Making Mid-Year Changes That Lead to Success

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Change is such a scary proposition for many of us that we avoid it at any cost—even when its result can be overwhelmingly positive. The one time of year when change seems to be more palatable is around the beginning of a new year, when “fresh starts” are often sought, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be thinking about change all the time, especially as we pass the midpoint of the year.

Getting started is the hardest thing about change. We enjoy operating within our comfort zones, and we typically aren’t going to even consider making changes unless we’re uncomfortable or miserable enough with the status quo. I find there are three main reasons people are resistant to change, the “three Ds”:

  • Lack of desire. You don’t see the need for it. You have to really care about the outcome; it has to be worth it for you.
  • Lack of determination. You don’t believe you can make the necessary changes; it’s just too hard.
  • Lack of dedication. You aren’t committed to making consistent changes that will stick long term.

Ideally, all three of those “Ds” are present when you buy into change, but what’s often overlooked is that even small changes are better than none at all. Change isn’t an “all or nothing” proposition, so it’s perfectly appropriate—and maybe even preferable—to start slowly and focus on the process rather than the outcome. When you concentrate on the steps and activities that go into achieving a goal such as changing a behavior, you can celebrate incremental victories to reward yourself and keep things moving forward.

It’s very important to realize that it’s not necessary to be perfect, and if you slip along the way, there’s no reason to beat yourself up over it. It’s also critical to compare “you to you” rather than assessing your behavior versus someone else’s. For instance, if you decide to start an exercise program, and go from doing nothing to walking 30 minutes three times a week, that should be considered a “win”; it’s irrelevant if others are working out more frequently than that.

In addition to pain tolerance, there are three other critical obstacles that may interfere with the process of change:

  • Inertia. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” You’ve heard that before. However, even successful people eventually plateau, and the common response to that is to work harder or faster doing things the same way—which rarely achieves the desired breakthrough.
  • Lifecycle stage. Where you are in your professional or personal life will have a significant effect on how stuck or inspired you are to leave your comfort zone and make changes.
  • Emotions. It’s well documented that negative thinking can powerfully affect the way you feel and behave. The good news is that behavior is easier to change than feelings—and there are ways to combat negative thinking.

We can all learn from the experiences of elite athletes, who understand that to be at the top of their game, they need to create challenges for themselves and move beyond their comfort zones to achieve the next level of success. They also realize that change is measured by frequency, intensity and duration, with the latter being the key.

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