Have you ever struggled to create change in your life? So many people with the best of intentions and a burning desire for things to be different, create goals but fail to achieve them, while a small percentage go on to create change and make it stick. In my previous blog post, The Science Behind Creating Change, I explained the necessary frame-work to creating change, your innate need as a human to avoid pain and pursue pleasure, as well as the science behind resistance. Building awareness and understanding the science behind creating change is the first and fundamental step to creating change and making it stick, without this knowledge, applying strategies can become difficult or even lead to failure. If you have not read my previous post I encourage you to go back and read it quickly before applying any of the strategies below.
Now that you have a grasp of the framework or science behind creating change and making it stick, it’s important to understand quick strategies that can pull you out of pain avoider mode and into the pleasure persevere mind-set.
1. Be specific.
Uncertainty is the enemy of changing your life and making it stick. I am not talking about creating a grand vision, but simply knowing precisely what it is you are trying to change. For an example, if you are trying to create healthier habits and choose to go to the gym, its important to know exactly how many times you are going to attend and what you are going to do when you get there. The moments when I have failed at establishing a healthy exercise program, I simply haven’t been specific enough. I have tried the three times a week for 45 minutes, even that isn’t enough detail. When I set a goal around attending three times a week for 45 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Monday, I will attend a Pilates class, on Wednesday I will do cardiovascular exercise followed by weight training, and on Friday, I will swim. I tend to stick to it, and enjoy the experience of going to the gym. If I don’t get specific enough, I get bored and eventually fall back into my very comfortable old habits.
2. Create triggers.
A trigger is a tiny action that leads to performing a habit. Continuing on with the fitness example, if you what to go to the gym every morning, what is the very first thing you would need to do in order for you to successfully follow through? If you put on your gym gear or back your bag the night before and leave it by your bed, so it’s the first thing you see when you get up, you are more likely to follow through, and start going. A trigger is anything that gets you to start taking the necessary steps to achieve your goals. if you want to be a writer, the first ting you need to do is create a daily writing habit. A trigger for this habit could be to leave your iPad near your bed and every morning before you get up pick up your iPad and open a writing app and start writing 250 words.
Focus on the small wins, whether it’s opening the writing app or simply leaving the house with the intention of going to the gym. When you start making those tiny behavioural actions, you are more likely to follow through or continue on towards the goal. Once you achieve the first initial step focus on the next tiny step. As a life coach, I am a huge fan of chunking down goals into tiny steps. These steps are easy to achieve, and when you celebrate these mini wins, you get a rush of endorphins, which encourages you to move closer towards achieving your goal. Think of this in terms of productivity, if you take out your notebook and write a quick to do list for tomorrow, you will achieve so much more, and it all stems from one tiny action of pre-planning
3. Set improvement goals
Improvement goals are about achieving measurable goals by a certain date. If you’re wanting to increase the following and awareness of your brand through your business blog, you could set a goal that says I want to increase the number of subscribers to my blog from 348 to 498 in 90 days. These goals are so effective because you can plot your progress in a similar way, that you would look back at yourself in photos over the last 10 years and see physical changes. This creates an immediate feedback loop, that says you are not reaching your target, and if you look back you can usually see why. This all does a full circle back to Karl Pearson’s famous productivity law: ‘that which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.’
4. Embrace Social Accountability
As human beings we love to talk about ourselves, this habit does sound a little egocentric but it has the potential to be one of your greatest strengths if used wisely. One of the best strategies you can adopt in order to ensure that the change you are working so hard to achieve will stick months into the future is to share your trigger and improvement goals with the people within your social circle, but not just anyone. It is important to share your new habits with someone who actively listens and remembers the events that are going on in your life, because this person, the active listener, will remember your goals and ask you about your progress the next time they see you. Everyone has this person in their social circle; you spend an afternoon with them in a coffee shop and casually mention, that you are thinking of learning a foreign language or starting a business, they you go about your week like normal, then one day, you run into them at the tube and they quiz you about you business start-up or French lessons but you’ve done nothing towards your goal the entire week. In that moment you feel like a failure or you’ve let yourself and them down. You rush home and suddenly you have all the motivation you’ve ever needed. Social accountability brings a sense of urgency or a deadline. On a psychological level, as a human, you innately need to prove your value to your peers. This is the reason why social validation works effectively as a marking tool. It increases the likelihood of you taking action. The knowledge that there is an audience to your success or failure to make a habit stick will be the ultimate motivator. When you achieve your goal or make that new habit stick, social accountability, brings about a positive reinforcement which will spur you on to set more goals and to continue to better yourself.
5. Preempt Potential Obstacles
Anytime that you go through change there will always be moments that challenge the change that you are trying to go through. Instead of just focusing on what you are going to do to achieve your goals, it’s just as important to preempt the potential obstacles you may face along the way, however preempting is usually not enough to overcome an obstacle, deciding how you are going to act and feel in response to obstacles will increase your chances of helping change take hold. For instance, if you are trying to change your bad food habits, think about what you are going to say when people ask you if you want a piece of cake, chocolate, sweets or whatever your weakness is; instead of looking at junk food, and feeling tempted, then convincing yourself, ‘I’ll just have a small bite’ be prepared to say a simple no thanks. preempting these situations ahead of time leaves little room for thinking or possibly giving in to old habits in the moment. It’s in a moment of weakness that you usually make the decision that takes you away from the goals that you are striving to achieve. Throughout your day you are expending will power, it can be unrealistic to expect yourself to follow through on a new habit, especially towards the end of the day.
The concept of scripting your response to potential obstacles, can be applied to almost every area of your life. What are you going to do when that deal you were counting on doesn’t close? Or what are you going to when you want to put that video out, or that blog post, or publish that book and you get criticised or rejected? It will happen, these moments will be potential obstacles placed in your path. How are you going to feel? It’s not always about what action you will take. How you feel is really important because in these moments, how you choose to feel will ultimately drive or be a catalyst behind the decisions you make. The majority of people focus all their energy on positive thinking, but there is great power in preempting moments that will challenge the changes that you are trying to make. If you are trying to eat healthy, this means planning your meals, or if you are starting up a blog this means planning out you blog posts.
As always, insight without action is futile! Firstly, tell me how you are going to implement the frameworks from this article to improve your life or business now? Do you have any tips on creating change that you would like to share? I want to hear your story. Please let me know by using the comments box below. Do not forget to sign up and become a VIP and receive tips that I only share by email. Thank you for reading, sharing and commenting with such kindness and enthusiasm.