Managing Change

Change takes longer than we think and the process is difficult.

Acknowledging this can make your attempts more successful. But why do people give up on their goals?

There are five common reasons. Understanding these reasons will help increase the odds you won't fall into the same old traps.

1 - Ownership: I wasn't sure this would work in the first place. I tried it - it didn't do that much good. As I guessed, this was kind of a waste of time.

The classic mistake made in leadership development and self-help books is the promise this will make you better! What is not emphasized is - only you will make you better. To have a real chance of success, you must take personal ownership and have the internal belief: "This will work if, and only if, I make it work, and I am going to make this work”.

2 -Time: I had no idea this process would take so long. I'm not sure it's worth it.

Goal setters have a chronic tendency to underestimate the time required to reach targets. In setting goals for behavioral change, it's important to be realistic about the time needed to produce positive, lasting results. Habits which have taken years to develop don't go away in a week. Set time expectations which are 50% to 100% longer than you think you’ll need to see results - then add a little more.

3 - Difficulty: This is a lot harder than I thought it would be. It sounded so simple when we were starting out.

The optimism bias of goal setters applies to difficulty, as well as time. Not only does everything take longer than we think will, it also requires more hard work than we anticipated. In setting goals, it's important to accept real change requires real work. Acknowledging the price of success at the beginning of the change process will help prevent disappointment that can occur when challenges arise later.

4 - Distractions: I would really like to work toward my goal, but I'm facing some unique challenges right now. It might be better if I just stopped and did this at a time when things weren't so crazy. Goal setters have a tendency to underestimate the distractions and competing goals which will invariably appear throughout the process. A piece of advice: a crisis will appear.

Plan for distractions in advance; assume crazy is the new normal.

5 - Maintenance: I think I actually did try to change and get better, but I have let it slide since then. What am I supposed to do - work on this stuff the rest of my life? Once a goal setter has put in all the effort needed to achieve a goal, it can be tough to face the reality of what's needed to maintain the new status quo.

Real change requires real effort. The quick fix is seldom a meaningful one. Distractions and things which compete for your attention are going to come up - frequently. Changing any one type of behavior won't solve all life's problems.

Any meaningful change will probably require a lifetime of effort.