If you want to change or improve something about your life, the key is to actually do something different. You can reflect on your thoughts and feelings all day long, but until you actually change something in your actual behavior, you are likely to stay stuck. But change can be REALLY difficult. Even something simple like stopping biting your nails can seem like an impossible task. How can we get better at change? Here are 4 steps that can help you change anything in your life:
4 Steps to Change Anything
- Identify the pain. Most people don’t change something unless they are experiencing a lot of pain. In other words, for change to happen, the pain of staying the same has to be greater than the pain of changing. So, the first step is to get in touch with the pain you experience from staying where you are at. What is it costing you? It’s important not to rush through this first step. If something isn’t causing you very much pain, you might just want to accept it and keep doing what you’re doing. If it isn’t causing pain, it’s unlikely to change.
- Identify your values.The second step is to identify your values related to the thing you want to change. Values can be defined as patterns of committed actions that you engage in over time. Values are different from goals. Goals can be accomplished and finished. For example, living a healthy lifestyle is a value. Losing 10 pounds is a goal. Also, values must be freely chosen. They can’t be dictated to you by culture, religion, or your family of origin. That’s just compliance.
- Align your actions with your values.The third step is to align your actions and behaviors with your values. Where are you out of alignment? Where is there a lack of consistency between your values and actions? That is where you want to make a change. When you try to make a change, remember the 5 S’s:
- Adjust the surroundings. Make your environment work for you, not against you.
- Start small. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start with a small change at first, get some success, and slowly work up from there.
- Be specific. Don’t make broad, ill-defined goals. Be very clear and specific about what you are trying to do, and what would constitute success.
- Schedule it in. Research has found that it takes about 66 days of trying to change something before it starts to feel natural. So, for the first 2-3 months, schedule the change like you would an appointment on your calendar.
- Find your support team. You can’t change by yourself. Find a group of people to help support you and keep you accountable.
- Change dysfunctional values. For some people, their values are aligned with their behavior, but they still struggle. Sometimes this is because we have chosen crappy values. For example, if your value is to make a ton of money, this is unlikely to result in a full, meaningful life, because research shows that after about $70,000 per year, increased income doesn’t result in more happiness. If your values aren’t making you happy, consider changing your values. The key here is functionality. How are your values working for you? Is living a life according to your values leading to higher levels of peace, happiness, satisfaction, and meaning? If not, consider developing more workable values.
Discussion: What is one thing you would like to change or improve in your life right now? Walk through the 4 steps outlined above, and see if you can make a shift.