No matter what changes you've made, whether physical, social,
or work-related, almost everyone agrees that lasting change
is hard. It requires determination, motivation, vigilance,
persistence, and long-term commitment. Most would agree that
asking for help from a trusted friend, mentor, or professional
coach helps. .
| Make Behavioral Changes Last
What's the most significant change in behavior you've made as an adult?
For some, it's quitting smoking or drinking, or making healthy changes
in eating and exercising. For others, it's becoming a better listener,
a more effective manager, or a nicer partner or spouse.
No matter what changes you've made, whether physical, social, or work-related,
almost everyone agrees that lasting change is hard. It requires determination,
motivation, vigilance, persistence, and long-term commitment. Most
would agree that asking for help from a trusted friend, mentor, or
professional coach helps.
Yet even with high motivation, support, and ideal conditions, it's
still hard to break bad habits. For example, two-thirds of smokers
who say they'd like to quit never even try. Those who do usually need
six attempts before they succeed.
| Six Seconds to Set Up Change
Here's a six-second tool you can apply at any time to assist you make
any behavioral change: take a long, deep breath. This allows you to
step back from reactive habits and initiate a new, healthier response
to any situation.
A six second breath is a way to pause, gain awareness, gather energy,
and make a preferred choice of action.
The guidelines for changing habits are pretty simple:
None of these programs are complicated. But simplicity doesn't necessarily
beget easy. All humans resist change; we're susceptible to fallibility
when making plans and sticking to them.
- If you want to lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn
up, and do it over a length of time until you reach your goal
- If you want to quit smoking, pick a quit date, get rid of cigarettes
and smoking triggers, and don't smoke no matter what, until the
urges stop and the chemicals are out of your system.
- Same with alcohol: don't pick up the first drink; get social
support with recovery groups.
- To get fit, go to a gym or learn a sport, practice every day,
get some coaching or training, and track your progress over a
length of time.
If we understand human nature enough, we should be able to anticipate
resistance and circumvent unhealthy reactions that sabotage our efforts.
Even when we will reap huge benefits by changing habits, we are
geniuses at inventing reasons to avoid change. We have mental urges
to maintain the status quo. We fall back on a set of beliefs that
triggers denial, resistance, and self-delusion.
Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith writes about this self
talk in his book
Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts--Becoming the Person You
Want to Be (Crown Business, May 2015).
- If I understand, I will do.
- If have strong willpower, I won't give in to temptation.
- Today is special, it just won't count.
- "At least I'm better than..."
- I shouldn't need help and structure.
- I won't get tired or depleted; my enthusiasm won't fade.
- I have all the time in the world.
- I won't get distracted and nothing unexpected will occur.
- An epiphany will happen and suddenly change my life.
- My change will be permanent and I'll never have to worry again.
- My elimination of old problems will not bring on new problems.
- My efforts will be fairly rewarded.
- No one is paying attention to me.
- If I change I am "inauthentic."
- I have the wisdom to assess my own behavior.
While we believe other people consistently overrate themselves,
we think our own self-assessment is fair and accurate, even in the
face of evidence that shows we're entrapped by overconfidence, stubbornness,
wishful thinking, confusion, resentment, and procrastination.
If that weren't enough, we underestimate two of the biggest obstacles
- We don't take into account how much energy levels vary during
the day or recognize that depletion of energy brings loss of
self-control. It's easier to just say "no" early in
the day than late at night.
- We forget to factor in the strong pull of external triggers
in the environment that pop up unexpectedly to throw us off
track. We don't prepare for these obstacles, and once we give
in, we give up.
| Change Requires Follow-Up
The tools for making any behavioral change aren't complicated, but
they do have to include a system for follow-up if you want change
The simplest way to follow-up is to answer a list of daily questions
with a friend or coach. This allows you to track progress and see
what's working and what's not. Marshall Goldsmith has written previously
about his system of Daily Questions.
Now he suggests that instead of tracking whether you've taken an action
or not, ask yourself if you did your best to make it happen. This
tracks your efforts, not your results.
| "Did I do my best today to...?"
The key here is to record your progress and effort rather than results.
This helps you avoid getting discouraged when outcomes are slow to
materialize. It puts the appreciation where it belongs: on your efforts
to take action.
- Make a spread sheet listing your desired behavioral changes.
At the end of each day, answer: "Did I do my best today
to...?" (exercise, eat healthy, listen to others, etc.)
- Use a 5-point scale from no (1), somewhat (2), average (3),
good (4), to excellent (5). Alternatively, you can color code
each answer using red, yellow, and green marks.
Success comes from getting back on the horse after a fall and taking
more steps forward than back.
You have 90 days or so left to make
this the best year ever.
What needs to be on your “To Do” list to make that happen?
What needs to come off your “To Do” list to make that happen?
The tools for making any behavioral change aren't complicated,
but they do have to include a system for follow-up if you want
change to last. If you would like some help, please call me. .
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