Do you ever wish you could be less stressed … more open-minded … happier? At the same time, do you question whether you can really change?
In our life coaching practice, we hear it in myriad variations: “I don’t think I can change.” From being too old, too damaged or too stuck in their ways, people often doubt that true change is within their reach.
The centuries-old saying that “a leopard can’t change its spots” is a copout. When it comes to personal growth and development, we know that humans are capable of making remarkable progress.
If you feel stuck, sometimes making one tiny step is all it takes to get unstuck.
Life Coach Insights: 7 Fundamental Elements to Cultivate Change
Whether it’s making a career shift, adopting a healthy eating plan or eliminating damaging self-talk, you hold the power to make it happen. The keys to achieving personal growth are in your hands.
You can change.
Here’s what’s necessary in order for you to set the wheels in motion — and to continue making progress.
- Deep desire — It doesn’t matter how good it sounds; in order to effect change, you have to want it. Badly. Change can’t be for anyone else but you. If you come up with an array of excuses for why this isn’t the right time, you’re right; it isn’t. Change will occur when you’re ready to take action.
- Vision — Before you embark on a mission to change, it helps to understand your motivation. Why do you want to make this change? Focus on your “future self.” How will you feel? Let’s say you want to change your tendency to view the glass as half-empty. Imagine how adopting an optimistic mindset will impact your thoughts, moods, energy level, behaviors and interactions with others. As we tell our life coaching clients, envisioning the return on your emotional investment can be a strong motivator.
- A plan — Your quest to change is a process; as such, it can be helpful to create a ‘project management’ plan to serve as a guide along the way. What situations might take you off your path — and what will you do to steer yourself back on course? Prepare a mental toolbox, incorporating reframing strategies, mindfulness and other stress-management techniques.
- Impulse control — True change involves not doing what you’ve done before. What are you willing to sacrifice in order to achieve it? How hard are you willing to work to create a new habit? Knee-jerk reactions to certain situations create patterns. When inviting change, you need to be aware of these patterns, and resist the temptation to fall back into them. Putting yourself on auto-pilot is easy, but it isn’t always effective. Change begins with a choice — and it requires making choices on an ongoing basis. That’s good news, because it puts you in the driver’s seat.
- Emotional openness — In the midst of the hard work, you might discover feelings. Self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors are frequently linked to underlying emotions. In their book, Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization, Robert Kegan, Ph.D., and Lisa Laskow Lahey, explain that some people have a “competing commitment to change.” Even if it resides outside of your conscious awareness, this competing element can be a powerful obstacle. Once you become aware of it, you can begin to overcome it. When the emotional stakes are high, a life coach can help you untangle and properly channel these potential landmines.
- Adjustment — Fine-tuning your strategy is an integral part of the process. Exploring different ways to respond to a trigger situation will allow you to see what works, what doesn’t work so well — and where there are opportunities to modify your approach.
- Long-term commitment — Authentic change doesn’t happen in a day, a week or even a month. It’s sustained over time and requires consistent practice. Think about a time when you wanted to achieve a tangible goal. Maybe you wanted to lose 20 pounds. You found an eating and fitness program that was right for you, and you did it. But what happened on the day you relegated your “fat jeans” to the back of the closet? Did you go back to eating doughnuts and cancel your gym membership? Hopefully not. Instead, you realized that in order to maintain this new version of your healthy self, you need to keep working at it. Any change worth realizing deserves this commitment.
What elements have you found integral to achieving authentic personal growth?