Planning for successful change (part 1 of 5)

Worry
Worry (Photo credit: StormKatt)

In a recent public newsletter, I committed to developing a series that break down the whole “goal setting and achieving” thing into 5 steps. As the first in that series, I want to set the stage with a bit of a preamble.

  • First off, I’m assuming there is something meaningful that you actually want to change about some aspect of your life — personal, family, or business, it doesn’t matter. To me, “meaningful” means that you are actually willing to put some concentrated effort into making it happen;
  • Second, I’m assuming that you are prepared to actually reflect on the change/improvement you are seeking and see that it begins with you changing something about you. If the “change” you are seeking follows the general theme of “I’m OK, it’s them that have to change” then — save you time reading any further. You’re not going to get anything useful out of what I share with you over the next several weeks;
  • As my final point, I’m assuming that you have the ability and willingness (this is really a re-statement of the first point) to stick with something for a while as you develop new habits. Basically, I’m assuming you can tap into your self-discipline when you’re really motivated to change.

As I’m sure you already know, there are lots of different goal setting methodologies in circulation.These are all good, useful models. The steps I’m presenting are a mishmash of things I’ve picked up over the years and that have proven successful in my own improvement endeavors. The key here is to use what you are most comfortable with and that, through trial and error and adaptation — proves its’ effectiveness with you. We’re all wired a bit differently and need to adapt things to fit our specific needs.

With those basic points out of the way, here’s what I see as a workable 5 step process for effectively working towards your goals:

  1. Tuning your language, setting the goal, and defining success;
  2. Describe your starting point, formalize the gap;
  3. Set out milestones and personal rewards;
  4. What habits to focus on (building) for success;
  5. Pulling it all together and holding yourself accountable.

Step 1: Your language, the goal, and what success looks like

This is the part that I find most difficult, because it requires you to really get clear on what you are trying to do. We’re pretty good at the fluff statements (“I want a better job”) but most of us aren’t great at really getting specific about what that “better job” thing really means. (You can use this worksheet to rate your happiness at work if the work issue resonates with you).

As you consider articulating your goal, consider these two points: (1) change starts with your own self-identity, and; (2) what you focus on expands. This is why language is so important.

Here’s a a straightforward example to illustrate — if you’re worried about your weight, you probably identify with being overweight, and will most likely state your goal something like “I want to lose 20 pounds”. These are negative thoughts, and if you continue to view yourself as an overweight person in your internal language and imagery, you’ll probably sabotage your success, so your self-identity continues to be accurate. You’ll be much more likely be more successful by choosing to identify yourself as healthy, and state your goal in some health terms, rather than weight loss terms (overall weight can still of course be a metric you choose to measure your progress against).

This is where future-casting comes into play. Close your eyes and imagine — you’re at some point in the future — what your reality now looks like. In your future image, you can choose to see yourself as a more healthy individual. “It’s December 2013, and I’m feeling very healthy and comfortable with my body image. I’m pleased that my weight is stable at 175 pounds and I’m extremely satisfied that I am getting regular exercise more than 3 times per week, eating well, and getting lots of sleep. I have never felt better.”

Here’s the great thing — with that one future image, you’ve set your picture for where you want to get to, the time frame you’re operating within, and what success looks like. The more you can really visualize the details of that future image of you (What are you wearing? How do you feel?) the more real it will become. The key now is to really identify — daily, hourly, every time you’re struggling with your discipline to get some exercise, not eat crappy food, to turn off the TV, or whatever — with that “future you” version and keep that image tight in your conscious mind so you can see what success looks like. This is where affirmations, pictures on fridges, notes above your computer, or whatever, can be very helpful.

So if you want to design some meaningful change into your life, here’s your homework assignment: spend some quiet time reflecting on what you would like to change, and visualizing the “future you” state. It doesn’t matter whether they are personal goals, or business goals — visualize what success looks like, when in the future it is, and describe it in as much detail as you can. That will be a great start to your plan for successful change.

Wishing you an inspiring and rewarding visualization — I’ll get step #2 out soon.

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