In the first post in this 5-part series, I introduced a 5 step model for driving successful and sustainable change in your life. To recap, those steps are:
- Tuning your language, setting the goal, and visualizing success;
- Describe your starting point, formalize the gap;
- Set out milestones and personal rewards;
- Designing and building habits for success;
- Pulling it all together and holding yourself accountable.
Now that you have visualized your goal (the homework assignment from Step #1), the next step is: Describe your starting point, and formalize the gap. From your detailed visualization you should be able to clearly write down your end state, when in the future it is, and some clear specifics about what it “looks like”. I used a health example in Part 1, so let’s stick with that:
“It’s December 2013, and I’m feeling very healthy and comfortable with my body image. I’m pleased that my weight is stable at 175 pounds and I’m extremely satisfied that I am getting regular exercise more than 3 times per week, eating well, and getting lots of sleep. I have never felt better.”
Now, what’s the starting point? It might be something like: “On 15th Feb 2013, I weighed in at 205 lbs. I sit around a lot at work in front of a computer and in endless meetings. I drive to and from work and rarely get any regular exercise. I find I snack most nights in front of the TV, and I probably have 1 or 2 drinks per evening — a beer or glass or two of wine — after work. I probably get about 6 hours of sleep most nights, since I don’t go to bed until after the 11:00 pm news. ”
With that baseline, you can now start to see the kind of gap you want to close: In a little over 10 months, you want to slim down by 30 lbs, you want to get regular exercise of more than 3 times/week (up from zero), possibly reduce the late evening snacking and drinking habit, maybe replace some TV with other less sedentary activities, and maybe get more sleep nightly. All in all, that sounds more than reasonable over a 10 month period if you focus on making some small changes that you can stick with: “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life is hard.” However, here are a couple of traps that most people fall into, that you need to watch out for:
- #1. They start off with great enthusiasm and motivation (kind of like a New Year’s Resolution) and then drop out when they find the changes too difficult to maintain daily. So, smaller changes are quite possibly better and ultimately more successful that larger, more disruptive changes;
- #2: Most people don’t have an accurate picture of where they are starting from. When you actually measure and track it, you may find that your “2 hours per evening in front of the TV” is actually more like 3 or 4. And the 4-5 drinks per week may be more like 10 to 12… ?
Once you’ve tried to establish your starting point and decide to start your “change program”, for the first two weeks DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING about your routine and instead just focus on actually measuring your baseline position accurately. The results will probably surprise you a little (maybe even a lot) and will give you a much better idea of the real size and scope of your desired change. Make yourself a short list of key things to measure — # hours of TV, # drinks, #hours of sleep, etc. Buy yourself a pedometer, wear it and record your steps daily, if more walking and daily exercise fits into your change goals. To do this recording, paper and pencil is fine — keep the sheet in your pocket so you can record stuff on it easily (or download an app for your smartphone). Keep the list of things you decide to measure as short as possible — what gets measured, gets managed. Focus on measuring a few key things that are meaningful to your change.
Not only will you get a much more accurate picture of your starting point, this will start to get you into the habit of measuring and recording things, which will be a key success factor moving forward with your change initiative. In my next blog, we’ll explore Step #3, setting out milestones and personal rewards.
Stay tuned, and send me any comments or thoughts on what’s been covered so far…