How to Make Lasting Change in the New Year

You’ve learned all the cliches about change – a zebra can’t change its stripes, a leopard can’t change its spots – and you’ve heard allegories like the story of the scorpion and the frog. But is this common sentiment true? Is change impossible? We think NOT. Actually, we believe that perpetuating the idea that change can’t happen is self-destructive.

Change is difficult, but in the same breath, it’s very much possible. Nick Tasler, an organizational psychologist, says, “Change is hard in the same way it’s hard to finish a marathon.” To add another cliche to the mix, change is a marathon, not a sprint. Just like finishing a marathon, in order to make a lasting change, you need to take those first steps. And before that, you need to train.

So how do you train your brain for that marathon called change?

Train Your Brain

  1. Introduce Your Current Self to Your Future Self
    Logically, you know you’re the same person today as you are, say, one year from now. However, in an interesting study, Hal Hershfield, a psychologist at UCLA Anderson School of Management, found that participants’ brain activity while thinking about their future selves more closely resembled brain activity while thinking about another person rather than when thinking about their current selves.

    Later, Hershfield explored ways to bridge the disconnect. Specifically, he wanted to encourage people to save more for their retirement. He took photos of participants and used image processing to visually age their faces. Then, he placed them in a virtual reality setting where they looked into a mirror and saw their aged selves looking back. These participants said they would save 30% more than the control group.

    Based on this research, you should take the time to introduce your current and future selves. Visualize yourself one year from now, two years from now, and so on. Acquaint yourself with the idea that the consequences of choices you make today aren’t left to some distant “other” to handle but to yourself.
  2. Stop Predicting Your Own Failure. Envision Your Success Instead.
    Don’t keep telling yourself how hard change is. Don’t keep telling yourself that success is unlikely. Don’t predict your own demise! Instead, actively temper those thoughts and choose to envision your success.

    If you’re not someone who likes to make lists or write down their thoughts in a journal, the act of writing down your vision may seem silly. But we believe that by taking the time to think through and write down your goals, how you want to achieve them, and what the reward is for making a change, you can better picture them and remember them. Try it! There is a lot of power in getting down your thoughts on paper and re-visiting them from time to time.
  3. Lean into Your Need for Instant Gratification
    We often give up our long-term goals in exchange for the instant win. However, if we break up our endgame into smaller pieces, we can still satisfy the part of our nature that craves instant gratification.

    For example, if your desire is to change your organizational habits—and to become more organizationally aware—think about the relief/positive feelings you’ll experience midweek if you take time out of your Monday morning to prepare and plan.
  4. Create an Ongoing Sense of Urgency
    It’s important to note that creating urgency doesn’t mean you need to finish things quickly or complete your goals hastily, but just to keep that motivation you often feel at the start of the race and sustain it.

    The urgency you have at the start of things, just like at the start of a race, is powerful. Keep it going. If you don’t, everything slows down, and each step gets harder and more frustrating. One way to do this is to talk about your goals with people. If you’re leading a team, get them involved in the conversation. Or, on a more personal level, just tell your friends about the change you want to make. This not only holds you accountable but also gives you the motivation to act and follow-through on your word.
  5. Pick Yourself Up Again and Again
    Remember, this is a marathon. You’re going to get tired—sometimes you need to walk or catch your breath. That’s fine! That important thing is you collect yourself and keep on moving toward your goal.

Talk to Meddlers!
Ready to stop thinking about change and start making some instead? Let’s figure it out together. At Meddlers, we work with you to make strategic shifts for successful growth. Give us a call at (602) 842-5272, or fill out a form and we’ll be in touch.