All Change for Autumn

Post date: 10-Sep-2010 19:19:10

Now that September is settling in, that familiar Autumnal feel is in the air. School children are getting back into their routines – as are all attached to academia at any level – after their extended Summer break. As the weather changes and nature shifts into gear for the new season, it feels like a harmonious time to think about change in our own lives.

Despite the multitude written and believed about how difficult change is, and the entire “change management” industry that has grown up around this belief to help us effect change, there are some simple truths about how to change effectively that are worth sharing. In fact, these truths have been known to humanity for millennia and were first written down in Sanskrit over 2,000 years ago. These same truths have been verified by leading edge neuroscience and neuropsychology over the last couple of decades using amazing advances in technology including the fMRI. But the best part is that you don’t need to know the Sanskrit or the Neuroscience to understand and apply the truths (although personally I find both fascinating and have a long list of recommended reading on the topic – but that’s for another blog J).

1. Decide what you want

Surprising as it may seem, the most challenging part of making a change is very often deciding exactly what the desired change is, that is how you would like things to be. We’re usually good at knowing what we don’t want (I don’t want to be so broke, so unhappy, so tired, so stressed…etc) but often less good at knowing what we do want. A good way to get past this initial barrier is to ask yourself the question; “if I didn’t have this problem, what would it look like?” or thinking another way “if I had a magic pill that would fix it, how would it be?”

2. See the picture

Once we’re clear on where we want to go, or what change we want to achieve in our lives, our speed in achieving it has a lot to do with how well we master our own thinking. Humans are wired to think in pictures (even, as neuroscientists are discovering, if you’re born without sight!) and we are drawn towards the pictures we habitually hold in our minds. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once put it “A man is what he thinks about all day long.” Therefore if we are focussed on our problems and what’s wrong in our lives, we perpetuate those very situations and circumstances around us. If, however, we become focussed on a clear picture of our goal then we will be inexorably drawn towards it, releasing all of our subconscious creativity to find or create the solution for getting there.

3. Stop talking about how it used to be

Of course, staying focussed on the goal is really only half of the story. In order to create a new, compelling picture of reality, it is not sufficient simply to picture the goal clearly as if it has been achieved if we are, at the same time, constantly telling ourselves all the reasons why it will never happen. Once we’ve established the goal, we need to cut off the monologue in our heads that reiterates everything that is wrong and therefore reinforces the current picture of the unsatisfactory status quo.

4. Start talking about the new reality as if it already is

Since nature abhors a vacuum, the most sure-fire way to stop talking negatively to ourselves is to deliberately replace our internal monologue with one that is positive. In this case, by negative I mean talking about what we don’t want while by positive I mean talking about our goal. Put more simply, we stop talking about our current failings and starting talking about our newfound success (even before it is evident in our circumstances).

While I’ve liberally used the word “talking” in the above description, it might be more accurate to say “thinking to ourselves” since I’m not proposing we go out and start telling everyone else our goals for change but I am urging that we take control of how we think to ourselves. Since we are indeed what we think about all day long, successful change depends on us taking conscious control of what we’re thinking about.

In essence, this is fantastic news for those of us facing into a season of change. If what I think about determines my success and only I can control what I think about, then it follows that I am in control of my success! Bad news for the change management industry, if we all adopt the d.i.y. approach thus making them redundant. But great news for anyone motivated to improve their life, starting now!