Leading Self: Making Personal Change Efforts Sustainable

It is easy to get lost when hiking down an unfamiliar unmarked trail versus one known that is well trodden. Personal change efforts are no different. If we don’t intentionally plan our new change adventure, we could get lost, confused, frustrated or instead, revert back to an old trail.

Sustainable change efforts require us to intentionally override well-trodden neurological patterns of habitual ‘thinking and doing’.  This is why many change initiatives fail as we may focus on what needs to be done, versus questioning how do I get there, is it desirable and what does success look like?

Below are some ways to approach personal change initiatives to optimize success:

  • Accept and believe: Hammering a round peg into a square hole can be like telling someone to change, or else. Those who need to change must know and accept the need for change, and believe they can.
  • See the benefits: Change must be personally beneficial. Once we see and understand the long-term benefit for us and others, why wouldn’t we be motivated to change?
  • Let go: Limiting personal self-beliefs like “I am just not good at this” is like locking yourself in a room with no key. Acknowledge and detach from old beliefs so that the change has a fighting chance. Positive self-dialogue like “I will do this – watch me,” can go a long way.
  • Create the right environment: Watching a movie with a bowl of popcorn in front of you may prove unsuccessful if reducing your carb intake is a desired goal. Create an environment that enables success by reducing temptations and distractions.
  • Transform the identity: A pilot wears a uniform so that passengers feel safe when boarding the plane; it’s part of their identity. When changing, consider what would be different about the ‘uniform’ worn, such as communication, body language, ways of thinking, character traits, etc.
  • Ability to do so: One’s ability to change may be hampered by several factors including a) learned behaviours over time that become fixed ways of being, b) physical or mental capabilities required, or c) skills and knowledge required. Consider all three in any change management effort.
  • Action planning: Too often after training initiatives to bolster ability, employees get back into busy work lives and old patterns re-emerge. A change plan includes goals, required actions, reminders, a long-term vision and key success factors. Intention with no action equals no change, so make sure an accountability structure is included.
  • Build a bandwagon: Choose to be with those that role model what you aspire to be versus those that may drag you down to the trenches and back to unwanted behavioural patterns.
  • Pattern interrupt: Imagine driving half-conscious down your local (familiar) street and whammo!, you hit a brand new speed bump. It forces you to think, slow down and brake next time. Old behavioural patterns are no different. What ‘speed bumps’ can be put in place that will interrupt old patterns of thinking. If an old pattern emerges, say ‘change’ aloud to yourself. Something this simple can help refocus efforts to change.
  • Tell and show: Tell others about the change; that will lead to showing them the results. What is said is also more likely to be done.

In employing these ideas in change initiatives, one is more likely to be the change they want through supports that help guide their behaviours and intentions along the way.

Kwela’s Leading Self workshop provides participants a courageous look into what might be stopping them in adopting and sustaining new behaviours, then provides strategies for overcoming those barriers.

Glen Sollors, Partner