You’ve decided that it’s time for a change.
But in the past, you’ve struggled to get past the goal setting stage and into action.
You know that if you keep doing things in the same way, you’ll keep getting the same results. If you keep undercharging your clients, you’ll keep struggling to make enough money. If you continually struggle to organise your day, you’ll never become more productive. If you always turn to jelly at the thought of speaking at an event, you’ll never pluck up the courage to put yourself forwards.
So it’s time to take deliberate action; action to change what you do AND the way you think about it.
Why change is hard
Our brains don’t like to use more energy than necessary.
It’s hard-wired with ways to do things with minimal effort.
That means when we fail to organise our day, it’s often because it takes less mental work to simply launch into something.
When we persist with doing jobs we’re bad at, rather than outsourcing them, our brain is telling us that it’s easier to continue with something we’re used to doing rather than face the risk of the unknown.
When we avoid situations or handle them in a way where we don’t get the result we want, we’re often taking what our brain sees as an easy way out.
It realises that something will be uncomfortable, so it prompts us to make the ‘easy’ decision to avoid discomfort.
That might mean we give a client a discount, because we’re afraid of being seen as too ‘greedy’, or continually put off the analysis of our website, because we fear it’s going to be too much effort for our skills and energy, and might give us difficult results to deal with.
The good news about change
To break that habit, we need to change our mental patterns. The difficult thing is overriding the part of our brain that continually wants to take the familiar option, no matter how unhelpful it is.
However, once you’ve truly changed the way you think about something or the way you do it, it becomes a part of you. The change becomes permanent, and doing it no longer feels challenging in the same way.
Think of someone who’s given up smoking, and talks to anyone who’ll listen about how wonderful life is without it, or someone who conquered their fear to build a thriving business.
Why getting help to make a change makes all the difference
When the chips are down when you’re tired, or over-stretched, or under pressure, your existing hard-wiring is almost certain to kick in.
You find yourself responding in the same way to a demanding client, or backing off from a challenging situation. It’s easy to quickly become demoralised, lose confidence, and before you know it, you’re back in your old ways.
However, if you’ve got help at hand, your brain doesn’t have to fight itself all the time.
If you’ve got someone else to support you, to motivate you, to hold you accountable and help you deal with difficult situations, it can make all the difference between giving up and sticking with a change for long enough for it to become a habit.
Your support team can be anything that helps you make and stick to the changes you need.
Having your own mentor or coach is very powerful, or you might go for a mentor, a mastermind or accountability group.
You might find getting help with a specific skill useful: enrolling on a blogging course, working with a marketing expert, or taking on a fitness coach, for instance.
Making a commitment to another person can be another powerful way of making change stick: if managing overload is your challenge, consider taking on a regular freelancer and agreeing on a certain number of hours of work each week.
You don’t even need to pay someone: you could agree with a friend or another business owner that you’ll talk regularly to keep each other accountable.
Five steps to achieving your goals
If you’re determined to take action and make this your best year yet, grab some paper and a pen, and answer these questions.
- What do I want to achieve this year? Write it down as clearly as you can, and add how you’ll know when you’ve achieved it.
- Consider what progress you made in this area in 2013. What were the successful things you did?
- What you need to do differently this year. What changes do you want to make so that you approach your goal in a new way? Imagine yourself at the end of a successful year, and ask yourself what you’ve changed to make it happen. Write down at least three things to do or think differently.
- Write down what help you need to make those changes. Is it practical, educational, physical, emotional or mental? What do you need to help you either get over your current barriers or provide you with support when you’re having a bad day? Think big! What support would you put in place if money was no object?
- Where can I find the right help, information or support? Your professional network, Google, local business groups, friends or family, social networks? If you don’t know, start asking around. Once you have an idea what you need, it’s much easier to find the right person, information or help. If you can’t afford exactly what you want, work out the core of what it is you need, and go for that instead.
Then go for it! The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll find you’ve made real changes in your life and work. And that means that this will be the year that’s truly extraordinary for you.