If you are resisting making changes vital to your personal or business success, here’s ten tips to get you taking action!

Even when change is a matter of choice, and we know that it’s a good thing, we can find ourselves holding back.  So, here are my tips to get you going. 

1: Make your comfort zone uncomfortable

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there”

If you are thinking about doing something differently but are doing nothing at all then the chances are, you are too comfortable.  Perhaps you need to dial up the pain associated with staying put or may be your vision for what your change could bring you isn’t compelling enough.  Either way, if you’re not entirely clear on what you are aiming for and why, there is no incentive to take action.

Dial up the pain or the pleasure, whichever motivates you

We can trap ourselves with a false sense of security. When we feel as though we have the resources it is because we feel business is doing just fine as it is …so where’s the incentive to change? If we can still fit into a few clothes in the wardrobe, where’s the urgency to diet?  Of course, if things aren’t going so well; business is drying up or we are down to our least favourite pair of jeans, then we have urgency but we’re probably not feeling so resourceful.  Perhaps the answer is to get clear on the consequences of standing still. This brings me to my second tip. 

2: Doing nothing is a decision… with consequences

Fellow project managers will know all about this as we always consider the “do nothing scenario”.   Doing nothing is a valid course of action and it has its own pros and cons.  We tend to think our new idea is all pluses and staying put is all minuses but that’s unlikely to be the case with the sort of changes we are considering here.  If staying put was all bad you’d be doing something about it already! 

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”  – James Allen

Check out this grid.  It is called a carteisian equation and by filling in all the boxes you will spot where the blockage to action is for you.  The boxes shaded grey represent the typical pro/con analysis we do.

I have used the real life example of me and my diet.  I identified that the sticking points were the negative aspects of sorting out my weight for once and for all.  It required me to see myself in a very different way and to have developed healthier behaviours around food – i.e. not rely on food to solve problems other than hunger.  Only when I addressed that challenge was I truly ready to move on even though I was already feeling uncomfortable in my clothes. 

“The best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Note that in this example, we are only considering two options; staying put versus one alternative.  If you are still stuck then it might be because you just haven’t found the right answer. In NLP we would stay ”one option amounts to no option; two options may present a dilemma; three or more options give you a lot of control to achieve your goals.”  The more options you have the more likely you are to find the path you really want to follow; the inspiring choice which takes you where you want to go.

3: You don’t need to know all the steps to get started

We often think we need the whole plan mapped out in detail before we embark on any kind of change when all we really need is a clear understanding of where we are now, what we are aiming for, and the first step.  Think about it, you key your destination into your Sat Nav, it confirms the destination and gives you the first move.  It doesn’t blurt out every aspect of the route as you set off from your house!  If diversions or faster routes become available, it lets you know in good time that you have options.  You arrive….sort of!  Sat Nav will say “arrived” when all you’ve done is hit the postcode but you did your research, you have the vision, so you know exactly what the destination looks like, right? 

“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” – Wayne Dyer

So, what’s your first step? Chunk it down as far as is meaningful to you and get going.  If you are struggling for ideas, tip 9 is a good first step!   

A quick recap

What we have done in these first three tips is cover the left side of the change formula. 

For change to occur, the product of; dissatisfaction x vision for the future + the first step must be greater than our resistance (handcuffs) to the change. So far we have covered the left hand side of this equation so let’s move to the other side.   

4. Ask yourself better questions

“What if?” A seemingly innocent and very useful question and it could be if we asked questions such as; “what if this becomes a resounding success?”  But we usually ask “what if it doesn’t work?” 

“It’s called the language of the poor; ‘what if this happens…? And on top of that, what if this was to happen? Look what a fix I’d be in. I’d better not try’” –  Jim Rohn

We can so easily fall into catastrophic thinking where even success is something to fear.  Yes, we often fear failure but we can just as easily fear success.  I worked with people who are paralysed by both a fear of failure which for them is embarrassment or financial ruin and a fear of success which comes in the form of overwhelm and disappointed customers. 

