We would be delighted for you to reproduce our articles as long as they remain intact and contain the author’s details as follows: ‘Kate James is a coach, speaker and writer. She works with people who want to live confident, creative lives. Kate can be contacted at www.totalbalance.com.au.’
Photo: Kate James