November 11, 2015

Famed leadership guru Stephen Covey once said, “There are three constants in life: change, choice and principles.”

All change requires a choice. You either decide to make changes or you don’t. Maybe the reason we shy away from change is that we don’t possess the skills to change. What will create the change you want?

Research shows that there are 5 key principles involved in making a successful change in behavior. They are as follows:

  1. You must possess the knowledge and skills to make the changes you desire.
  2. The desire to change must be important to you and you must be motivated to make it.
  3. You must have real intention toward your goals.
  4. You must understand and alter the environment around you.
  5. You are required to form new habits.

As human beings, we are the only animals on Earth that have the ability to change, or aim ourselves toward the future we envision. We can aim ourselves, like human arrows, at targets. The targets are our goals, aspirations and dreams. Intention (willpower) is described by scientists Kugler and Turvey as creating the boundaries for behaviors to emerge and setting the pathway for their emergence. With proper goalsetting we not only create the willpower to move toward the goal, but the goal itself serves as a magnetized target which pulls you (the arrow) toward the bull’s-eye.

With this in mind, goalsetting is the first step in achieving your change, or resolution to change. We all naturally orient ourselves toward goals that fulfill us in mind, body, and spirit. This integration is what leads us to health and high quality of life.

The success of goalsetting and the ability to achieve a goal go hand in hand. The more you are able to reach your goals, the more successful you will be at reaching future goals.  It is called building self-efficacy, or a belief in yourself.

So what should you do to create well-defined goals? Write them down! Statistics show people who write down their goals have over an 80% higher success rate of achieving them. As an example, a Harvard study showed that the 3% of Harvard MBAs who had clear, written goals and plans to accomplish them earned, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of Harvard MBAs who did not. Goalsetting creates a blueprint for change.

Another way is to make sure your goals are SMART goals — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented and Time-limited.

In the book “Change Anything”, the authors suggest that change is often difficult not because we don’t have a good plan, but that our plans are often influenced by the environment around us. Understanding this and, more importantly, having a means of controlling the influences out there will lead to greater success. The science behind the Change Anything approach revolves around 4 key processes:

  1. Identifying what they call “crucial moments”. These are the times of day, places, and people who influence us to do what we don’t want to do.
  2. Create “vital behaviors”. These are the key things you will do to challenge the habits and behaviors that are a result of the crucial moments.
  3. Engage all of the 5 principles of change mentioned above.
  4. Turn your bad days into good data. In other words, be aware of when you don’t do what you desire, and why, so you can figure out how to apply sources 1-3.

In the book “Switch”, the Heath brothers describe how the two sides of our brains, the left (rational side), and the right (emotional side), often are in conflict with each other.

The two sides of the brain compete for control of your behavior. The rational mind wants and plans for change while the emotional side loves the comfort of our current routines. The tension between the two can doom our goals, but if overcome, can quickly change. That tension is captured best by an analogy used by the Heath brothers in the book. They stated that our emotional side is like a huge elephant and our rational side is its rider. Think of a jockey sitting atop a huge elephant. The jockey may hold the reins and seem to be the leader, but the big elephant is huge and emotional and can easily overpower the jockey. The jockey, or left side of your brain, provides the planning and direction but can often get caught up in the business of life. The elephant, or right side of the brain, is the doer who gets things done and provides the energy and passion. Problem is, the elephant can be lazy.

How do I unite the two sides? How can I get the jockey to lead the elephant? Here is where we join the Change Anything process with the SMART goal approach:

  1. Direct the rider.Provide clear direction. What looks like resistance to change is often a lack of clarity. Don’t think big picture, specify manageable immediate steps in the right direction. Point to the destination and explain where you’re going and why it’s worth it.
  2. Motivate the elephant.Connect on an emotional level, to keep the elephant moving forward. We can’t simply think our way into a new behavior. Shrink the change by making it manageable, so it doesn’t spook the elephant.
  3. Shape the path.If you want to change, make the process easier. Where do you want to go? How long will it take? How will you get there? How will you know if you’re moving in the right direction?

One additional point. Goalsetting has been called the master skill of success in life. So you have two choices: you can either work on your own goals, or you can work on achieving goals for someone else. Choose wisely! When you learn the master skill, you take better control of your life and jump to the front of the line in your potential for great achievement. As such, goalsetting is a foundational life skill; it allows you to achieve better! And always remember, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Curious about specific techniques to help you with your change? Look no further. At Pro-Motion, we have used this information to create a goalsetting approach consistent with this information and would love to share our knowledge with you.

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