Fear of failure can come from a fixed mindset where we have grown up being valued for our grades and promotions and not for effort, for having a go and learning.  Perhaps like me you were brought up in a home where getting 90% in an exam wasn’t celebrated but led to the question “what happened to the other 10%? In any event, I have since learned that in business, being academic and a book learner counts for little.  It is all about experiential learning and experimenting.  That’s a blog in itself so I will leave you with the suggestion that you ask more helpful questions such as:

  • How can we make this work?
  • Why not us? 

Also, please ask yourself what would count as “failure”.  You are doing something new.  How can you ever know until you try how long it should take to get results and what those results should be? The important thing is to learn from the results and be willing to tweak, hone, refine, try again, start afresh.  At the very least, what sort of “failure” do you want to be?  The failure who was too scared to do everything possible to make their initiative a success, or the one who tried everything to make it work?  

“I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO

Fear of success can come from the belief that we don’t deserve it or from having experienced severe overwhelm in the past and we really don’t want to there again.  But we can challenge those beliefs.  We know what we could do differently to manage success better if we could dare to revisit these experiences and learn from them.  See Tip 7.

“People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.” – Peter Drucker

5: Start from where you are with what you have

It is so easy to focus on what we don’t have; money, time, knowledge, skills and experience but constraints and ignorance can be assets.  If you don’t know the “right” way to do something or if it’s even a “thing”, you have no evidence that it won’t work.  Plus, there’s a ton of research out there that says we work better when we are forced to operate within constraints; on tight budgets, in garages (which seems to be the best incubator for a world beating business!). 

But hang on a minute! Shift your perspective to one of abundance.  Look for what you do have.  You know people who know people. These might be people with the expertise, technology or cash that you need.  You have information at your finger tips. More importantly, As Dr Seuss would say, you also have “brains in your head and feet in your shoes”.  So what’s stopping you?  

“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

6: Identify your resilience factors

Resilience:

  1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
  2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

I am a realist.  I do know that things may go wrong and there will be hiccups along the way.  It’s a good idea to consider ahead of time how you will deal with any obstacles that arise along the way. What are your resilience factors?  Recall the tough times you have been through, the challenges you signed up for.  How did you keep yourself going?  Was it:  

  • Purpose – a sense of purpose and ability to hold onto the vision and keep it in the forefront of your mind
  • Self belief – faith in your ability to recover from setbacks, ability to learn
  • Asking for help – being willing to share your frustrations and being honest when people ask you how things are going
  • Flexible thinking – adaptable, thinking around the problem, comfortable with ambiguity and complexity
  • Problem solving – analytical, good in a crisis, determined
  • Emotional control – a great sense of humour, recover well from set backs, keep perspective

If you are part of the team then as a group, you may have all of these covered.  If you work by yourself then your network, trusted advisors or a coach can help.  Honing in on your resilience factors will help you put strategies in place which you might never need but can de-risk a change and give you confidence.

7: Take the emotion out of change 

We can get hung up on the discomfort associated with doing something new or different.  We refer to previous experiences which didn’t go so well but not with the aim of learning from them but to remind ourselves how badly we felt and hence we shouldn’t do anything different again. This is loss aversion – losing hurts more than winning feels good. 

Thing is, when we contemplating making a change, it is rarely all about us.  Usually someone else benefits too; our family, our customers, the planet.  The benefits might not be obvious but back to my weight loss.  Losing weight seems to be only about me but I realised that feeling uncomfortable or self-conscious distracts me and prevents me from bringing my best self to my work.

We ask “what happens to me if it goes wrong?” A more helpful question is “what happens for others if goes right?”

