6 Steps to Change Your Life!

Like you, I’m attracted to headlines that promise simple steps to make life better:

  • The amazing secret that can double your metabolism!
  • Three secrets of investing that made one man millions

These articles are about promoting changes in behavior. A recent Washington Post article offered 6 simple steps to build an exercise habit, and a perfect framework for adopting change: 

1. Set specific goals
Vague goals to exercise more are easily abandoned. Instead be specific about where, when, and how often you are going to be active. 

Change must begin with a clear picture of the destination. Be specific about the what, where, and when of the future. Describe how people need to participate. 

2. Find your ‘why’
Michelle Segar, author of the book, “The Joy Choice: How to Finally Achieve Lasting Changes in Eating and Exercise” suggests finding a meaningful “why,” by focusing on the positive feelings you will gain from an activity. She recommends that exercisers reframe exercise as something that can “instantly help them feel better and help them better tend to the people and projects they care most about.”

See what she did there? Pain is reframed as a benefit. You can’t avoid talking about the pain of change, but you can connect pain with purpose to create a benefit when explaining the why of change.

3. Avoid ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking
If our goal is to work out at exactly 5pm each day, it’s a recipe for failure. Rigid habits are poor. The goal is too specific. When we miss a commitment, we tend to quit. Successful exercisers allow for flexibility. Hitting the gym at a different time or picking up again after missing a couple of days should not be perceived as failure. The goal is to keep progressing.

We cannot demand perfection out of the gate from our stakeholders during change. It takes time to adapt. If we set the expectations that there will be setbacks along the road to success, people are more likely to persist after they fail.

4. Bundle your workout with something fun
Watch some videos or listen to a book while being active. Better yet, work out with a friend.

When rolling out change, connecting it with activities that people already know and enjoy makes it easier to embrace. I’m helping with a major office move right now and we need people to tidy up and purge junk. A designated time for clean up with motivating music on the floor makes it enjoyable. Doing it together encourages everyone to join in and help one another.

5. Be patient. Habits take time.
“It often takes months for habits to form in the gym, so remind yourself that you are trying to create a lifelong fitness habit.” Just showing up regularly builds the habit, whether you feel it or not.

During change, we encourage people to keep showing up. We promise them that things will get easier and better as they learn and practice something new. Mastery is not achieved overnight.

6. Motivate yourself with kindness
Kristin Neff, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of the book “Fierce Self-Compassion” references a study that found that when college athletes were taught to be more self-compassionate, their athletic performance improved. 

This is about managing the inner critic. We are hardest on ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up over failures. Positive thinking and a growth mindset are keys to learning and success. These are tactics we can teach our stakeholders.

From exercise to investing, the discipline of change management has something to offer everyone who wants to pursue new goals.

Thoughtfully yours,
Jeff Skipper

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