Most personal development changes don’t endure for long periods; rather for brief moments. We have all experimented with changing some aspect in our life. We had to increase this or decrease that, do more of that and less of this. We might have seen the results, but in the long-run we didn’t sustain the process and fell back into old patterns and habits. Grrrrrrr.
The process is frustrating, disappointing and energy depleting which causes us to treat the word “change” with scepticism. The core reason our change plans don’t last is because we don’t assimilate and internalise them. We don’t identify with the new habit and somehow latch onto the old way, even if it has harmful or has negative consequences for us.
To sustain change we must establish a new identity – one that resonates with us. How do we focus on a new identity as we often are unable to visualize what that new identity actually tangibly looks and feels like?
Letting go of the old and replacing it with the new requires clarity on what must change, honesty about the need for change, courage to get started and ownership of the change process.
Establishing a new change identity
These six principles recommended by Dave Ulrich (university professor, author, speaker, management coach, and management consultant) are useful and effective in establishing a new change identity.
Principle 1 – Focus
What do you want? This question requires reflection but results in clarity. Stay disciplined until you are clear what you really want. You can even reverse the process by stating what you don’t want.
Principle 2 – Explore
What are your options? Explore ideas and options on how you can get what you want. Look for alternatives, be innovative and consult others. Think big here and don’t censure your thinking.
Principle 3 – Claim one choice
Knowing what we want gives us direction. Having options provides paths on how to get there, but claiming and owning a choice creates momentum. We often stop here because we get lost in the choices that we are tempted to try. Claim one choice and give it all your energy!
Principle 4 – Decide
What decision do you need to make? Deepen the “Claim one Choice” principle and shift into action. Think about the two or three decisions you can make. Work out who needs to make the decisions, and when they need to be made by.
Principle 5 – Act
What concrete actions do you need to make? Until now the change process has been mostly in your head. It’s time to shift gears into doing, behaving and experimenting. As the saying goes “We often judge ourselves by our intent, but others judge our intent by our actions!”
Principle 6 – Learn
How will I know and grow? This is a powerful question that is critical to sustaining the change identity. What tangible results will indicate to you, your change progress? If you don’t approve of what you see ponder on how will you readjust or make improvements on your change process. Measurement outcomes without learning fail to sustain change. Two types of measurement are important in this stage 1) Behaviour – what did you do right 2) Outcomes – what did you accomplish.
Sustaining change is a journey and a process. It has no finite start or ending. It’s the regular pattern of behaviour that supports us to shift to a new identity; one that personally resonates with us.