Admit it. Most people who made New Years Resolutions will, by now, have broken most of them. Even though we predictably set them year after year, our resolutions rarely stick. So why is it that we don’t follow through with our good intentions?
Have you ever wondered what prevents us from following through with our good intentions? Is it really so hard to break bad habits or take the steps to get better results in our lives? How can we successfully create lasting change that leads to a more fulfilling life? Is wanting change enough of a motivating force to get us over the inner obstacles and beliefs that seem to stand relentlessly year after year, between us and our dreams?
I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘don’t quit.
Suffer now and live the rest of your life a champion. – Muhammad Ali
So what are the steps to effective change?
Like it or not, most of us have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. Although we may wish and will things to be different, we can still convince ourselves that we have good reasons to not make the changes that we earlier decided would alter our lives for the better. I believe that to make change stick we each need to examine and challenge our own ideas about what is really important to us, and explore how our current approach to life, love and the pursuit of happiness either benefit us or limit our potential.
1. Check your reason for making the change.
Are you changing something because you think you should change it? Are you experiencing external pressures to change something that you don’t really want to? If the answer is yes then you need to have a rethink. You can only implement successful change when you are really sure about what matters to you. What do you want? What gives you a buzz or makes you smile form the inside out? Discover what inspires you and dedicate your time to achieving it.
2. Are you trying to change something that is a symptom of a bigger issue?
Certain bad habits or behaviours, like smoking or overeating, are an indication of a deeper dissatisfaction with life. These habits are unlikely to change through will power and self-discipline alone. Give yourself a break. Make a new resolution to look within yourself and explore the history and ‘pay offs’ for the issue you want to change. Then try again.
3. Is the goal you have chosen a too big?
It is easy to get excited about making a big change in your life and it’s is just as easy to lose your drive and enthusiasm as time goes by and reality sets in. Revisit your goal. Chop it up into small steps and take one at a time.
4. Are you getting distracted?
As much as you want your resolutions to stick, you may find yourself allocating precious time and energy elsewhere. Do you need to say no to people and projects that side track you? Are you distracted by other ‘wants’ or things you should or have to do? There are only so many hours in a day. Prioritise the things that are really important to you and learn to say “no”.
5. Effective change needs planning.
Have you set up a structure to support the change? Develop a master plan for making change happen and schedule the time to make this new change a part of your life.
6. Enroll the assistance of someone who will hold you accountable.
It can be only too easy to lose focus of the end result when you don’t have accountability. Seek out someone who you can trust, a coach, trainer, relative, or close friend, to be there for you. This works best when you lay some ground rules, are honest about your needs and both agree on how you will be supported.
7. Is your resolution taking over your life?
Is your need for change putting too much pressure on the rest of your life? If so you may find it hard to maintain. Take a good look at your reasons for wanting to change. Be realistic about the time scale. Pace the change by phasing it in. Tell your family, friends and colleagues about your plans in advance and get agreement and support from them. Accept that your life will need time to adjust to the change and cut yourself some slack.
8. Have you made room in your life for a new priority?
If the answer is no you may find it difficult to take the consistent action that leads to results. Remember the adage “out with the old and in with the new”? What do you need to let go of to make room for something new? If you’re really serious about achieving a new goal establish and affirm your top five priorities and be willing to let go or shelve other concerns. Commit to doing one thing a day that consistently brings you closer to your goals.
9. Respect the process.
Are you celebrating your small victories? Keep your eyes on the prize but remember every journey starts with one step. Success breeds success, so make every step count.
So to sum up:
It’s true that you may not be able to change everything in your life, however you certainly can’t change anything unless you’re willing to take a look at it first. Every day is a new beginning, a clean slate. If you choose to approach it with open, unbiased eyes and a willing heart you will get to intelligently and consciously choose how you want it to be.