I asked that question of a client a few weeks back, and it struck a chord with me, personally. When I ask myself that question, there are certain aspects of my life that I will be perfectly content to have stayed the same. But there are some areas of my life that I hope to heaven will NOT be the same this time next year! I think most of us feel this way, if we’re honest. We’re all works in progress, and it’s a good thing to strive to improve ourselves.
When we’re staring into the beginning of a brand new year, many of us are focused on making improvements in our lives—making changes, setting goals and resolutions, and establishing more positive habits. A new year represents a new beginning. It represents hope and second chances and a clean slate. I don’t know too many people who don’t find that even just a little bit inspiring.
But, in reality, many of us who are making New Year’s resolutions or intentions for the year are repeating the same goals as in prior years. Most of us will already be losing steam by the time February rolls around. This time of year, I hear from lots of people coming to me for help about good intentions gone awry: fitness programs already fallen by the wayside; financial plans already derailed; clutter not cleared; and various organizational systems, gadgets, and gizmos already gathering dust on shelves.
We all know that making positive changes that last does not come easily. None of us want to be fat. None of us want to be in debt. We all know that we need to eat better, exercise more, get more sleep, and stop smoking. We’ve all seen the research that shows us the extent to which disease can be avoided by making these changes. Nobody wants to increase their chance of heart disease or diabetes, any more than they want to be surrounded by clutter! So, why do we often struggle to change? What can we do to make it easier?
Over the years that I’ve been a Coach, I’ve seen several common threads among my clients who are successful at making lasting changes, and I’ve boiled them down to the following Six Simple Steps to Lasting Change.
Step 1: Look at WHY you want to make changes!
For starters, our thinking about why we need to make changes can get in the way of our success. Studies show that long-lasting change is most likely when it is self-motivated and rooted in positive thinking, rather than out of fear or guilt or regret. So, even the most positive changes aren’t likely to stick if they’re borne out of fear, guilt, and shame. So what we’re thinking about why we want to change really matters. Find the positives that will result from the changes you want to make, and focus there.
Step 2: Tap Into Your Values!
I’ve seen over the years that clients whose goals or desired changes are closely tied to their core values—the principles that are important to them—tend to be more successful in making changes that last. We can make that link stronger and more direct through coaching. That’s an important piece of the puzzle.
Step 3: Make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T.
Many of you are probably familiar with the phrase “SMART Goals” when it comes to the recommended elements to successful goal setting. SMART is an acronym, with each letter representing an important component of a successful goal. Regardless of what kind of changes you’re looking for, making sure your intended change or goal meets the SMART criteria below can help you improve the likelihood that you will be successful in making lasting changes.
Specific: A specific goal is well defined. To make sure your goal is sufficiently specific, you want to ask yourself for the details: ask who and what?
Measurable: To make sure your goal or desired outcome is measurable, ask yourself, “How will I know when I get there?”
Achievable: It’s also very important that your goals are founded in reality and in alignment with your commitment. Ask yourself, “Is this realistic for me?” “Is the commitment required realistic for me, right now?”
Relevant: Your desired changes or goals need to be related to your values, your life, and your other priorities. Ask yourself, “Is this goal in alignment with who I am, who I want to be, and what I want from life?”
Time-based: Your goals need to have deadlines or time constraints built in. Ask yourself, “When do I intend to get there?”
Step 4: Plan your Path
Clients are also more successful at making long-term change when their paths to change are well planned—and this goes for planning to deal with setbacks and obstacles as well. A good plan for long-term change will have lots of milestones and ways to measure and reward progress along the way. Also, anticipating and planning for how to deal with inevitable challenges and roadblocks can make all the difference between success and stagnation!
Step 5. Establish Support and Accountability!
Intentionally finding and setting up plenty of support and accountability is also essential to making your intentions a reality. My clients, of course, get much of their support and accountability from me as their Coach, but I think it’s also important to bring others in your life into those roles as well. For instance, the more supportive people you can talk out loud to about the changes you’re going to make, the more accountability you will feel, and the more of a motivating factor that may become. Being accountable to someone you can trust with whom you can “check in” from time to time can be incredibly powerful in helping to sustain motivation and maintain progress. That’s an important pace of the puzzle for many of my clients.
Step 6: Pay Attention to Your Mindset!
Finally, the piece that makes the biggest difference in a client’s ability to make lasting change is the work they do to change their thinking and the beliefs—to change their perspective and their mindset. When it comes to making lasting change, mindset and perspective are everything! Your mindset can make or break your chances of success very easily—much more easily than you probably realize!
For starters, good perspective is absolutely essential. For example, if you’re more focused on your challenges than on your successes, you’re not going to be able to see those challenges for the learning and growth opportunities that they are, and they’re going to derail you—time and time again. Your mindset makes all the difference in whether you’re going to brush yourself off and continue down your path when you stumble, or whether you’re going to stay stuck with the status quo.
So many of us have a tendency toward perfectionism or all-or-nothing thinking. It’s critical that you work hard to consciously change your perspective and change your mindset so that you can start to acknowledge, buy into, and celebrate your progress as you make it—no matter how small and seemingly “imperfect” that progress may appear. That’s going to make all the difference in whether you ever reach your destination.
No matter where you want to be this time next year, your journey truly does begin with a single step. I’m here and ready to help make sure you attain your objectives and become whatever it is that you want to become.
Schedule a complimentary phone consultation today to find out how Coaching can help make sure you’re not repeating the same resolution this time next year!
Lynne Edris, ACG
Life & ADD Coach