Improving oneself is not difficult. It might be uncomfortable. It might be slow; but difficult? Not so much. Figure out what you want to change; figure out a way to do it, move in that direction, correct as necessary.
So why don’t most people change? The unadorned answer is we make it too complicated. The simpler the plan, the more likely we will accomplish it. To that end, here is a straightforward Five-Step Plan to move forward immediately.
1) Write it down
There’s nothing magic to this, but once done, it makes it “real.” It also helps if we don’t just write down what we want but why we want it. Emotions drive action. Logic directs it. As example, “I will lose weight to lower my blood pressure,” is not as effective as “I will lose weight to feel better.” As they say in sales, “We buy what we want, not necessarily what we need.” We need to “sell” ourselves on why we want it more than why we should do it.
2) Make it Small
Small steps done regularly generate better results than large steps done intermittently. In other words, it’s better to get out a walk a block – and really do it – than to swear you’re going to run a mile and plant yourself on the couch. We have to “squeeze” new activities into an already crowded life so the less we have to rearrange, the more likely we’ll be consistent. Ten or 15-minutes with consistency is better than “an occasional hour.”
3) Do Something Every Day
No matter how small the step, do SOMETHING each day, even if it’s simply refining what we wrote. Maintaining top-of-mind awareness retrains our thoughts to focus differently. That alone causes us to notice previously unseen opportunities.
Of course, there are days when “life happens” and we cannot move forward, which can bring out our critical inner perfectionists and we are inclined to think, “As long as I blew it, I might as well really blow it. I’ll start again tomorrow.” This leads to undoing our progress. It’s important to remember everyone stumbles; progress is two steps forward and one step backwards.
4) Get Support
There are things we do well and there are things we want to do well. Making life-changes falls in the latter category, not the former. After all, if we were accomplished at our goals, we would have already achieved them. Building a network of support can guide and direct us when we feel lost, and applaud us when we aren’t. There is always more power in a group than in a single person (for better or worse).
One other benefit to group support is it “shuts the back door.” Too often, we don’t tell people our goals because if do, we have to actually change. Well, short of the fact that you can change your mind, announcing our plans does make us more committed to achieving them. Keeping them “quiet” allows us to back down quicker, which prompts the question, “Am I really committed to this?” (a discussion left for another column)
5) Reward Yourself Often Change is as much emotional as it is physical. Holding off the goodies from our “inner kid,” makes us feel like we’ve got one more chore in an already tedious life. We get resentful and quit. If however, we can make it more fun, we’re more inclined to keep at it Life is short, enjoy it – and remind yourself more often of the pleasures.