Learn How to Approach Change in a Whole New Way

First published on Medium by Bett Harris on July 22, 2019

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

Harness the power and change your life forever

Change is a force that surrounds us…surrounds everything

We bump up against it every day. There’s no avoiding it. Change is an ever-present element of our lives that we must contend with.

I’ve pro-actively battled change for over 20 years

I’ve overcome addictions and changed many unhealthy habits that were entrenched from my childhood. Until I knew better, the forces of change buffeted me around. Then I learned something new.

My life was changed forever.

The basics

To be a strong contender we need strength in the form of knowledge and an arsenal in the form of a plan. Below is everything I used to harness the power of change. Are you ready to change your life forever?

Ignoring change simply means…change drives us.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. — Anthony Robbins

We’ll forever be playing catch-up if we choose to live our lives this way.

Instead, let’s grab hold of change and make it work for us!

Amazing things can happen when we make this choice!

Let’s start with some facts

To harness the power of change we’ll need to learn all we can about it first. Below are some facts about change that will help us better understand the force we plan to contend with.

Six well-known facts about change

  • Change is inevitable and unavoidable.
  • Change keeps us moving and active.
  • Change helps us grow and stretch.
  • Change prepares us for disappointments.
  • Change offers new opportunities, opens new doors.
  • Most people fear change.

A few themes emerge from the facts above

  • Change is here to stay.
  • Change challenges us.
  • Change requires we act…and re-act.

Change is here to stay

Change is with us from the time we are conceived until the time we die. It’s our constant companion. We change physically moment-by-moment. Our cells divide die-off and are cleared away. Fluid gets moved from one place to another. Our body works continually to keep everything in balance.

Our internal environment is constantly changing.

Nature is also continually changing. Plants grow and die as the seasons change. Animals move from area to area in search of food and water. The earth erupts from beneath sending new material to the surface and swallowing up some of the old. Seas ebb and flow. Tides erode shorelines. Natural disasters destroy whole ecosystems in one fell swoop.

Our external environment can change quickly so it’s good to be prepared.

Since change is inevitable, the question is not “Are we going to change?” but “In which direction are we going to change?”

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. — Viktor E. Frankl

Change challenges us, there’s no way around it

The whole premise of change means we are encountering anew all the time. New doors open and new opportunities present themselves every day, as options for a different tomorrow.

Challenges arise when we opt for a better tomorrow.

Making lasting change in behavior is not a simple process. It usually involves a substantial commitment of time, energy, and emotion.

No wonder most people fear the process.

Taking control of the change process also means that now there’s no-one or nothing else to blame except ourselves when we fail. And we will fail…it’s part of the process.

Change seldom sticks the first time around.

We’ll fall, skin our knees, grumble for a while, then get back up and try again. Repeating this cycle, over and over and over again in our lives, eventually results in permanent changes in our lifestyle.

Permanent change is what we’re aiming for.

Change requires we act…and re-act

Once we choose to engage pro-actively with change our actions determine our level success.

Change is dynamic and the dynamic can be learned.

We’ll need a plan

To ensure we are prepared to approach change head-on we’ll need resources in the form of a plan. With a plan, we’ll maneuver through change with more ease and be less apt to be caught off-guard by the unexpected.

We control the change process and not the other way around.

The plan

The process of change has been studied for decades. The most popular resource for change is The Transtheoretical Model — Stages of Change, developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in the early 1980s.

I first learned of this model in university a number of years ago

I’ve relied on it to help me change numerous unhealthy habits and addictions like quitting smoking, learning healthy eating habits, and learning to manage my money. It’s helped me overcome adversity and become more resilient to change.

Applying this model over the past 20 years has literally saved my life.

The model can be applied to any change we want to make

Pre-contemplation — In this first stage, we are still in denial about the need for change in our lives. We haven’t yet made the connection between our actions and our current consequences.

People in this stage may believe they can’t control their behavior.

Some may be unaware of the consequences their behavior has in their lives. Others are so resistant to change they refuse to look at the consequences until it’s almost too late.

Sometimes it takes a life-or-death situation to move us to the next stage.

Contemplation — In this stage, we understand the need for change but are still resistant to it. Here is where we mull over the pros and cons of making a change in our lives. We’re getting ready for change.

Often this stage is the most difficult because this is where we must convince ourselves that change is necessary and we have to do it. This is where we build up our resolve to tackle the mountain called change!

Once we’ve determined to tackle change, we move to the next stage.

Preparation — Here is where the hard work really begins. In this stage, we gather information and begin to experiment with change. We may start with small changes to test the waters. Here we gather resources needed to support us as we endeavor to change.

We want to spend some time in this stage so that we are prepared for action.

