Change isn’t a given. Despite all the many ways that we all want to change and irrespective of our track record – it is never a simple process. In addition, the bigger the change you want to make, the harder it can seem to accomplish it.
Making a change, a life affirming change, that continues on for the rest of your life and not for the next year can be a cumbersome process fraught with unique plans and directives on how to accomplish it. But when broken down to it’s most simplest of components, there are really only five stages one need go through.
Stage 1: Identify What You Can’t Accept About Yourself Anymore
I want to be a better person!
I want to find my passion!
Change starts with identifying what you want to accomplish. It doesn’t have to be specific at this point, you only need to identify the high-level accomplishments of what you want to achieve. Perhaps “finding your passion” is too nebulous and something more direct such as “I want to figure out what I really like about my job” are more useful. However, you start, you must identify what the change is you are looking to make.
Stage 2: Break It down into Baby Steps
Change begins to fail when we don’t further decompose or break down what steps we need to take to make that change in ourselves. By breaking down the steps to make the change in our lives, we are simplifying the work to create change and identifying the barriers in our way that could slow us down and hinder our progress.
What is passion?
What is being a better person?
A further refinement of these changes (re: the goal) could be – “I will write down daily what I enjoy doing to find my passion” or “I will do three kind things for three strangers every day”. We have now taken our change and attached objectives to what we are looking to change along with time based accomplishments for the when and where of what we will accomplish.
Change is not a single, arching achievement, it is a consistent implementation of small, executable tasks.
Stage 3: Start Tracking Everything, No Matter Big or Small
Large goals – being a better person, finding your passion – can be hard to measure, but it can be done. However, what is most important is for us to track the occurrence of those changes on something as simple as a Google Spreadsheet.
How many people did I help this month?
How many journal entries did I write down this past year?
It is inevitable that we become frustrated with the lack of progress in change because we do not think we have achieved our overall goals for change when what we have made is progress. Progress towards the goal, progress towards change.
Tracking and recording your change is an incredible way for you to be able to look back at where you started and say to yourself – “Wow, I have come a long way and I am ready to keep going.”
Stage 4: Keep Failing, and Grow Stronger Every Time
I have consistently found, my greatest success at implementing change to be the result of my ability to keep failing. This seems backward to keep failing while trying to implement a change in yourself, but I have found time and time again that it is the failure in trying to implement that change that makes me stronger and more willing to get back up and try again. As I push myself harder to make that change, to get better at something, to improve, I will fall and make mistakes and through those mistakes I will learn to get better.
If you are continually succeeding as you implement your goals towards change, than you are not really making a change, you are instead, patting yourself on the back for having not pushed yourself today.
Stage 5: Rinse and Repeat
Even when I have implemented these first four stages of change, I have often found the need to take a step back and re-examine my goals and what I want to achieve.
Is the change I seek to implement still to big?
How am I tracking my progress?
Am I pushing myself hard enough?
For this reason, the final stage of change is for you to look back at what you are trying to change and tweak what you are doing. Oddly enough, this can be the hardest stage of change as we turn a critical eye to ourselves in what we are trying to change.
Am I really being a better person by doing something nice for three strangers a week? Has it become so easy at this point that the change I’m looking to implement really is no longer there?
Beyond all these stages of change, there is a consistent theme of will, commitment and the desire to make this change. It’s inherent in the entire process and can be the deciding factors as to whether we actually achieve change. These stages cannot imbue you with that sense of will, commitment, desire and drive but where they can help is to reduce the barriers you face, how you approach them and you do when faced them.
The rest is up to you.