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Chance or Change?

On our last Zoom chat, we discussed ways to make lasting change. Is it possible? Of course! You just have to have the right mindset and some tools in your back pocket.

In the research I read preparing for the chat, one source (Psychology Today) recognized four main steps to creating permanent change. Most of it speaks to your own feelings and understanding of your current situation. We can get pretty backed up in our own heads, right?

The first step is to trust that you CAN change. You have to give up your excuses. Just like the myth, "people can't change," you have to believe that you can. When we believe that people can't change, it lets us off the hook. "Not my fault. It's just the way that I am." Or, even worse, "I was born fat, and that's the way I'm suppose to be. I'll never lose weight." Too easy to rely on that line of thinking. When you do, you'll never attain your goal.

A second step is in having the motivation to change. You definitely need an intense desire in order to make a change because of the vast amount of hard work it will change. Our habits are hard to break. To find the motivation you need to keep working on a new goal, you need to establish an unbreakable "why." Why do you want this change? It can't be trite or temporary, because then your change will not be a permanent one.

The third step is to recognize the benefits. I feel this step can help you establish your motivational why. Ask yourself, "what's in it for me?" when beginning your journey. Write it down. When I ___________, then I will be ____________. List all the positive reasons why this change would be good for you.

Finally, if step 3 doesn't motivate you, try step 4, which is to recognize the negatives if you don't change. If life continues just the same, how will this be obstructive to your life. What disadvantages will you still be fighting because you don't change? If you are content to keep living the way you are, perhaps you aren't ready for change.

On this site from Lifehack, more suggestions were offered for making change and reaching goals. Contrary to the first article, they suggest that looking for motivation will not work. Willpower and motivations are feelings, and thereby vague and unreliable. You can depend on your willpower to show up when you need it to - especially if your goal is to eat healthy or lose weight. Mr. Will Power is a frivolous character who may or may not show up when he is needed most - so better not to rely on him at all, right?

Instead, they suggest that you find and go to the best possible environment for the task at hand. What is it that you are trying to change? Do you want to get fit? Go to a gym. Do you want to meet someone new? Try a singles event. Are you trying to stop smoking? Get to a support group. Being in an environment with like-minded people will support your positive choices.

Another tactic that can help is to recruit a friend (or group of friends) to help you with your goal. The more people you tell, the more likely it is that you will work hard to achieve that goal and avoid embarrassment if you fail. Find an accountability partner who will hold you to your task. You can check in weekly to report, and LifeHack goes a step further stating you should have that person come over to "babysit" you while you work at your goal. No socializing, just doing the work. I am not sure I agree with that last suggestion. After all, even my best friends would not be willing to give up time in their day to come make sure I'm doing what I should be doing. If I can't do it on my own, how will I ever truly change? A commitment to change has to happen from within - not because someone is watching you. That seems an adolescent tactic that may be used by a parent.

They do offer some good advice about starting small. Change is big in itself, and if you try to do it all at once, you'll most likely fail. So, create your plan of action with your ultimate goal at the top, and smaller steps you can achieve over time that will lead you to that goal. One example is to tie a desired behavior to an already established one. The author offers that after attending a retreat and meditating each day, he wanted to continue that practice. But, after coming home, it just didn't happen. So, he began by making his bed each day, then sitting on the edge of the bed with his eyes closed for ten seconds. Then he continued on with his day. When this behavior became habit, he increased the time slowly until he was meditating for 30 minutes each day (his goal.). In this way, he tied the regular act of making his bed to meditation, and he was eventually able to accommodate this new behavior.

Finally, Lifehack recognizes that life can get in the way of our goals. You have to create more time in your day to work on these new behaviors by limiting distractions. Social media is one of those distractions - we all know it is! Cute puppies and tasty recipes can suck up a ton of time and before we know it, there's no time left for working out, or shopping for healthy food, or meditation. Remove the distractions so that you can do the work.

