Poor old Ralph, his IQ and his Willpower were at opposite ends of the scale.
Ralph’s just out of the shower, off the scales (they must be wrong) and finds himself standing in front of the mirror, yet again surveying the expanding real-estate that is his stomach. “Right” he says, as he slaps his stomach a little too hard, like an old friend who’s outgrown his welcome. “Today will be different. Today is the start of a new beginning.” This is a personal mantra Ralph recites day after day after week after month. Ralph has no plan to change anything other than to bring the full force of his willpower into play – the very same willpower that has failed him dismally, day after day after week after month. Good luck, Ralph, you’re going to need it. Bruce and Johnno are looking forward to your company and a burger at lunchtime.
We can all make a change, even significant change, anytime. Like most people I am a frequent dieter. I can start a diet shortly after breakfast any day of the week and keep it going right up until morning tea – no problems. Change isn’t so hard is it? The one thing we can rely on is it won’t last long.
The serious stuff – research
There is lots of research about personal change. What is effective and what isn’t. I have been reading through Change Anything, the New Science of Personal Success. Their research identified six areas of influence requiring attention if you’re serious about sustainable change. These are:
Personal Motivation and Ability
“Love what you hate. More often than not, the things that we should do when we want to change ourselves are boring or uncomfortable; therefore, we don’t want to do them. We often look at the present when it comes to changing, not the future.” (Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success)
Social Motivation and Ability
“The people who surround you both motivate and enable your habits. For instance, you may not want to quit smoking, but your life partner does and this weighs heavily on your mind. Or perhaps co-workers keep handing you cigarettes and asking you to join them at break time” (Patterson Et al, Pg 15)
Structural Motivation and Ability
“The physical world that surrounds you still prods and enables you – for both good and evil. For instance, that refrigerator filled with soft drinks standing next to your exercise bike doesn’t help you stick to your eating plan.” (Patterson Et al, Pg 15)
Change begins with your environment, not yourself
To make change, you need to carefully and honestly review your environment and change the aspects of that environment that are setting you up for failure. I find Social Motivation and Ability (people) fascinating and it’s in this area I wish to focus this post. The six factors mentioned above are equally as applicable to workplace issues/opportunities like performance improvement, engagement, career development and personal brand etc. as they are to addressing habitual behaviours. And not only are these factors integral in your ability to change personally but if you’re a manager they are also relevant and should be carefully considered in a team context.
And then there was Ralph
Come, on mate, one burger won’t kill you (the last 300 didn’t)
Accomplices are those people who conspire to help you stay the way you are – the way you don’t want to be – and they congratulate you when you do. It’s the good mate who keeps you in the cafe at lunchtime having a burger with the lot and a supersized coke when you had planned to take a 30 min walk along the river bank. It’s the couple of friends you have that love a gossip around the water cooler, discussing all the reasons why the company (those people up there, up in the ivory tower), has got it all wrong and why disaster’s looming. You know, the ones who send you back to your desk feeling flat and a little depressed. They are a bit like a sugary cake, great fun while you’re eating it, but a sickly feeling layered with lashings of guilt soon after. These are your accomplices. You need to be honest with yourself – do you have the strength to change them as well as yourself, or are you struggling just with yourself? If you can’t take them on the journey, if they are excess baggage, then sorry, they may have to stay behind.
Engaged employees are positive. They have a can do attitude and a desire to see change and action. If you’re struggling at work, feeling disengaged, negative, uninspired, flat, and waiting for the time to pass as quickly as possible, then you have a responsibility to yourself to make change happen. Number one thing to do is to identify anything that is going to undermine your commitment right now, and change that. Unfortunately that may be people.
Meet your Accomplices – your Models and Hosts
Models are those people who are all around us and from whom we establish the benchmark for normal behaviour. Ok, Johnno knocks over a burger and fries, with a large coke every day and he’s a good bloke, so that must be ok behaviour. Yes, it worries me he can’t walk up a flight of stairs and he falls asleep at his desk, but hey he’s just Chillaxed.
Hosts are those people who don’t necessarily want you to fail, but they are happy to host your failures. They are willing to argue for the poor behaviours, so not only do they model poor behaviour but they encourage you to join them and validate their poor behaviour.
Friends are divided into Coaches and Fans
Your friends are made up of people who are willing to support you on your path for good. They can be split into coaches and fans. Your coaches are those people who encourage and support you through the process of change. Your fans are those who genuinely celebrate your success, who are happy to listen while you shout out your success and will provide you with praise and motivation.
Take a secret look around you now. Who’s who in your zoo? Who should be locked away in a cage and who can safely roam about? I know my coaches, fans and accomplices – do you know yours?
To be honest, I avoid people who are continually negative and who subsequently lower my energy. If I haven’t spoken to you for a while, maybe that’s why. Let’s be honest, if you’re standing round the office camp fire with a few mates and they are paying out on the company, the boss, their colleagues and anything else that breathes, it’s a lot easier to join in than challenge them. So you have two options, you either ignore what’s being said and persist with introducing positive comments, stories etc, or you walk away. Perhaps don’t get in that position in the first place. You’re not silly – you can find a plausible excuse why you can’t be there.
What to do – Setting yourself up for sustainable change
What is normal?
You need to redefine what normal is for you. It’s not Johnno and his burger with the lot and his near enough is good enough reports and paperwork. It’s not Bruce with his one hundred unsubstantiated reasons why the company you work for represents evil. You need to define how you wish to see yourself now and establish that as normal.
It’s time for a chat
You may need to have a chat with friends, family, partners. Be open and honest about what you’re trying to achieve and enlist their help. You need more friends than accomplices. If you can clearly express where you want and need to be and why, good friends will usually support you – if not, you know their answer.
I am afraid we’re going to have to let you go
Yep, nothing for it than to distance yourself from your accomplices. There is enough work in changing yourself without having to change others as well. Some people will join you with your encouragement and a challenging conversation and others may be just be a casualty. Them’s the breaks mate. You need to make change.
Take a sneaky look around now at the stars
You know there will be people around you who model the behaviours you want for yourself, or who have achieved the goals you have set. It’s time to network. Make new friends. I bet if you try hard right now, you can name at least one person who models your aspirational change. Make a connection. Be brave and tell them what your aspirations are and enlist their support and coaching and ultimately they will join your fan club.
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Many thanks to my nephew James Westmore for his wonderful artwork and to Rosie Broadfoot for her continued enthusiasm for editing my posts.
Ref: Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan and Switzler, 2014, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, Piatkus, Great Britain