Change is a funny thing.
Some people want it, crave it even and yet others fear it, doing what they can to avoid it. There can be many reasons behind each of these perspectives and yet even for those who believe they really want to make changes in their lives, there is a vast difference between being ready for change and being WILLING to change.
Change comes in many different guises; it could be as big and bold as moving house or making the leap from employment to set up your own business, to starting a new exercise regime or eating a healthier diet.
During my employed career, I worked in Change Management for nearly 2 decades, helping companies to implement new systems and procedures to improve their performance, whilst engaging, coaching and training their staff through the transitions.
Empowering people through change
Then 11 years ago, I set up my own business, as a CBT-Hypnotherapist and Coach, empowering people through the changes they wanted to incorporate into their personal and professional lives, from overcoming fears and increasing confidence, to changing jobs and up-levelling their businesses.
Throughout this time, I’ve witnessed the entire spectrum of the ways that people react to change, from complete resistance and denial to fully embracing it and loving the ride! And yet this reaction doesn’t necessarily correlate with the eventual success of the project in hand.
However, the one thing that is common throughout all change, regardless of the desired or eventual outcome, is the process we need to go through to ensure that the change not only takes place, but lasts and is embedded successfully.
Our brains are extremely powerful
As humans, our brains are extremely powerful organs and one of the most impressive designs is the way the conscious and sub-conscious minds work together: the conscious mind – taking in new information and being alert to potential risks to our safety (it’s largely what has enabled us to survive and evolve as human beings); and the subconscious mind – storing information that we’ve learned and deemed useful to retain. It’s this latter part that enables us to form habits of thoughts and behaviours and act on ‘auto-pilot’, freeing up the conscious mind to stay alert to new information coming to us through our senses. If you want to read more about this process, click here.
However, as useful as this storage capacity of our subconscious mind is, it can also pose a huge challenge when we’re trying to change things, or create new patterns of thinking and behaving. Depending on how embedded an existing pattern of behaviour is, it can take more work than is usually anticipated to make changes to that pattern in order that a new routine can be established.
Let’s take an example of eating dessert after dinner:
- You’ve decided that whilst you enjoy tucking into a selection of sweet things in the evening, you realise that you’ve put on weight and are feeling less healthy and more sluggish day to day.
- So, you decide to not have the dessert. However, it’s become such an ingrained pattern of behaviour (as you’ve been partaking every evening since lockdown started, as a way of ‘cheering yourself up’ at the end of the day) that your mind and body are expecting to still receive this treat when you put down your cutlery after dinner each evening.
- When dessert doesn’t appear, your mind recognises it as a change in pattern – and so starts to worry that your life could therefore be in danger. Your body also starts to miss the increase in feel-good endorphins it received from indulging in the dessert. And so your mind and body join forces to look for ways to find that familiar dish and/or other places it associates with those good feelings – such as the biscuit barrel or your children’s stash of sweets. And boy do they make a strong team!
- Now you’ve got a real fight on your hands to defeat your brain and body working together to ensure they can maintain the status quo, because that is:
- Easy – the patterns of thoughts and behaviours are already laid down and well-practised so no extra effort for the minds!
- Safe – you’ve not died yet, or even had a scared reaction to a chocolate brownie! Why would it want to change that pattern?!
- AND feels good! Wow, your eyes light up, a big smile is plastered across your face and you get a warm glow inside! And that’s just from looking at that bowl, let alone when you start tucking in! What’s not to love?!
So, just in this seemingly small example here, you can see how it takes more than a simple decision, or purely willpower, to make changes in your life/business/health & fitness regimes.
You might feel ready to make changes, but are you sure you’re willing to put in the work to make the change happen and last the course?
Change is one of the inevitable things we’ll go through in life.
But don’t despair; making change isn’t impossible!
Many people embrace bringing in the new and do so successfully, so how can we learn to do the same, as easily as possible?
Here’s my guide to the steps you can take to ensure you’re not just ready for change, but willing to put in the required work too!
1. Why is change necessary?
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen is making change for change’s sake! As the old adage goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”. So, before embarking upon new routines, understand WHY you want to make changes. This step alone can save so much time, effort and money when done right.
2. What are the benefits, and potential disadvantages, of making this change?
Being fore-warned is being fore-armed, or better prepared so take time up front to fully understand the impact that making a particular change could have.
3. How will you accommodate the change into your existing routine/life/business?
Imaging you were about to welcome a new baby or puppy into your home. I bet you’d spend time considering whether it was a safe environment for them, who would be taking on which responsibilities, ensuring their needs for food, drink, sleep and activity were met. Treat any change with the same respect and due consideration to ensure you know what’s needed from you to make it work.
4. What, or who, is needed to make this a success?
A big mistake many people make when embarking on something new is not asking for help from others. Humans are social beings, not solitary islands, and so enlisting the support of others can be crucial in helping us through the tougher challenges. Even if it’s just for some accountability to ensure you do what you’ve said you’ll do. Think about who you trust and can confide in, someone who’ll be honest with you and give you a gentle but firm kick up the backside if and when you need it to stay on track!
5. Are you ready and willing to change?
And last but not least, having gone through the previous questions, are you willing to put in the work to make the change happen and last?
If your answer is No, don’t worry! That’s as good as getting a Yes as it means you won’t waste your time/energy/money on going after something that you probably don’t really want as much as you first thought.
If your answer is Yes, however, you can pass Go and collect £200 for your preparation efforts! You’re all set to make your change, so enjoy the ride!
I’d love to hear what change you’re embarking on – pop it in the comments below and let us know how you get on, too!