We’ve been helping people get unstuck for almost five years now. (Actually, make that 22 years, which is how long our parent company, SYPartners, has been helping business leaders get unstuck.) Along the way, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to move someone from thinking about change to making one.
Later this summer, we’re debuting an online course designed to arm you with a personalized blueprint for change. For now, we have five pieces of core advice that can help you find the courage, motivation, momentum, support, and perspective to leap into the unknown.
- Practice getting outside your comfort zone.
Truth: One of the reasons we avoid change is the ambiguity that comes with it. We don’t know exactly what will happen. If we let this fear stop us, we may never open ourselves up to some of life’s most fulfilling experiences. One way to fight the fear is to practice doing more things that scare us. Think of it like lifting weights: We’re strengthening emotional muscles.
Try this: Write down one thing you can do in the next month that scares you, whether it’s rock-climbing, saying “no” to someone, or going out to dinner alone. Afterward, write down how taking this leap made you feel.
Bonus points: Do it again next month, and the month after that.
- Imagine what things will look like after the change.
Truth: For many of us, the idea of making a change brings up feelings of fear and discomfort. It takes motivation to push past those emotional obstacles to keep going. In these moments, nothing spurs us on more than having a clear picture of how much better things will be on the other side.
Try this: Imagine a day in your life after you reach your goal. Write down three ways that day will be awesome. If you’re more visually inclined, you might want to find images that represent how great things will be.
- Take one small step, then another.
Truth: As the saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Contemplating the enormity of all that’s before you isn’t going to propel you forward. Taking tiny action will boost your energy and optimism.
Try this: Identify one small, manageable thing you can do this week to move toward your goal, then do it. Notice the positive feelings you experience when you take action on your own behalf. Now take another small step forward. Before you know it, change will be underway.
- Choose the right support network.
Truth: Change can be lonely when you try to handle it all by yourself. It helps to recruit people who can act as sounding boards and help you stay motivated. There are no brownie points for going it alone.
Try this: Write down the names of two people who can give you a pep talk when you need it. Now write down two other people who would be great at helping you talk things through when you’re suffering a crisis of confidence or hit a roadblock.
Bonus points: Call, text or email one of them right now to ask for help. (Need help asking for help? We’ve got you covered.)
- Expect failure — and don’t let it stop you.
Truth: When we find the courage to try something new and it doesn’t work out, it can knock the wind out of our sails. We may question whether the change is worth it, or even possible. But what if failure weren’t such a shock to our system? What if we expected to fail, sometimes spectacularly, on the path to achieving our goals? What if we focused on how to respond to failure rather than how to avoid it?
Try this: Think of a recent mistake and examine it for what you’ve learned. Then try again, using that experience. If you need help picking yourself back up, call on your support network to buoy you (see No. 4 above). Spark your motivation by refocusing on the vision you created for your future (see No. 2). Renew energy and optimism by identifying one small step you can take to move forward (No. 3). And keep finding opportunities to get more comfortable with discomfort (No. 1).
Good luck. We’d love to hear from you: What changes are you contemplating? Did you find these strategies helpful? What other approaches have you found useful?
If you’d like more personalized support to make a change in your life, check out our online Life Course on making a change.