The end of January is on the horizon. Are you still holding strong to your New Year’s resolutions or are they languishing in the wasteland of abandoned intentions? Maybe you hoped to save enough to make a downpayment on a new home this year or put more into your retirement fund. Maybe you just want to lose a few extra pounds. Well, this is your reminder to pull out those dejected intentions or create a fresh set of resolutions based on your needs, wishes, or desires, and try something new today.
A Model for Success
One of my all-time favorite reads is a book called Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success. The book was written by five authors who provide a model that I have used in my own life to initiate and follow-through on lasting and meaningful changes.
The model proposed in Change Anything opens a window into our structural, social, and personal motivations and abilities. The authors use a table that looks something like this to illustrate their idea:
Make the undesirable desirable
Surpass your limits
Harness peer pressure
Find strength in numbers
Design rewards and demand accountability
Change the environment
Personal Motivation: Make the undesirable desirable
On my first day at my new “boot camp workout” I found myself kneeling under a tree, unsure whether I needed to pass out, or throw up. It left me with a profound motivation to dramatically improve my fitness level, but this book reminded me that the initial motivation isn’t enough. I needed to formalize my reasons to do the work.
As important as that step is, it’s where most of us stop before failing to actually change, isn’t it? The secret sauce of Change Anything is that formalizing our motivation is only the beginning.
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Personal Ability: Surpass your limits
In order to follow through on your resolution, you’ll need to gain some skills. The boot camp trainer was a huge help for me. Not just because she helped me avoid workout injuries, but also because of the nutrition books she recommended.
Make a well-informed plan for surpassing your limits, talk with friends who have tackled the same mountainous goals, hire a trainer, or find a mentor. As you reach your limits, you will identify roadblocks. Roadblocks are part of the process and you can go back to your visualization and continue learning in order to surpass them.
Social Motivation: Harness peer pressure
Your social circles can be a powerful motivator as you move toward your resolutions. When you let your friends, family members, or even colleagues in on your resolution, they become your cheering section and your caretakers and you’ll find that most people are happy to help out. Even if you don’t think of yourself as someone who benefits from a little peer pressure, give it a try. You may be surprised how nice it is to have someone in your corner as you face the challenges ahead.
A good friend of mine announced her intention to go back to school on her Facebook page. It was intimidating for her, but she described the reaction of her many encouraging friends as making the life change far more real for her.
Social Ability: Find strength in numbers
There’s a reason why Alcoholics Anonymous and other self-help groups work. It’s more than peer pressure you get from your social groups. They can offer a wealth of knowledge, tips, and tricks—particularly if they’ve already been through the same challenge. By leveraging the experiences of others, you can avoid the pitfalls they’ve encountered and reach success faster. Another reason, I’m sure, why boot camp was a great help in my weight loss.
Structural Motivation: Design rewards and demand accountability
As part of my plan to get fit, I asked a dear friend to hold onto $100 for me. He and I hold very different political opinions, so he thought it was great fun when I instructed him to donate it to his political party if I failed to work out at least three times a week. I can’t tell you how effective that was at getting me out of bed in the morning! (He was a little disappointed at having to give me back my money!)
I also covered my walls with pictures of really healthy people to remind me of the rewards I could expect from continuing to work out. It worked wonders in keeping me motivated. Whatever will motivate you toward your resolution, put it to good use.
Structural Ability: Change the environment
Changing your environment to improve your chances for success can be as drastic as finding a new job so that you can gain and use new skills or as simple as requesting a standing desk so that you don’t slump into laziness at work. When I wanted to increase my daily activity level, I put my desk up on cinder blocks and slid a treadmill under it. In order to finish my taxes, I needed to walk for hours at a time.
You Got This!
In Change Anything, the authors suggest that you look at your failures as though you are trying to encourage a mouse to find cheese in a maze. If the mouse made a wrong turn, you’d ask what you could do to ensure it went the right way next time. In one example, an ex-drinker fell off the wagon. He realized that if he didn’t drive past his favorite bar, he was far less likely to stop there so he started taking an alternate route home each day. See what he did? He analyzed his failure as something other than a lapse in “personal motivation,” and instead reviewed the other options, finding a fix in “Structural Motivation.”
At the time of this writing, Amazon has hundreds of used copies of Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success for sale for just one penny. I strongly recommend you buy one because the book offers many more examples than I can share in this blog. With the right tools, you actually CAN do this!
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