Ever wondered how to change your life, your job, anything…

  • I want a new job!
  • I can’t bear my boss!
  • I want to lose weight, get fit, stop smoking, eat healthier!

I am sure most of us have a list of things that we would like to be different in our lives.  Sometimes, people seek out the help of someone external to help them make a change.  Often though, it remains a source of simmering discontent. Knowing that there is something you would like to be different in your life, but not knowing quite how to go about changing it.

I saw two cases this week of people who were really ready to make a change in their life and went about doing just that. This got me thinking; how do you take it from the “I’m going to” stage to the “I am” stage?

Personal change/growth/development (whatever you call it) is hard, which explains why it isn’t easy to do it (or we would never have anything on our “I wish this was different list”). But often it is hard because it remains a vague, theoretical concept of I want to change my life, rather than a tangible plan to do so.  Or as Michelle Bridges, she of the 12 week body transformation programme says “a tantrum is not a plan.”

Stages of change

It can be useful to think of change as a series of stages. It is unusual for someone to decide they want to make change, and do it then and there. Usually, there is a series of steps or stages that the mind needs to go through. This explains why sometimes people get stuck and don’t ever move beyond the “I want to” to the “I am going to” stage.

There is a model called ADKAR from Prosci which is helpful to illustrate these stages:

A for Awareness .. this is the point where people begin to realise that a change is needed. They either come to this realisation on their own or because someone is trying to instil a change upon them.

D is for Desire .. this is where the individual actively chooses to take it from a theoretical “yes, yes, I know I need/should change, but..” to an actual desire to make the change.  There is an often quoted saying around this. This one is from Henry Cloud: “We change our behaviour when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”

K is for Knowledge.. this is the skills and knowledge needed for the change, both during and after the transition. And this is another important reason why a plan is so necessary. Make sure you have the right skills, the right equipment, whatever you need to make it happen.

A is for Ability .. this is the your ability to perform or act in the new way. Are there any barriers inhibiting your ability (including saboteurs — either yourself or other people in your life)? Another way to think about this is the Switch approach of “clear the road of any blocks”.

R is for Reinforcement..this is for the reinforcements that will help to retain the change. Are incentives in place to help you make the change stick? Are there incentives not to change?

How to make that change in reality

So that is all very well in theory — but how does it work in reality?

Think about what you want to change
  • Take a stocktake of the situation. What is good about where you are at the moment?
  • What do you want to change about your life? 
  • Be specific. Use the principles of appreciative enquiry to dream/describe/imagine what is and what could be.
  • List the reasons you believe this change is necessary. And why you are ready now.
Are you ready? Really ready to do it?
  • List the factors or consequences (good and bad) that create a desire to change.
  • Consider these motivating factors, including your conviction in these areas. Assess your desire to change.  Do you really want this??
  • List your excuses. The exercise below is a great one for any change, as it really prompts a rational look at the excuses we tell ourselves about any change we are trying to make.

Michelle Bridges has built a multi million dollar empire on helping people to get fit and healthy and lose weight. She knows all about the lizard brain (the one that is scared and will do anything to stop you make change) as one of the first exercises she gets her new recruits to do (before they have even started on the programme) is to list the three types of excuses around the “why” they can’t exercise or eat healthily. She describes these types of excuses:

  • Internal Excuses – the self talk that goes on between the Jekyll and Hyde in your head.
  • External Excuses within your control – These are excuses prompted by external factors – but which you still have some control over.
  • External Excuses outside of your control – These are external factors that you have absolutely no control over, real emergencies.
Make a plan
A Tantrum is not a plan

This seems self evident, but often, we talk in vague terms.. “I want to lose weight” “I want to be fitter” “I want a new job” “I want to change my life“.  For any change to work, there needs to be a specific goal. And then there needs to be a plan from there. And this is where it gets interesting.

  • Be as specific as you possibly can regarding the steps. List every thing that you need to do to make it happen.
  • Set yourself up for success.
  • Make the steps as small, specific and realistic as possible. This makes them achievable. A friend is learning to drive again after many years of not driving. Her plan:
    • Visualise getting back in the car.
    • Plan for when she can make this happen given her personal circumstances. What else does she need to be in place to get going?
    • Map out a small, but achievable route. In this case, just three very short streets at 6am in the morning, with the least possible turning into oncoming traffic, roundabouts etc.
    • Make a plan if she runs into trouble.
    • Practice, practice, practice.
    • Once she feels comfortable with that route, map out the next route.
  • Start now. Not, I will start that next week, next year. Your brain will give you many reasons why it is not a good idea to change. This is fear talking. If you want to make the change, you need to start. And that’s why you need your plan. You need to work your way through your plan, overriding the brain that is trying to talk you out of it.
Importantly, have people on your side
  • Have your own personal support team, have people who want you to succeed.
  • Make the commitment out loud to other people and ask to be held accountable to your plan.
Be prepared to fail
  • We rarely talk about failure as an essential part of change, but it is. Think back to the baby learning to walk or talk, they fail many more times than they succeed. But that is considered part of learning, part of growing up. At some point, it seems like trying new things and failing is considered worse than staying in an untenable situation and not changing. Interesting!
  • Practice new ways of achieving your goal. Don’t give up if the first one doesn’t work.
Celebrate, even the failures

We need our own personal support team on our side, because change can be hard. It can be one step forward, two steps back, one step to the side. So, it is so important that we have people on our side, celebrating our successes for sure, but also celebrating that we are trying to do something different. Even if it doesn’t work perfectly at first, it is still better than sitting on the couch thinking: “I wanna“..

What do you think? Could a plan, a very specific plan help you to make the change you desire? The change you want in your life?

Until next week, happy reading.

Tammy Tansley Consulting - Change and Culture

Ps. Did you read last week’s blog on understanding what is change management?

Tammy Tansley
I am a coffee loving, energetic human who loves words, bright colours and spots, silly t'shirts and good champagne. Mum to two beautiful mischiefs. Long time wanderer around the world. Author. Blogger. Speaker.

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