The Power of Organized Change
Ack! Change! One word that throws so many of us into a heart pounding tailspin. Your brain immediately wants to scream "NOOOOOO" at the very mention of the word change. Even the most minor life changes send us reeling while we try to think through all the possible scenarios. Do you immediately think about worst case scenarios? Or how many different ways you can try to escape the inevitable? Do you procrastinate? Or bury your head in the sand hoping it will all just go away? I do.
Change can be both exhilarating and anxiety producing.
Usually our thoughts of change are precipitated by stressful or painful stimuli.
- I hate the way I look because I eat my emotions.
- I am always letting someone down because I over-commit myself.
- My life is so overwhelming that I can't get out of bed in the morning.
- I continue to spend money recklessly and have overdrawn bank accounts.
- My boss is making me miserable and it is destroying my self-confidence.
- I am going through a divorce.
- I have lost a loved one.
- I am moving out of town and it has implications for every aspect of my life.
- I am having a child and I know it is going to change my life.
Depending on our VERY INDIVIDUAL circumstances the elements surrounding our desire for change can be extraordinarily stressful or maybe not so much. There are two important things to remember:
- The only situation that is relevant is the one you are in right NOW.
- You CAN learn how to harness the power of organized change to ensure your success.
I have recently had a series of experiences driving me toward change. A few minor health issues are forcing me to course correct. Changes to my diet, exercise regime, and how I use my time have left my life feeling disrupted in a major way. Change is an emotional experience. No matter how open you are to the changes, they take their toll. I can tell you I am feeling the brunt of it.
I had to step back and think about how I was going to successfully navigate these new waters. Reminding myself there is a natural order to processing life changes helped me feel less overwhelmed and I am hoping it will help you as well.
Below I have outlined my process in 8 steps. The point is not to see who gets to step 8 the fastest. The point is to take you time, break the change up into incremental pieces, and take the process as slowly as you need to. Everyone is different. There is no way to tell how fast this will work for you until you are following the steps.
Awareness + Acceptance
If you are a devoted reader of this blog, you have heard me say that awareness and acceptance are the cornerstones of personal growth. Awareness and acceptance are your barometer for growth readiness. I speak with people all the time who want to change but "can't." I believe they simply aren't ready. When you are stuck in a hole and can't stop digging, you simply aren't ready to stop digging. Eventually you will tire and not be able to dig anymore. It's too painful to keep going. You will look for an alternative. This is acceptance. Acceptance comes when you take immediate action to change the situation you are in.
Establish a Personal Vision
This is where you define success. What does life look like once you have made the necessary changes. Dream big! Be detailed. You need to answer the question "What does the future look like for me?" This is the most critical step in any change or goal achievement process. I deconstruct this concept in an earlier blog post and I have linked to it below.
Determine Support System
You will need a support system on your journey but you need to be selective. You don't need an army. A small group of trusted friends will do just fine. The people you chose should be compassionate, empathetic, a subject matter expert, a motivator, a straight shooter. Don't forget to include a straight shooter. You will need this person to challenge your thinking so you can truly grow. I have someone who does this for me and it is invaluable even though it is often frustrating.
Communicate Your Personal Vision
This is the single greatest place you will fail. If you don't communicate it, it isn't real. This doesn't mean getting out a bull horn. Your immediate family needs to understand your vision and the direction in which you are moving. If they aren't immediately supportive, brainstorm ways to resolve their challenges (see next step). Your priorities should align with your vision. Your words and actions should be aligned. Find friends with a similar vision or positive outlook on life.
If you think you aren't going to face speed bumps along the way, you have already failed. Even Dr. Seuss knows that bang ups and hang ups will happen to you. It's best to identify them at the onset so when they come up you are well prepared. List all your challenges with potential solutions for overcoming them.
Celebrate Your Success (no matter how small)
We are hyper critical of ourselves, often reluctant to acknowledge and value our progress. If you want to be successful, you will need to silence your inner critic and learn how to celebrate your successes no matter how small.
Understand how to motivate yourself by stringing together your small wins to create forward momentum. When I have a small win, I like to reward myself with something that will help me live my vision. Some rewards I have used in the past are: a book, a journal, new workout gear, a yoga prop, trying a fun new food, and a massage. If the win is so slight, a check mark on a checklist will do or an "x" on a calendar (see below).
Live Your Personal Vision (Make these changes stick)
Making this change stick comes down to habit creation. Habit creation is about one thing and one thing only. Consistency. So simple it is almost impossible.
Habit creation can best be learned from an 8 year old AND Jerry Seinfeld.
I asked my son to tidy up his room on a daily basis as a part of his morning chores. He started with gusto. I was elated to see that he took his Avengers Wall Calendar and started putting an "X" through each day he completed his task. This was innate genius and it worked for about a month. He was incredibly motivated to see the rows of "X's" lining the calendar Ultimately, he wasn't successful. What happened? He "broke the chain." The first missing "X" was his demise.
This system that was innate to my son is a well know productivity tip known as "The Seinfeld Strategy" named after it's creator Jerry Seinfeld. You can read more about this story below (I have supplied the link).
So there you have it, the big secret to habit creation, "DON'T break the chain."
Monitor and Maintain Your Vision
Like any process or system, you must check in and monitor progress.
Have you ever organized the family closet? The one that holds coats, umbrellas, hats, mittens, and other random household items. You drag everything out. You go to Target and purchase pretty bins. Maybe you are a tad OCD (like me) and label ALL.THE.THINGS. After an entire day of purging, labeling, rearranging, and finishing touches you have implemented the most brilliant closet organizational system EVER.
Did you ever notice what happens three weeks later?
The. Crap. Is. Everywhere. AGAIN!
You were in a rush so you tossed the jackets on the hooks instead of a hanger. Worse, the kids just dumped them on the floor. The umbrella is wedged on a shelf and not in the proper bin. The soccer ball rolls out every time you open the door.
You aren't making maintaining and monitoring the system a priority.
The best way to ensure you are maintaining your vision is to go back to it once a month and read it. Make a journal entry about what is working for you and what isn't working for you. If something needs to be adjusted, take action and note it for follow up next month.
Before you even get started keep this in mind:
- Let your heart be your guide.
- Focus your attention inward.
- Start with the smallest change that will bring you closer to your vision.
- Have patience for the process.
- Being flexible doesn't mean you are unfocused.
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Stress and change go hand in hand. Here are some resources to help you:
7 Simple Steps to Lower Your Stress/Mind Body Green
The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale/Mind Tools
Don't break the chain:
Jerry Seinfeld's Productivity Secret/Life Hacker
Tools for Change:
Ironman Year One Podcast - Initiating Change and Fulfilling Your Personal Vision. I am the guest on this episode.