I am convinced that it is never too late to make significant changes in how we lead ourselves. That said, change does not come easily. It takes the right mindset, a good plan, and a good support system. The most challenging part of changing how we lead ourselves? Disciplining ourselves to take the time to get our minds ready. By time, I mean investing hours to reflect and then prepare a plan.
Even though January is a new beginning that comes around every twelve months, January itself does not shift our way of thinking, and it does not automatically deliver the right mindset for change.
Here are four things that can help set us up for lasting transformation:
1) Determine the “Why” Behind the Desired Change.
If our reason for change is because a parent, a spouse, a boss, a doctor, or any other person wants us to change, the change is likely not going to last. We need to own it. It needs to come from deep within us. Taking the time to evaluate why we are pursuing change (to list the “whys” and ensure they are coming from us) is vital to our success.
This step sounds obvious, but I cannot over-emphasize the importance of taking the hours, not just minutes, to clarify why we are seeking to change. The more we can personalize the positive reasons we want to change, the stronger our resolve to see it through.
2) Start Building a Plan.
Determination and desire are helpful, but they do not bring about change. We need to take time to create a plan that reflects learnings from our past and builds in margin for error. A plan that calls for perfection is going to fail us every time. Failure needs to be factored in because it will happen, and we need to fall forward, staying committed to the change. I suggest the SMART plan (based on goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound).
Again, it takes time to create a plan, but the more time you invest in planning, the more likely you are to see genuine change.
As Dr. Henry Cloud shared in a recent webinar, “Failure is predictable, forgivable, and fixable.”
Taking the time to do an autopsy of our failure will also help us move forward more positively.
Part of our plan needs to include removing some things. We may need to remove some food from our house, or remove some meetings in our calendar, or remove some wasted time in our schedule. Cutting out some of our activities will give us room for adding actions in our plan to produce change. We may also need to remove interactions with some people. Chronically negative people and toxic people can sabotage us as we seek to make positive changes.
3) Enlist Several Comrades.
Change rarely happens in isolation. We all need people who are for us and want us to thrive. A hidden goal usually becomes only a wishful thought.
My friends in AA often talk about the first 90 days of sobriety with the phrase ”90 meetings for 90 days.” They know that going after a goal will take a group of people who are for each other, and that seeking change in a community with shared values and goals is critical to their progress.
We are made to help one another, and we must enlist some people to come alongside of us. There is no shame in needing others; there is strength in this realization.
4) Test Your Beliefs.
Our greatest obstacle to change is our mindset. Negative self-talk can kill a great plan. Taking the time again to reflect and list our negative inner commentary will help us identify what needs to shift in our thinking. Destructive and unhealthy thoughts include:
- I hope so.
- I doubt I can do this.
- I have tried this so many times.
- I must do this on my own.
- I must do this perfectly.
- There I go again—I failed. So much for that goal.
- That person was right; I cannot do this.
- I am just not a disciplined person.
- I am bad.
- I am too old (or too young, etc.).
- My enneagram number says that I cannot do this.
These thoughts can easily influence our reality. At the end of the day, we must believe that we can accomplish our goals.
January gives us a fresh start on the calendar, but that is about all it can give. The real work is up to each of us. With God’s truth and strength, with a personal resolve related to a deeply personal reason, with good people supporting us, and with a SMART plan that has margin for error, we can see significant changes take place.
I hope and pray that this helps you think more clearly about pursuing change, and I wish you the best in your pursuit.