How often do you think about changing something in your life? I’ll give you a moment to think about that.
…and how often do you follow up?
Don’t worry, you are not alone. As a matter of fact most people have high ambitions that somehow end up nowhere. A good example for people like that…is me.
Oh gosh, how often did I swear I would stop eating sugar, work out more, be less chaotic, learn how to dance or cook, be more persistent in meetings and so on.
It is rather normal that we aim high and end up doing little of it. Or we loose motivation at some point, get stuck or lack discipline. For some people radical change works. In my professional and personal experience, practicing small steps of change is way easier and will eventually lead to great results.
Another road blocker for change is to wait for the right moment. To wait for perfect circumstances, an external event or someone who does something in order that you can start. Bulls***t. You have everything you need right now, right here.
I encourage you to start experimenting with little changes in your daily life. Take it lightly and see what comes out of it.
Myself, I started by changing tiiiiiiiny things. At first these steps seemed insignificant. In retrospective, about 1 year later I see how many aspects of my life I changed since then. Change one part in your life, and it will change everything.
Or as Lao Tzu puts it:
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.”
— Lao Tzu
Here are 6 tips how you can introduce change into your life – starting now.
To get to a new place it is helpful to see where you are at the moment. Reflect on your current situation:
What do you know about yourself? What feedback do you get from friends, colleagues or your family? Which aspects of yourself do you feel confident or proud of? What would you consider your strengths? Which of your typical behaviors are hindering you (either in your private and/or professional life)? Where do you see potential for personal growth? What makes you feel good about yourself? What drains your energy or feels like and emotional black hole?
This reflection is the starting point of your change journey. Be as honest to yourself as you can be. The personal insights you gain here are for you and yourself only. Take a walk or do a meditation exercise before doing this reflection. A calm place and mind will deepen and enrich your insights. Seek for other peoples feedback to enhance your perspective.
I told a friend about this and she said: “Maybe they don’t know you.” The hard truth was, that these were mostly colleagues I was working closely with, my direct reports and my boss.
My first reaction was not to believe the results: I called up the trainer. I politely made him aware of the fact that my report was wrong. The trainer smiled and calmly stated: “What I can see here is that you have an issue with your self-worth. Also, it is interesting that you think that THEY must be wrong”. Ouch.
In hindsight, I have to smile about my initial reaction to the report. This moment, it became obvious that other people believed more in my potential than I did myself. To make me feel better about myself I was holding down or criticizing others. Even now that I write this, I am a bit ashamed of myself.
Still, as I mentioned above: be honest to yourself. If you have a clear picture of where your are starting from and why you want to change something, it is way easier to succeed. Finding your motivation to change is key.
Before you start experimenting with slight changes in your life, take a moment to think about: What exactly do you want to achieve?
Which parts of your behavior do you want to expand? Which personal patterns do you want to break? What do you want to learn for yourself? How do you want to act and feel going forward?
Be precise in your answers. The more goals you set, the harder it will be to keep on track. It is more promising to chose one specific thing. You will experience that changing one part creates a snowball-effect in your life. Make sure that your change experiment has the right size: not to big, not too small.
Speaking about my journey, I wanted to learn to be more self- accepting. To ease the pressure that I put on myself. To take things lighter and move with more playfulness. I wanted to get out of my always-on performance-mode and start enjoying my life more.
Practicing change is about being and doing. Get clear on how you will shift your presence and energy. How will you behave differently?
By writing this down you create your own work instruction. Something you can hold on to and use as personal KPI. Thereby, you can track if you implement the desired behavior.
Chose something that you can practice and embody in your every day life. The more often you can repeat this new behavior, the more progress you will make.
For me it, embodying the change was to trust my strengths and enjoy making use of them by being kinder to myself. A difference in my behavior should be to let go of expectations and take care of my needs.
From time to time before taking a decision I would check these two dimensions.
You want to shift your patterns so you need to do something different. I suggest to do it as early as possible.
Is your change about getting more healthy, than make yourself a healthy breakfast. If you are trying to become more understanding of others, take the morning only to listen to your family. If you want to be more relaxed, do some calming exercises. It can also help to take 10min for yourself and read a book or say your mantra out loud. Anything goes.
Whatever your goal is, include some aspect of it in the very first 10-30min of your day.
In my quest to more self-acceptance and kindness, I decided to set my alarm one hour later. I am the opposite of a morning person and need loads of coffee to get to a functioning mode. For my job where I commute 1,5 hours I needed to get up at 5.30 am. That killed me.
Coming to the office one hour later may sound trivial to others. For me it meant being the very last person to come to the office. I was afraid it would badly reflect on my performance review or people would start questioning my work ethics given that I was in a managerial role.
It took me a while before I found the courage to actually do this. I blocked the hours before 9:00 am in my calendar. With this, I could avoid meetings at 7.30 or 8:00 and made the shift in pattern possible.
Honestly speaking, it took some time until me and my colleagues got used to this adapted set up but I kept it until today and now it is fully accepted.
This small shift in behavior resulted in entering the office with a smile, better sleep, more focus during meetings, getting sick less often and over all – and that was what I was aiming for – more joy in my life.
Remind yourself about your goals. Change does not come over night. By repeating our desired behavior we internalize it and succeed.
Mantras, inspirational quotes, affirmations or short statements help you to remind yourself about why you want to change.
The sentence I chose for this exercise did not serve me so I will not share it here. Instead I used 3 quotes to get me started, which I shared in a previous blog post.
You can visualize your statement, use it as a screensaver, a sticker or anything else that helps you remind yourself about your ambition.
Working on yourself is fun – but not always. Some things don’t turn out the way you want. Sometimes you loose motivation or feel insecure about the side effects of your changed behaviors. Seek people you trust, who know who your are and who you want to be. Ask them for their feedback and use them as your supporting team.
In my case, I shared my plans with my partner. He listened and understood what I was aiming for. He knew that I was struggling with taking care of myself, going the extra mile on a daily basis and thereby slowly burning out. He helped me stick to my plan and stay consistent e.g. when people tried to squeeze in 7:00 am morning meetings despite my blocked calendar.
I checked with my team and my boss, if they were negatively effected by my changed behavior. It turned out that my boss did not notice any difference. My team was happy for me that I had started to take more care about myself. In the end, this was what they wanted me to do all along when filling out the 360° Feedback.
I wish you loads of fun and success with starting your personal change experiment!
Let me know how the 6 steps worked for you by leaving a comment or sending an email.