Take a lesson from nature.  Tests on the maternal instincts in rats show that if you make a rat pass through an electric current to get to food, drink, a partner, they will tolerate a certain amount of discomfort and then give up.  However, if you replace the food etc. with baby rats they will endure much higher levels of pain and make repeated attempts to get to the babies.  Even if the babies are kittens, rabbits, the instinct to protect the young is overwhelming.  This is what Robert Dilts would describe as the difference between ambition (you) and soul (the greater good).  You need a combination of both. So what happens to your motivation if you make it more about other people and less about yourself?

By the way, we also tend to discount what’s worked in the past and won’t allow for our successes to be repeatable.  Have you ever done that?  Something goes badly and it’s your fault.  Something works well, too well, and you put it down to luck, someone else’s contribution, the alignment of the starts and a full moon etc., anything but you. Worse, you do something really well and get great feedback, but as you felt really nervous and uncomfortable doing it, you decide it was disaster.  That’s our negativity bias!  It has a nasty habit of overwhelming memories of all the good stuff we do to put the negative experiences front of mind.  It is a safety mechanism which helped to keep our ancestors safe but hold us back from making important progress in our personal and professional lives. 

8: Put your change in a new context

How significant is what you’re thinking of doing compared to:

  • Your life and business experiences
  • Your future success and the rewards change could bring
  • Your customers’ experiences

How big a deal will this appear when you are on the other side of it? What do your experiences teach you about how well you cope with change?  There is a good chance you have dealt with more challenging circumstances than you are contemplating now and you came out of them just fine.   

  • What will you do differently this time?
  • What strengths do you have?
  • How you make a success of things?

Find that fresh perspective, and unless you are on a ladder, stand back and take a look at the bigger picture!

9: Give your ideas a voice

We think good ideas to death, when we should be acting them to life – Brian G. Jett

Talking to people about your plans makes them real.  We can kill a good idea by overthinking but if we don’t share it, how do we know how good it really is and how important it is to us?  It is only when you hear yourself say them to another human being, that the gaps in your thinking become apparent, you get to gauge your commitment to it and you start filling in the details. 

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t” – Bill Nye

This isn’t about collecting pats on the back and validation, you must be prepared for challenge and difficult questions.  You should also be ready for people to remember what you told them to follow up the next time they see you. Bingo! Now you have accountability! Better still, remember how in tip 3 you only needed the first step?  Well, in sharing your idea you maybe given contacts to follow up with and discover where you need to do more research.  Suddenly, you have some more steps outlined for you or the means to get started.  

10: Anchor it!

If you are looking to introduce a new habit into your routine then anchoring it to something you do already will maximise your chances of remembering to do it.  If I intend going for a run then I put on my running gear first thing in the morning even if I’m not going out for hours.  It’s a constant reminder that a run is on the day’s agenda and I feel very silly if I don’t go out – compression socks and a sports bra are overkill for the home office!

Change is successful when it becomes the way you do things, second nature, something you don’t need to think about.  Reward your good behaviours and/or those of your customer.  If you are looking to migrate customers onto a new system then incentivise them to make the change as it pushes you down that route too.  

Consider your physical environment.  What do you need to clear away to make room for change? Where do you need to be?  If you are thinking of committing to a regular newsletter or blog, and the home office is too close to family life and the chores, then find a co-working space where others’ creativity can wash off on you.  Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals with a common purpose is powerful and motivating. Hire a coach who will help you track your progress, work through ideas and set backs, and remind you of the wins along the way (see tip 7, you’ll forget all about these). 

Wrap up

So there you have it.  Ten tips that will help you overcome your inertia and get you moving.  We have worked through all the elements of the change formula.  Have you located the source of your inertia? 

  • Dissatisfaction not great enough?
  • Vision not sufficiently compelling?
  • Not sure of the first step?
  • Resisting, wrapped up in previous failures, thinking it is all down to you and holding back until you have it all worked out?

I hope these have helped you. Do get in touch to let me know or to share how you have overcome your own resistance to change. 

As The Change Agent, I provide 121 coaching packages and workshops that give you a fresh perspective on your work and life so you can more out of both.  Call me to book a free chemistry call and find out how I can help you make important changes to your working life.