Before you start making plans for the whole year, check how effectively to implement changes in life and make sure whether you really need them.
To navigate the river of change successfully, one needs the right motivation that outweighs any potential fears. We require our own internal compass, as well as the support of our surroundings.
For this compass to function well and for the environment to be willing to support us, we must have a clear understanding of what we want. If we lack awareness of why exactly the change we are pursuing is necessary, external influences and internal critics may undermine our efforts.
Effectively Implementing Changes in Life
Check if it’s worth it
Examine what the actual reason for the change you’re contemplating is. Create a detailed justification – it will be useful in moments of crisis and help persuade your surroundings. Write down answers to the following questions:
- What change do you want to introduce?
- Does this decision truly come from you (or is it influenced by your surroundings)?
- What is the real reason for this change? What do you want to achieve? What problem do you intend to solve? What significant needs do you want to fulfill?
- What new habits and actions are associated with the change?
- What will be the potential costs of these actions (energetic, temporal, financial, in relationships), and are you prepared for them? Are the benefits of implementing it greater than the costs?
- What benefits does the lack of change or its postponement bring you? What important needs do you satisfy by not changing anything? And what costs do you incur by not making any changes?
- After analyzing the costs and benefits, do you still believe that the change makes sense? What arguments most strongly justify it?
Why Does It Fail?
For a change to be effective, it should happen simultaneously on several levels. Firstly, at the mental level – there must be an awareness of its necessity, and beliefs and thoughts must be transformed, leading to a change at the next level – actions and habits.
Additionally, we need a change in the external environment. It’s worthwhile to reorganize your space, schedule, and interactions with people to be conducive to change.
The change at the mental level requires becoming aware of all negative thoughts that may hold us back – undermining confidence, reducing motivation, weakening the will to adopt new habits. It’s worth examining closely any cognitive distortions related to change.
These involve irrational ways of thinking, often containing logical errors and triggering difficult emotions. Among them are negative predictions (500 reasons why I will fail), dramatic failure scenarios, merciless standards (I can’t make even one mistake), “all or nothing” thinking (one mistake will cause everything to collapse).
There are also numerous beliefs related to our possibilities (what I can and cannot do), abilities (what I am capable and incapable of), and deserving (what I deserve and do not deserve). As long as all these thoughts are unconscious, they will hinder our change.
Therefore, it’s valuable to list all such thoughts on one side of a table (e.g., “I can’t do it,” “it won’t work anyway,” “I don’t have time for this,” “I’m not ready,” etc.), and on the other side, create alternative thoughts that will support and empower us.
These shouldn’t be overly optimistic yet unconvincing affirmations, but rather statements that are 100% realistic and simultaneously positive (“Many people struggle with this, and I can do it too,” “I succeeded in … so I can do it now,” “I will set aside half an hour every day and do as much as possible,” “I will take a small step now”).
Take Small Steps
The source of cognitive distortions is fear triggered by the amygdala – the part of the brain that activates an alarm in the face of change because it associates it with a threat. To cope with this, it’s beneficial to apply the Kaizen method: make changes so small that the amygdala doesn’t detect them and doesn’t react with an alarm.
Small steps have the advantage that they don’t require extensive preparations, much time, or significant energy. On the other hand, even the smallest step changes our perspective – new options and experiences emerge, along with the joy of action, movement, invigorating activity, and freshness.
It’s not worth diving into deep waters because, it can increase the level of anxiety, leading to the abandonment of the changes we are implementing. Positive changes happen in our growth zone.
This zone tightly encircles the comfort zone; stepping into the growth zone involves mild stress but also learning, action, and joy – because the changes are so small that we can cope with temporary discomfort or uncertainty. Too significant changes take us beyond the growth zone, straight into the panic zone.
There, satisfaction and learning vanish, replaced by the struggle against a too-rapid river, the desire to escape, intense stress, and plenty of fear. Therefore, it’s advisable to introduce significant changes gradually, carefully ensuring not to cross the narrow boundary between the growth and panic zones.
If we want our ideas for change to materialize, we must, at some point, stop thinking and start acting. One needs to embark on a path they are unfamiliar with. To enhance the effectiveness of implementing new actions and habits, thorough preparation is valuable.
Take Care of Your Environment
It’s worthwhile to influence the environment in a way that habits don’t distract us from planned actions. Most of us need approximately three weeks to develop new habits.
During this time, it’s beneficial to schedule your calendar to allocate about half an hour each day for activities related to the change (for the next small step). The goal is to ensure that no one interrupts us and nothing diverts our attention. After half an hour of focusing on the task, it’s worth rewarding oneself for the effort, regardless of the achieved outcome.
Since we cannot keep our “concentration muscles” tense indefinitely, it’s good to take a break for relaxation, unwind, and small pleasures. With people in our environment who resist or don’t understand our change, the “broken record” technique can be applied—repeating endlessly one sentence that most strongly justifies our need and emphasizes that through it, we are realizing an important value.
It’s not worth engaging in debates. If it’s challenging to convince someone, it’s better to isolate oneself from that person during the change implementation. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
For those who have become adept swimmers in the river of change, a piece of advice is useful: it’s not worth accelerating excessively. Changes make sense only up to the point where we still remain ourselves.
Flaws can simultaneously be strengths: disorder and messiness combine with creativity, and meticulousness and perfectionism with high efficiency in actions. As Arnold Beisser, the creator of the paradoxical theory of change, said: “I give meaning to every act of my life, and if I desire to change, it is by remaining myself, myself differently, not someone other than myself.”
Exercise “From Four Sides”
Note the answer to the question: what effects of a change do you want to sustain for a longer period? Once you have answered this question, draw a table consisting of four fields. In the first one, create the header STRONG SIDES, INTERNAL RESOURCES, and write down all the answers to the following questions related to your change:
- What important skills can I leverage?
- What character traits will help me succeed?
- What competencies do I possess?
- In what areas am I proficient, and how can I use that?
- What experiences and successes can inspire me?
- What beliefs will support me?
When you finish, move on to the second field of the table, titled DEVELOPMENT AREAS, SKILLS TO LEARN. List everything you need to find out/learn/develop/invest in to make your change successful.
The third field is OPPORTUNITIES, RELATIONSHIPS, EXTERNAL RESOURCES. Note down who could help you, who could provide support. What opportunities in your environment can you leverage, what else could assist you? What other external resources can be helpful?
Finally, fill in the fourth field, CHALLENGES, PLAN B, MODIFICATIONS. Enter all difficulties and obstacles that may arise, along with ideas for overcoming them.
Look for them in the first three quarters – these are our internal or external resources, as well as new things we intend to learn, that will be the best response to any potential crises. If you don’t have a recorded antidote for a particular challenge, complete the “Development Areas, Skills to Learn” section, considering what else you need to overcome each potential difficulty.
Exercise “Letter from the Future”
Take a large blank sheet of paper and a pen. Write a future date, one that corresponds to the time when you want your change to become a reality. Address the letter to the person you would like to tell about your success in its implementation.
Then, imagine that you have successfully implemented the change 100%. Describe in detail what happened, what you have achieved, how your world looks now, how you spend your time, who is with you, how you appear, and how you feel.
Write about the actions this change required from you, how you resolved difficulties that arose, what resources you utilized, and what it taught you. Treat this exercise as a playful activity, don’t limit yourself in any way, and try to surprise yourself.
Thank you for reading this article about how effectively to implement changes in life and I really hope that you take action my advice.
I wish you good luck and I hope its contents have been a good help to you.