This is where we make our plan and set our goals. We’re almost ready to implement change at this stage. Once our plan is in place and we feel ready to move forward it’s best to choose a specific date to move into the next stage.

Pick a start-date and stick to it!

Action — We are ready! This stage is where we make the change and implement our plan. Often starting something new can be exciting and we find we have tonnes of enthusiasm initially. As time wears on our enthusiasm wanes and change becomes challenging again.

Even a well-researched and developed plan will need to be tweaked along the way.

This is the stage where we are using all of our knowledge and skills to stay in control of the change process. We’ll ride the wave for a while and then come face-to-face with something that threatens to knock us off our game.

The key to keeping our focus here is to try new techniques and find new ways to stay motivated.

We’ll teeter back-and-forth between these middle stages; Preparation, Action, and Maintenance, revising our plan and perfecting our strategy.

Maintenance — The focus here is to avoid temptation and prevent relapse. A maintenance plan will include strategies to help us stay focused on our goal, and tactics to manage the triggers that may cause us to fall off the wagon. We need to stay ready and prepared.

Change often requires a gradual progression of small steps toward a larger goal.

Relapse — This is the toughest stage, hands down. Here we have fallen back into old habits and feel awful. To be honest, we beat ourselves up pretty bad in this stage.

Many people give up at this stage, thinking they can never succeed.

This lie keeps us stuck in our unhealthy patterns.

We will succeed however change often occurs gradually

Relapses are an inevitable part of the process of making a lifelong change. Yes, I say relapses plural here because we may experience many slip-ups before the change actually sticks for good.

Relapse is not a failure but merely a temporary setback.

While we wallow in self-pity in the relapse phase, our minds will mull over the entire process that led to our fall. Here we can pin-point triggers, and recognize barriers and obstacles that led to our slip-up.

We re-ready ourselves for the challenge again.

In time, we can build up our resolve and reaffirm our goals

Once we’re ready to recommit to change again, we move to the Contemplation or Preparation Stage and the cycle continues anew. Each time we move through the cycle we gain experience and grow in our resilience.

Every attempt moves us closer and closer to our final goal.

Setting goals

Setting clear and attainable goals are crucial to the success of any plan. It’s worth spending some time here to outline the S.M.A.R.T. method of goal setting. Using this method will ensure we develop the best goals for successful change.

Specific — Be as specific as possible with words that describe how, when, where, what, as much about the goal as possible. The more detail the better.

Example: I will pay off $6,000 in unsecured debt.

Measurable — This relates to what we expect to see, feel, hear, touch, and smell when the goal is reached. Concrete and objective measurement is necessary here.

Example: I will apply at least $200 each month to that debt.

Attainable — This means the goal must be realistic and within our reach and abilities. Set goals too high and we get frustrated, too low and we get bored.

Example: I can achieve this if I cancel my cable and home phone service, and cut back on some other discretionary spending like drive-thru coffee.

Relevant — The goal needs to be relevant to our life or chances are we will not stick with it for very long. The more relevant and applicable to our personal experiences the better.

Example: I need to reduce my debt so I can save for a down-payment on a home.

Timely — Timelines and deadlines are necessary for tracking our progress. Timeframes should be realistic with some flexibility worked in. A series of short timelines are better than a long-drawn-out affair. Set a series of short-term goals that will lead to the ultimate long-term goal.

Example: I will pay off this debt in 30 months.

Tips to help us make and maintain change

  • Increase awareness about healthy behavior. Knowledge is the key to mastering behavior change.
  • Become emotionally engaged with the desired behavior. Be ready for change and form a strong commitment to the desired outcome.
  • Realize how our unhealthy behavior affects others. Reading and understanding our environments, and making cause-and-effect connections, will help us sustain change.
  • Believe that the desired change is possible. Reinforce our actions with positive affirmations. Have faith in the process and our abilities.
  • Find supportive relationships that encourage the desired change. It’s important to prepare our surroundings to support our change. Remove negative cues/triggers that could lead to relapse.
  • Substitute unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones. Be prepared with alternatives for the behavior that’s changing. We need to fill the empty space with a healthy substitute.
  • Reward positive behavior. When goals are reached celebrate in some way. It’s important to set new normals and start new traditions along the way.

Positive memories help carry us through the difficult times.

With the information above, we are equipped to approach change in a whole new way. If we want the best life possible for ourselves and our loved ones, we must engage in change and not avoid it. We can harness the power that’s all around us, and impact our lives in a better way!

The Challenge

Pick something you want to change. It can be something simple like exercising more or eating better or something more difficult like quitting smoking. Once you’ve made the choice you’re already in the second stage, moving into the third stage of the change cycle. See, that wasn’t so bad, right? Work through the Stages of Change and see how you do.

Once you open the door be prepared for your life to change…forever!