Making major changes in life is often difficult. Whether your change has to do with rehabilitation, marriage, divorce, putting a parent in a nursing home, or just packing up and moving from one house to another, changes require focus, resolve, and a certain amount of energy to carry through in spite of obstacles. Consequently, many people avoid change.
Talking about change, however, is easy. Change about pleasant stuff – an upcoming vacation, a new job, or opening a new business – carries a certain excitement; a kind of a honeymoon feeling. But then reality sets in: the roof on the vacation hut leaks, the new boss is an alcoholic, and your “can’t miss” business just hit a downturn.
Difficulties with change boil down to two decisions, neither of them very pleasant:
- The first decision is to avoid change from the get-go. Don’t even get started!
- The second decision made by many is to cheerfully embrace change, then become disappointed when the outcome sucks. This choice has the added advantage of being able to blame someone else (the hotel clerk, the boss, the economy, or God) for the inevitably disappointing outcome.
So how do you actually embrace change? Even more pointed . . . how do you embrace change AND make it stick?? This is the problem; this article will hopefully shed light on a few solutions.
All change involves decisions. Consequently, all change that sticks will involve a decision to not only start the process rolling, but to “do whatever it takes” to keep that ball rolling until it reaches your destination or goal!
If that sound difficult, it is. But it’s because it is difficult that very few people even attempt to follow this path. It’s the reason why, for example, only 4% of the world’s population controls 90% of the wealth and resources! It is also why roughly 70% of all people who make New Year’s resolutions never make it past the first month! Then they chalk up to “bad luck” and another indication that they are “losers” who “just can’t get a break.”
Are you ready to take your place among the rare few who are successful and powerful? If so, read on and take notes. If not, that’s fine too. Just remember this: even if you don’t think you can rise to the same heights as “the great ones,” don’t just give up. Follow the formula I’m about to reveal to you . . . and by just taking steps in that direction you will still see a tremendous boost in your ability to achieve your goals!
Here is my “12 Step Program” for making life changes that stick. But you won’t have to stand up in a group and say “Hi, my name is Michael and I’m a change failure.” It does, however, involve a bit of self-reflection with a large slice of humility and honesty. So ready? Here goes…
STEP 1 – When Change Happens, roll with the Punches. Most people are too busy taking care of life – and others – that they get completely ruffled when something comes out of the blue to disrupt their routine. If you (like me) are one of these fuss-budgets, all I can share with you is to take responsibility for your “response-ability.” In other words, get over it! Life is full of change, and anger will only create more pain for you and those around you. It’s easy to lash out and blame, and at first you will find yourself doing this subconsciously. But just start watching yourself react. Bit by bit, you will notice the need for anger falling away. I also found that meditation and the Serenity Prayer helps.
STEP 2 – Write down Alternative Changes. Don’t like the road you’re on? Change it! Whenever possible, look at the process that brings you irritation or worry, then take action to change that process! By all means, address your own needs and wants. If, for example, you are forced into a living situation with an elderly disabled parent or relative, accept the change, but make time to take care of yourself as well. Write down things you can do to make the whole situation more bearable, and even fun! Interview the shut-in and create an online radio program or write a book on the difficulties you both face. “Turning lemons into lemonade” may sound silly, but it works. The psychological term for it is called “reframing.”
STEP 3 – Write down your “Sticky Things.” Once you see some possibilities, write down all the things that stand in the way of your reaching these possibilities or dreams. These are the “messes” in life – physical messes, emotional baggage, or mental beliefs or mind viruses (“memes”) that block your path to happiness and peace. The list can be long or short, but be as complete as you can.
STEP 4 – Write down your Legacy. Look beyond your current situation. If you were to die at the end of next year, how would you want to be remembered? As a loving parent? A successful coach? A best-selling author of a book on relationships? Using Step 1 answers as a guide; your legacy wishes should reflect your deepest love or solution to some of the more chronic Sticky Things.
STEP 5 – Write down the Five (5) Things you can commit to accomplishing in the next 12 months. These can be medium-term goals, such as renovating your house, or more long-term goals like building your business. If the latter, write down the action steps you can take to move further along this path, such as developing a marketing program or hiring and training an assistant. At least 2 of these 5 things should be about Sticky Things, i.e., messes you want to clean up or overcome.
STEP 6 – Flesh out the Complete Goals. For each of the 5 items, add as much detail as possible, including detailed activities, completion dates, and who (or what) you can get to help you. Set a realistic timeline of the steps you need to take to accomplish each of your 5 goals to the end. “Realistic” means aim for something you feel you can accomplish by a reasonable deadline for the year, and hopefully with some help.
STEP 7 – Write down the MINIMUM you can do to accomplish each of the 5 goals, while still feeling like they will happen. This step is a way to free your mind from overwhelm, and allow you to take smaller steps rather than feel like you “failed.”
STEP 8 – Write down the MAXIMUM you feel you can accomplish for each goal. This is an exercise that allows you to dream a little or be outrageous. For example, let’s say your goal is to learn skydiving. Your minimum might be to take a skydiving lesson. The complete goal would be to make one or two tandem jumps. But what is the MAXIMUM you could accomplish, assuming the other two steps come quickly? Five tandem jumps and five solos? Buy your own equipment and become certified? Stretch yourself a bit.
STEP 9 – Write down one or two action steps you can take in the next 30 Days for each of the five items. The key here is to start taking action now. The sooner you do this, the more accomplished you will feel.
STEP 10 – Make a list of Helpers, i.e., those who you can delegate ALL or PART of the action steps needed to accomplish your goal. NOTE: This step is the KEY if you want to be a high achiever. Everyone labors under the same clock, so it’s important to LEVERAGE your time as much as possible. Offer to pay the person, barter, or simply accept help. The more help you can enlist, the closer you are to hanging out on yachts with the other 4 percenters!
STEP 11 – Measure your progress. This is something most people overlook. If your goal is to lose weight, how much weight? By when? What does your diet look like? Do you hire a trainer? If you, say, want to lose 50 pounds in 8 months, then you must lose 6.25 pounds a month, or 1.5 pounds a week. When I had a goal to ride 1000 miles a year on a unicycle for charity, I knew I had to average at least 84 miles a month – something I’ve done for 4 straight years!
STEP 12 – Reward yourself when you reach your goal! Whether you did the minimum, complete, or most, reward yourself with a gift, trip, night out, or something that makes you feel appreciated. You can also do mini-rewards for each month you accomplish what you set out to do. After all, you deserve it!!
That’s it! So now start making life changes that really stick!!