Hustle & Heart agree that willpower is not the issue. You can't rely on it showing up when you need it, so their first charge is to make your goal finite. You need to make the new behavior easier to accommodate by taking the choice out of it. Limit your decision-making surrounding your goal.

Ever decide you were going to lose weight and only eat healthy foods? What happened the first time you got ravenously hungry? (Yeah, I often forget to eat while I'm working on a project and then the monster awakes!) We reach for the easiest thing we can stuff in our face - or maybe the most appealing?

So, when you open the refrigerator or pantry door, will you reach for the carrots (that need to be peeled and cut), or do you reach for the leftover pasta? I know for me, pasta wins every time.

Being prepared goes a long way. Perhaps in sitting down with your goals and action steps, you need to predict what could go wrong. Prepare ahead of time and take the choice out of it.

To truly make a lifestyle change, you will need a plan. You have to have a system in place for designing processes and habits. The decisions you make set a trajectory for success, but you also have to account for the times you may veer off the desired path. When you can create new habits, those habits need to be practiced over time until they are efficient and you are on auto pilot.

When you begin to recognize new habits being formed and followed, reward yourself! BUT, beware that you don't reward yourself with the very thing you are trying to change. Hey, you lost 7 pounds? Great! Just don't celebrate with a cupcake! I don't believe you should celebrate by skipping out or giving yourself a night off. You want to keep building on the new habit. After all, this is for life, right? What good will skipping a night do you in the long run?

There is a lot of psychology to change. We have very strong opinions about ourselves and it is likely that you'll need to changes some self-perceptions. Are you bad with money? Start by identifying yourself as someone who is good with money - or at least "okay" with money. If you hold onto the old belief, you will be resistant to change.

You also need to ask yourself some hard questions. Really get into psycho-analyzing yourself by asking yourself - "Do I really want this change?" Is there a hidden part of you that objects to the change - and what is it? What is the story that you have been telling yourself, and is it true? Do you believe you are the type of person who can achieve this change? This goal?

Personally, I'd like to lose weight and get fit. Someday I may have grandchildren and I want to be an active participant in their lives, not just a granny lap. I look at my daughter who works out 2-3 times a day and admire how fit she is. She looks amazing. But do I believe I can get that fit? No, I do not. I will never look like she does, and psychologically, it hampers my will to change. Why bother? I'll never get in shape the way I want. Okay, all you amateur psychologists ... how do I get over that blockade? (Just kidding - I also know that hearing from others will never work until I can change my own mindset.) This needs to be the first thing I address before I set my goals.

So, are you ready for change? Are you ready for some hard questions?

Who are you?

What do you want to change?

What is the reward?

Why do you want the change?

What steps will it take to get there?

Where do you start?

It's important to draft out (and I really mean write it ALL down) before you begin. You have to take the time to examine all parts of your life - where you are now and why, and where you want to go - and why. It all relies on the WHY. If your "why" isn't strong enough, you won't succeed. If you don't have a plan in place, you won't succeed.

Try looking at SMART goals. To create a goal, you need to be specific. What is it you want? You also have to make that goal measurable in some way. The goal has to be achievable - which might seem like common sense, but we often overestimate what is attainable. So be reasonable. The goal must also be relevant - and this is tied to your "why." Finally, the goal must have some kind of time limit. You will achieve this specific goal within ___ months, days, years, whatever. Again, that time limit must be achievable, too. Don't say you'll lose 80 pounds in three weeks. Not going to happen ... unless you cut off a limb or something.

Change is difficult. Lifelong change is even more difficult. Give yourself the best crack at succeeding by going through all the steps - from planning, to implementation, to recognition and reward. But celebrate who you are right now and recognize all of your amazing, positive traits before you begin. Sure, this change may be good for you, but you are fabulous right now, too!

I'll leave you with this ...

Don't find an excuse. Find a way.

Plan ahead.

and ...

The journey for your dreams starts from within.

More resources:

Balance Through Simplicity

Life Coach Spotter

Change Any Habit Painlessly

Joe Rogan & Change (video) (foul language)

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