How To Change for REAL!

Yes.  It’s that time of year.  Time to reflect on the past year and move forward with new goals into the New Year.  How did you do on your list of resolutions from last year? Can you even remember what they were?  Do you find yourself breaking your resolutions year after year? Are you ready to make those goals stick this time around? Are you ready for REAL change?  Then it may be time to approach your resolutions from a new angle.  As Einstein so eloquently put it, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

Real change is a step by step process.  It may come with a few setbacks, but those setbacks can be turned into growing and learning tools.  You can learn from mistakes and move forward if you don’t throw in the towel and give up. Just because you drop your phone doesn’t mean you have to jump on it and smash it to pieces. Just pick it up , figure out why it happened, make some adjustments, and move on.  Sounds easy, huh? It’s not.  Change is often difficult.  Fact is, successful changers have failed many times, but what they all have in common is that they didn’t quit.  It is time to dust off those past failed resolutions and prepare to finally turn them into real lasting change.

Below are some key steps to get you started on the right foot this year.  Using these powerful points will help guide you in the process of real change.  Remember this process is not linear, change usually occurs in a circle.  Expect to recycle through these stages before becoming fully successful at making permanent change.


1) Precontemplation:

This stage of change is considered the denial stage.  It’s when you don’t even acknowledge that there is a problem.  You may rationalize and make excuses for the behavior.   The main action you can take to move on from this stage is to become aware of your defenses.  Aware of your self-talk.

2) Contemplation:

In this stage there is a desire to change.  The main obstacle here is that you may tell yourself to wait for the perfect moment.  In reality the perfect moment is usually NOW. Wishful thinking takes precedence in this stage.  You may realize change may have negative consequences and are afraid to move forward. For instance, maybe you will have to change your social group and you realize this will be difficult and possibly hurtful.

One of the most important ways to create momentum in this stage is to find your emotional hook: arouse the deep emotional reason you have for wanting to make this change and tune into that, use that hook when you are faced with an obstacle.  Think about the behaviors that contribute to the issue you are trying to change.  Develop awareness of your thoughts and actions. Define your goals.  Figure out exactly what you envision your future to be when you are at the top of your game.  Think about the impact this will have for you and how important it is to you to finally make a change.  This is the most important step.  Spend some time here. You must FEEL the desire for change.


3) Preparation:

Now it is time to plan the specific steps you will need to take to solve the problem.  Kind of like a “rehearsal” for action.  The biggest obstacle in this step is not realizing how difficult the actual action steps will be and therefore not preparing for the effort.  Making this change a priority in your life is a must.  The steps you lay out should be SMART!  Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timed.  Write them down. Keep them in front of you…place them on your mirror, dashboard, refrigerator.  Be sure to take baby steps.  Don’t try to swallow the whole elephant.  Set a date and announce your intent!


4) Action:

Just Do It!  The main obstacle in this step is not really preparing and not making a solid commitment to work hard. Be sure you make changes in your environment to allow for real focus on change.  If you know you will be faced with donuts in the office break room, and donuts are your downfall, then don’t go into the break room.  If you have to go into the break room then think about what you can do to prepare for the collision.  What can you replace those donuts with?  Find replacement responses.  What will you do instead?  What are your negative thoughts and how can you replace them with healthy ones? Avoid unsupportive environments and be ASSERTIVE about this.  Be aware.  Be mindful.  Be prepared for the obstacles.  It always helps to be accountable to someone.  Ask a friend for support.  Hey, you can even hire a Health Coach!


5) Maintenance:

You have arrived!  This is not the finish line though. To continue on the course of success you must continue to review your environment, your thoughts, and your actions.  Be sure to enjoy and celebrate your accomplishments while being mindful not to return to pre-change situations.  Congratulations.  You have tripped, failed, skinned your knees, dropped your phone, but you didn’t destroy it.  You picked yourself up and moved on.

Of course, these are only the highlights of the process of change.  If you want to learn more, here are some of my favorite resources:

StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath

Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way by Rick Carson

Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward by Prochaska, Norcros, and DiClemente