“To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill
It almost the New Year and perhaps resolutions loom for you, things that you would like to change about yourself. The typical resolution is to lose weight, to join the gym and get in shape, to start eating better (fewer sweets) – in general to take better care of ourselves, to be nicer to our bodies.
Change is hard – self-change is really hard. Changing something about our personality (stop procrastinating, stop being late), our physique (as above), our character (be nicer, kinder, less judgmental) requires self-discipline to implement the desired change.
And who is really going to hold us accountable – are you strong enough to hold yourself accountable? That kind of self-communication, self-talk boosting yourself along to continue on the desired path day after day is more than I can maintain. I’m just a pushover when it comes to holding me accountable.
So why is change so hard? It’s hard to implement for several reasons:
1) We are creatures of habit – habits are hard to break because it is just so easy to slide into the comfort and reassuring behaviors we have in place, even if they aren’t habits that are in our best interest to keep
2) Our brains seek out patterns to make sense of being bombarded by data. We look to see what is familiar in newness, to attach it to something we already know and understand. Change represents newness, which is not desirable in the case of self-change. The status quo is the desirable default option.
3) Change in one area can have a significant impact in other ancillary areas of our life, so change can be threatening and upsetting. Our ego can take a hit when the announced change is unsuccessful and we feel like a failure. Better not to risk changing and protect our fragile ego.
But change is necessary – without change there is no growth. We must change to stay vital and enjoy life to the fullest. So how do we make our New Year resolutions successful, and deliver the changes we say we really want to do? (“This year for sure I’m going to…”)
The best way to give change a chance for success is to start small. Take the big goal and break it down into smaller chunks. Then take each of those small chunks and break them down into even smaller steps. Then tackle each of those smaller steps one at a time. It’s hard to see the change when it’s that small, but slowly, slowly you will be moving towards accomplishing the larger goal.
Give yourself plenty of time – don’t rush – and at this time next year you will be looking for a new goal, with this one successfully accomplished. And even if it’s only one goal, it’s one that you haven’t been successful completing up to this point. And it took you more than a year to get where you are, so don’t rush the fix. Take those small steps towards the goal which will become new habits and you won’t even fee the change when it gradually but surely happens.
The key to change is to tie it to what already exists – we like what we currently have and we will ultimately reject sudden change. Gradual and comfortable is the best way to communicate any change – to ourselves, to employees, to public policies.
COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY: Change is inevitable for growth – if you’re not changing, you’re dying. Everything changes, but not everyone embraces change. So win the change battle with the holdouts by going slowly, tying the new to the old, and taking your time. If every step is thought out in advance so every small action moves in step with the desired change, it will be successfully implemented. Just don’t expect the New Year’s resolutions to be done in a month – and don’t give up either! Success isn’t right around the corner, but it is within reach, if you do the necessary advance planning to stay on course.