The Art of Managing Change and Forming New Habits for Success

Empty road heading into 2019.

…change is not only always necessary, it’s inevitable.”

Happy New Year! It’s the brand new start of another new year!

The exuberance of having another opportunity to achieve anything that we set our minds to over the next 12 months washes over us like a refreshing waterfall shower on a hot summer day at the beach.

We make bold resolutions for bigger, better, faster and more.

For myself, this year, I have resolved to become a better person. Not that I was a bad person before. I’m a great person! What I have resolved to do is to take my talents and skills to the next level of my personal development – literally making myself a better person. I intend to push beyond my comfort zones, sharpen my professional focus, set tougher goals for myself and my business, and outperform my financial accomplishments from last year. Lofty aspirations, I know. Wish me luck.

As self-employed professionals, our New Year’s resolutions almost always need to include intentions to make improvements to our businesses. We may resolve to improve on and expand our product offerings, reach out to more potential customers and clients, maintain closer contact with existing clients, close more deals, write more blogs (maybe even some e-books) and develop better internal systems.

We hit the ground running in January – enthusiastic and eager, but as with every year, time passes, and exuberance slowly starts to give way to the magnitude of all of the things that we had set out to do. The intense labor begins to weigh on us.

As February rolls around, we find ourselves beginning to make compromises on the promises that we had made to ourselves to improve.

Hopes, plans and visions hit speed bumps and sometimes get derailed altogether. Frustration and second-guessing can set in. And besides, no one is really paying attention to our progress except us, anyway. No one will ever know if we let some things slide…

Gradually, after a few weeks, almost unknowingly, we take our eyes off the prize and start focusing, instead, on how difficult the changes that we had wanted to make are, and we wonder whether change was really all that necessary to begin with. We talk ourselves out of things (“It’s too much work”, “I don’t have the time”, “What was I thinking?”), or we put things so far on the back burner that we eventually forget about them and they fade out of existence.

Well, the truth is that, not only is change always necessary, it’s inevitable. It is the ONLY constant in life and we would be wise to get accustomed to actively engaging with the challenges that it brings. Change is the exit ramp to our dreams. Either we drive the change, or it drives us.

Change is how we turn dreams into reality.

As human beings, we are blessed with the ability to dream. To want to reach for the stars. To strive. To harbor an unquenchable inner desire for bigger, better, faster, more. To dream is natural, it’s healthy. It’s fun! Every invention and innovation that we enjoy at this time in history is the manifestation of what was once a dream in someone’s heart – an image in someone’s head.

Change is how we turn dreams into reality. Without the “pivot” of change, we would never achieve the life or lifestyle that we seek. Do you remember the moment that you decided to change your life and become an entrepreneur? If you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, stick with it, it’s phenomenally rewarding. If you’ve been at it a while, take a moment to reflect on how far you’ve come. Life is a series of graduation ceremonies. Every event that has signaled advancement for you was a moment of change – an ultimately positive event that was invariably preceeded by a string of trials and tribulations, innumerable moments of self-doubt and periods of mental and physical exhaustion.

Change can be massive in that we, more often than not, have to completely reinvent ourselves in order to meet its demands. This is what makes the actual work of changing so scary. The greatest obstacle to change is in the meeting of its demands.

Human beings are psychologically pre-programmed to resist change.

Evolution is a largely passive form of change, while creativity is an active form of change. It’s this active form of change that our brains resist. In an effort to keep us safe and comfortable, our brains send us the signal of fear when it detects a shift in our patterns of behavior. “Don’t go near there!”, our brain says to us, “You don’t know what’s on the other side! Stay here, where we know what to expect.”

If you know anyone who has long talked about the idea of starting their own business, but never actually made the move from the safety of their full-time jobs to entrepreneurship, then you’ve seen the brain do its work in this regard.

Change triggers the instinct of “fight or flight” in humans. It introduces the unknown and the untried into our lives, daring us to overcome our fears in exchange for potential rewards. It requires us to alter our behaviors, which, in turn tends to alter our points of view. Change may demand that we mix in new and different social circles, leaving some old ones behind. Change asks us to look at our past behaviors and to re-evaluate the merits that we may have attributed to them before. Change involves risk.

After dipping a toe in the water, the majority of us, when given the opportunity to incorporate change into our lives, choose “flight” – just get as far away from the discomfort as possible.

And that is how the subtle shift towards letting our resolutions slide occurs. The “meh” that we express about something that we were once very enthusiastic about is a mild form of “flight” behavior. Quietly, we go back to the known, the routine, what is safe. It’s rather easy to do.

On the other hand, if you’ve ever stuck with a behavior change for the long term, to the point where you’ve turned it into a HABIT, then you know how the “fight” reaction to change can feel.

To begin with, it’s almost as though the force of gravity, itself, has come down to personally pin you in place, and you have to commit every ounce of your willpower to moving yourself closer to your goals. You curse yourself for having such a hard time doing something so simple as sitting down to type! But, learning to beat your brain at its own game is why it’s called a “fight” in this regard. Successfully creating new habits is the sign that, not only have you survived the battle, you’ve planted your flag!

Turn Your Resolutions Into Decisions

“Fighting” any resistance that you might feel towards change doesn’t have to be left to chance, however. A great way to consciously push back against the issues that might arise for you in sticking with your New Year’s resolutions is to turn your resolutions into DECISIONS.

Let’s be honest, the word, “resolution” has become synonymous with, “No. Really. I mean it. Watch!”

It’s a light-hearted thing that “everyone” is doing at this time of year and we kind of feel obliged to do it because it’s tradition, which is fine. I like tradition. But, subconsciously, we also kind of know that the tradition of making resolutions at the start of a new year comes with a built-in escape hatch to be used at our discretion, when the changes we planned start to become much more than we may have bargained for.

I believe that making resolutions at New Year’s is good, but the timing provides us with a sort of psychological camouflage where our promises to ourselves get blended in among a sea of others. We’re going with that flow. We’re not really focusing on the commitment that’s involved.

Now, let’s think for a minute about how making resolutions at the start of a new year feels different than making decisions to change at any other time of the year – for example, when yours is the only voice that can be heard proclaiming change…crickets…all eyes on you…

It’s a big difference.

By choosing to turn your resolutions into decisions, you are choosing to take control of the direction of your life in a determined fashion. Once a person reaches a decision – whether as a gut instinct or through a mental process, they usually stick to it. Why? Because decisions are usually followed by a plan of action. A goal is identified and given a “proper” name, the pros and cons of it are weighed, a way to reach it is designed and the process for reaching it is followed. Doubts get brushed aside and fear loses its power in the equation – logic has stepped in to save the day!

Decisions represent commitments, and commitments usually command respect – both from yourself and from others who you may have involved.

With a decision, it’s expected that results will not appear overnight, and that’s okay. Results will only appear through hard work and dedication – one step at a time.

Turning your resolutions into decisions has a way of making your dream concrete and actionable. You develop patience and a willingness to do whatever it takes to create a new reality for yourself. You are more receptive to change and changes within your process because you are grounded in your determination and your self-trust.

Take Away: The sweat equity required to successfully bring about change is not to be underestimated, but neither are the rewards. When you turn your resolutions into decisions, you are more likely to achieve your goals for the new year and beyond. You become more committed and hold more realistic expectations for success. Good luck!

If you enjoyed this article, please give it a like and share!

And, check out my other blog articles:

Confidence: Your Superpower

Time Management Hacks For A Smoother 2019

Free vs. Fee: Understanding The Value of Your Knowledge as a Service Provider

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