SALT LAKE CITY — This time of year we are all motivated to set goals and strive for meaningful change in our lives, but it's not always easy to stick with our New Year's resolutions.
As a master life coach for the last 20 years, I have discovered some tricks to helping people make meaningful changes that last. Here are some things to keep in mind this month as you think about making changes in 2021.
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1. Be honest and open to feedback
Be honest with yourself about what needs to change and be open to objective feedback from others. Sometimes the things you most need to change are the things you can't clearly see in yourself. Asking people who know you well to share what behaviors they see in you that are holding you back, or causing problems, might yield valuable information.
As a coach, I often ask clients if they would be open to an observation about the way they showed up in a situation, or to look at their behavior from a different perspective. Having a caring coach or friend who will be honest about where you are can be a huge help.
It's a powerful practice to ask the people close to you for some feedback on how you can improve or show up for them better. Plan to do this on a regular basis, maybe even weekly.
2. Figure out who you want to be
Figure out who you want to be over what you want to accomplish. The "be" is much more important than the "do."
Think about the different roles you play in your life. What kind of parent, spouse, sibling, aunt or uncle, worker or boss do you want to be? What would it look like to be that kind of person? What would it feel like to be that kind of person? Write your answers to these questions down in detail so you know exactly who you want to be.
The truth is, you cannot do better until you become better. When you focus on who you want to be first, you raise the bar on your behavior and accomplishments get easier.
3. Focus on behaviors and habits that will require change
After you identify who you want to be, focus on the behavior and habits that will need to change. What do you do now that makes you who you are now? What habits would you need to change, or what do you need to start doing or stop doing to become the person you want to be?
Get crystal clear on what these behavior changes are. You may have very ingrained habits that need to change. This process will take time and support, but you can do it.
4. Learn new skills or gain needed tools
Sometimes you cannot change the behavior or habit without first learning some new ways of showing up. You may not be able to change a habit until you learn a new procedure for handling these situations. You might need to learn how to cook healthier meals. You may need new communication skills, a new system for processing emotions in a healthy way, or a new procedure for handling offenses.
This is where some professional help can make a huge difference and help you make changes much faster. When you know better, you can do better.
5. Commit to change
Commit to changing and find a love-motivated reason to keep you committed. Don't change for a fear-motivated reason. Don't lose weight to stop feeling less valuable than other people; lose weight because you love yourself and want to be healthy and strong.
Find a strong love-motivated reason to stay driven toward the goal. Do it for your children so they will have a healthy parent who is active and strong. This will help you stay on task when things get hard or frustrating.
6. Identify goals but focus on now
Clearly identify your long-term goals, but focus on the first step now. What's the next step you need to take toward the long-term goal? What would it look like to make just a 5% improvement this week? A small-step goal means you aren't trying to be perfect now.
If you are going for perfect, you are setting yourself up to fail. Instead, just make a small, realistic change this week. This allows you to experience some success and feel proud of yourself. Set yourself up for a win every week with a realistic next-step goal.
7. Identify the practice that will create the new way of being
The secret to making changes lies in three R's: repetition, reinforcement and reminders. The hardest part of changing is remembering to choose the new behavior instead of letting your old subconscious programming (your autopilot) run. You are programmed to behave the old way, and this behavior will continue until you can interrupt it and choose differently over and over again.
What practice can you repeat daily? What reminders or reinforcement do you need to keep it in the forefront of your mind to choose differently? Many of my clients use reminders on their phone, or they change their wallpaper to something that reminds them to practice the new behavior. This works because they look at their phone so many times a day.
8. Have some accountability
Find a coach, friend or partner who knows what your goal is each week and will supportively hold you to it. The reason coaching is the most effective way to change is because you get to work on small goals with new skills and tools, and you have weekly accountability and support. I have spent 20 years in the personal development field and I haven't found anything that works better than working with a coach.
9. Interact with those you want to emulate
Interact with people who are the kind of people you want to become. Avoid time with people who support your old behavior. They often don't want you to change because they are comfortable with you as you are. Find a crew of people who inspire and lift you to grow and be your best.
It's been said you become the five people you hang out with most. Do you need to find some people who will raise your game?
10. Don't get discouraged if change is slow
Changing behavior is hard, especially when it's driven by subconscious programming you've had since childhood. It's a process and it takes time. This is why I recommend working with a coach or counselor for three to six months, at least.
Lasting change doesn't happen overnight or from reading one book or attending one seminar. Lasting change can only happen when you learn something new and then practice it with consistent, committed effort while consciously choosing a different way of being again and again.
I have seen many people completely change the way they behave, the way they feel about their lives, and the way they show up in relationships — and faster than you'd think possible. In six months' time, your life could look and feel entirely different from how it does today.
Bonus: Get professional help
To make this happen, though, I highly recommend finding a professional of some kind who can help you recognize what you need to change, give you new tools and skills, and support you through the time it takes to practice and work, one small step at a time. There are resources out there no matter your budget. If you need support don't stop looking for resources until you find them.
You can do this.
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