Some people seem able to make positive changes in their life, and some clients stay stuck in the same old doldrums for years. What’s the difference between the two? Well, there can be a large number of factors, but I want to focus on one: your ability to manage change in your life.
Positive change is any movement from an undesired old state, to a desired new state. An addict may wish to lose a habit, and live without a particular form of chemical assistance. A person whose weight is above an optimal weight may wish to become lighter. An individual prone to anxiety and procrastination may wish to become peaceful and effective.
In each case of desired positive change, three things can be worked out:
- The current state can be defined.
- The desired state can be defined.
- The improvement can be defined.
THE PURPOSE OF DEFINITION
The purpose of defining each of the three above things, is to give your mind clarity. We have wayward minds, which prefer fudginess to clarity. Few people want to see their own hypocrisy clearly. But by defining your change pattern clearly, you can give yourself better control.
DEFINING YOUR CURRENT STATE
Try to find a way of setting down, in words or numbers, what your current ‘undesired state’ looks like. If you have a bad chemical habit, define how often, and what amount. If you feel heavy, measure your weight and record it. If you are anxious, try to measure that anxiety on a scale. (see, for instance, https://patient.info/doctor/generalised-anxiety-disorder-assessment-gad-7).
- What many people do wrong: they avoid defining their current state, preferring to leave it all ‘fudgy’ and unrecorded. They talk incessantly about their bad situation, but fail to take accountability by measuring their own part in it.
- What you can do right: you can record, clearly, what your life is like now, using a replicable method.
DEFINING YOUR DESIRED STATE
Now try to find a way of setting down, in words or numbers, what your ‘desired state’ looks like. What is the new frequency and amount for your chemical habit? what is your desired weight? What is your desired anxiety level? Try to define the desired state on the same scale as you defined your current state. This makes it easier to map your progress.
- What many people do wrong: they avoid defining their desired state, preferring to leave it all dreamy and vague. They get distracted into general talk about how other people are to blame for their situation, and fail to take responsibility for their future state.
- What you can do right: you can set down, clearly, how you will know when you have reached your desired state, using the same system of definition as for your current state.
DEFINING YOUR NEXT IMPROVEMENT
Finally, try to find a way of setting down, in words or numbers, what your next short-term step looks like. What is this week’s desired change in your habit/weight/anxiety level? Try to use measures and descriptions that, when aggregated, sum up to the bigger change that you are after. For instance, if you are renovating a house, specify the next mini-project that you want to finish in the next week.
- What many people do wrong: they fail to write down a concrete change for the week. This is often because they don’t want to do the hard work of translating their longer term goal into achievable segments.
- What you can do right: you can write down, clearly, what this week’s specific improvement looks like.
If you want to fail to make an improvement in your life, then:
- Be vague about your problems, avoiding setting down exactly what the problem is.
- For instance, if the difficulty is financial, then make sure you melt into anxiety instead of writing down how in debt you are.
- If the difficulty is emotional, then keep it vague, and make sure you spend all your time melting down, and no time at all defining your undesirable pattern.
- Keep blaming (a) events, and (b) other people. Whatever you do, do not hold yourself accountable for any particular action to improve your situation.
If, however, you want to make a positive change, then:
- Record, clearly, what your undesirable state looks like now, using a replicable method.
- Set down, clearly, how you will know when you have reached your desired state, using the same system of definition as for your current state.
- Write down, clearly, what this week’s specific improvement looks like.