Tips for Making Change Happen (Part I)

Yesterday while waiting for the Princess to finish her swimming lesson, I was reading Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success (Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler). The title caught my attention as I browsed the new non-fiction books at the library. I thought this book was appropriate with New Year’s around the corner. I know we still have Thanksgiving and December, but let’s face it. The year’s almost over. ;-P

Although much of what I read was common sense, here are some useful pointers I got from the book:

Harness the power of vision. If you can’t visualize/identify your goal concretely, chances are you are not going to make it happen. When you can actually see something, it makes it that much more real/possible.

I’ve read this in a number of self-help books—how instrumental it is to post pictures, post-its, vision maps, and personal motivation statements to achieve one’s goals. Visual reminders help you focus, especially when you lose track. The more vivid and poignant, the better:

Visual cues turn a want into a need, the absence of which causes sense of dissatisfaction. Use cues to kick you off autopilot as well as remind you of commitments/results you want to achieve.

What I thought interesting was the authors’ suggestion to portray the default future (what will happen if you continue the way you’re going). Nothing like a bleak vision of gloom and doom to motivate you to change.

Take a scientific approach to change. There is no one sure-fire way to succeed in anything. As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks. You need to recognize what motivates you, anticipate that obstacles that you’re likely to stumble upon, and figure out what to do when you encounter them. That’s why it’s important to learn as many strategies as possible and figure out what works for you.

Another interesting point from the book: Use our proclivity to fall into routine/go on autopilot to our advantage. It’s an evolutionary thing—apparently we fall into habits to save our brain for other challenges. So create good habits/practices and you’re well on your way to make the changes permanent.

Bad days equal good data. Keep in mind that there will be missteps and bad days along the way. The important part is to persevere, and look at these learning experiences as necessary steps for you to find out what works and what doesn’t. No matter how great the misstep, it’s still one step closer to your goal.

Set yourself to succeed. Recognize who will support and who will undermine your efforts. You can always try to convert your negative influencers to become your allies by asking them to intervene when you’re not doing things that support your goals. If they won’t help, you’ll find that you may need to distance yourself from those negative influencers.

Control your space. Keep good things close and convenient, and bad things distant and difficult.

Find value in what you do. This will help reposition the unpleasant tasks so they are more palatable. “Focus your attention on the values you’re supporting. The words you use to describe what you’re doing profoundly affect your experience of the crucial moment.”

It could be a matter of treating the activity like a game, setting up small prizes along the way for meeting certain benchmarks and penalties for not keeping commitments, keeping score and challenging oneself to do better at each checkpoint, and more. However, use incentives in moderation. Small rewards work their magic. “A large incentive often becomes an end in itself and when removed, so goes your primary source of motivation.”

Also, be sure to reward what you do, not what you achieve.

Break skills into small pieces and practice each skill in short intervals. Change happens gradually and with daily practice—ideally “perfect practice.” Don’t avoid your weak areas. Confront them and work to make them your strengths. Get others to help you—they can give immediate feedback and/or redirect you when you get off track.

Redefine “normal.” Stop comparing yourself to others. Concentrate on answering, “How do you want to live and feel? And who do you want to be?” It’s easy to fall into a trap of measuring ourselves against people/organizations that are not any healthier/stronger and being blind to our own shortcomings. Aim to be the standard for others to follow.

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Consider reading the book out to see how the authors’ Six Sources of Influence are applied to common goals such as jump-starting your career, overcoming addiction, improving relationships, losing weight/getting fit, getting out of debt. For more information, also check out their website changeanything.com.

Hope these tips were helpful to you.

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