- You Need to Make Changes- But Where Do You Begin?
- How to Implement Changes So That They Don’t Ruin Everything
- So You’ve Made Some Changes to Your Life- Now What?
Once you’ve examined this new idea from every angle and decided it’s for you, you need to flesh it in and figure out exactly how it will need to fit into your life. Don’t worry about getting it perfect; this is something you’re going to have to tweak at least several times.
There’s no point in using up your political capital by announcing to all and sundry that you’re going to make this sweeping change. Think of it as a test phase. If you like, you can even give it a time limit. Don’t bother telling anyone. Just do it.
I know this goes against a lot of people’s advice. Their argument is that it creates accountability. Mine is that it makes you defensive and you’re less likely to acknowledge that something isn’t working. Furthermore, you don’t expend any energy managing other people’s reactions or expectations.
How Best to Implement Change
For me, this is a largely intuitive process. I think this is true for most people, but you wouldn’t know it, looking at most people’s advice on the topic. The standard advice seems to be: Decide the results you want. Make the change you need to to achieve those results. That’s it! No details, no commentary on how to come to these decisions; just get out there and do it, ya slacker!
How it works for me is I decide I want to change something. Late this fall I decide I wanted to get fitter. But I hate sports, and I hate sweating for no reason. Hence, most forms of exercise piss me off. So, for lack of any better ideas, I tossed “Walk more” on my projects list. This is how most changes start out.
Now, that’s a pretty shitty goal. It’s not measureable, and there’s no way to really say whether I accomplished “more” or not. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to get it on the list where I would look at it regularly.
I’ve been through several rounds of abortive attempts to “walk more,” but now I’ve tweaked it to the point where I’m walking pretty much every other day, and it fits into my lifestyle not too badly. It’s still something I’m working on, but at least I’m enjoying it now. But first I had to try walking on the treadmill. Then I tried while watching tv. Then I tried jogging. I tried walking outside. I tried walking dogs. I tried getting others to join me. I tried everything but audio books, and that’s only because I don’t have an ipod. (Figured out a way around that, though. I’ll try it out this week.) This is not me “failing” at a goal. This is me finding dozens of ways that don’t work.
The point is, YOU did not fail if the first goal you tried didn’t work. You simply found a way that didn’t work. Make a note of it and try something else.
Working Out The Kinks
When you’re deciding to make a change, don’t turn things upside down and change everything. This is the main benefit of writing out your new idea. You’ve ironed out what the really crucial aspects of this new idea are for you. And then you can brainstorm a list to figure out what might fulfill that goal for you.
For instance, a few weeks ago, I suddenly realized I did not have enough fun in my life. I was getting decidedly one-dimensional. So I jotted down what “fun” really meant to me, how “fun” showed up when it wasn’t attached to work, and what I would do to find “fun” if I were alone and knew no-one. In one afternoon, I looked up the local community calendars and the parks and recreation website and scheduled events for five different community organizations. That works out to at least 8 different events a month to go to, plus daily occurrences like museums, art galleries and exploring historic sites. Now I can pick and choose what I do; I don’t just fall into the same activities and events out of habit.
I’m still working on the system to make sure those “fun” events make it into my calendar on a regular basis, but that’s the point of a goal. It’s a work in progress, not a destination.
Picking Your Battles
In your quest to make changes, you might have to make certain concessions. If, for instance, you want to work on a side project during evenings, you might need to clear it with the spouse to take care of bath time. Standard negotiation tactics apply — — find a way to make it a sensible decision for them, and failing that, at least not an irreversible one.
If that means making compromises, or setting a strict time limit, do so. You don’t have to campaign for sweeping changes. Sweeping changes probably won’t work for you, either, and they are never embraced by someone who likes the status quo just fine. That means that if you need this person’s cooperation, choose wisely; make a meaningful (to you) change as non-threatening (to them) as possible. Don’t expect them to like it. You only want provisional cooperation. Anything else is icing.
Free Trial Period!
I recommend about three weeks as a good trial period. It’s long enough to get you out of the novelty phase, long enough that you could conceivable form a habit, and short enough that you can make a judicious decision about whether the change is just ‘hard’ (ie, resistance) or if it’s legitimately not working for you. It also seems reasonable to others; even someone who firmly resists change will likely accede to this ‘trial period’ on the assumption that you’ll drop it on your own account soon enough.