Intentional Change Project

Already it feels like New Year's was weeks ago, so much has happened in 2017! Did you set a resolution? Have you already lost it?

Don't feel like you have to set a resolution every New Year's; I believe in making intentional change throughout the year, but only when you're most called to - not just because it's a certain date, and definitely not because everyone else is doing it.

When I was in college, my prof, Dr. Pappas (yes, same guy I visited last fall and wrote this blog with) gave us a semester-long assignment on intentional change. I chose reading the news as a habit I wanted to adopt. I did pretty well through the semester, but it didn't actually stick. Why not? Because perhaps the most important thing about the change, is that you must be really passionate about it. So before we even dive in to this assignment, you've gotta to find your motivation, your why.

Why do you want to change? Say you want to work out more - you might claim it's because you want to lose weight. Okay. Why do you want to lose weight? Because you want to feel sexier. Why? Because you want to attract a sexy partner. Why? Because you're looking for companionship. Why?

You see I could keep going. Go until you get to the bottom of your why's. And even then, let the question rest on the surface but continue to broil underneath, and you might find that an even deeper why comes to the surface eventually.

Finding our why also helps us avoid that whole goal-is-bigger-than-you thing I talked about last week. But New Year's resolutions have a reputation for not sticking, so if you are gonna set one - and you are clear on your motivation - fully commit to yourself and do it right.

In order to make a lasting change, we must be intentional about how we go about making the change. Oftentimes we simply proclaim we’ve changed, and attempt to adopt a whole new habit/routine/lifestyle, only to fall back to our old ways a week or two later. We set sights too high, we beat ourselves up, we think, “this is just how I am,” and we even punish ourselves or try to “make up for” what we’ve missed. Yikes.

What the hell is it that keeps us from just sticking to our damn plan?!

Studies in human behavior show us that change must be slow and procedural in order to last. In this assignment, we will lay out that process for you to move forward, making your own change, over the course of several weeks. In this case, slow and steady wins the race.

1. So we’ll begin with your WHY. Why do you want to change? What is the perceived benefit? Why do you care? What is the ultimate consequence of not changing?

Craft this into a clear and concise statement that you can come back to easily and often to stay motivated!

2. What is the change you want to make? If this takes the form of a daily or weekly routine, map out the routine you want to adopt, in it’s final stage.

Consider the guidelines for setting SMART goals:

Specific – what is the change?

Measurable – how will you know you’ve made the change?

Actionable – what must you do to make the change?

Realistic – gut check, is this realistic???

Time-based – what’s your timeline?

Note: please keep this change simple. Know that you can apply this same process to future changes, and they will each be most successful if you take them one at a time. You’ve laid your foundation and now you’re building on it, one brick at a time. Don’t try to throw them all up there and expect them to form a stable and long-lasting wall. Set yourself up for success!!

3. How will you continue to motivate yourself to keep up with the change?

4. How will you keep track of your progress? (see notes on “measurable” above)

5. How will you reward yourself for continual progress?

Now map it out!!

Oooooh the fun part for calendar freaks like me :)

1. Break the change down into itty-bitty baby steps, and take at least two weeks with each step. Slowly phase into each step, like you’re creating a mini-intentional change project within each. For example, if my goal is to go to the gym for one hour 3x/week, and I currently don’t go at all, my plan would look something like this:

Week 1: go to gym on Tuesday (30 min)

Week 2: go to gym on Tuesday (45 min)

Week 3: go to gym on Tuesday (1 hour)

Week 4: go to gym on Tuesday (1 hour) and Thursday (30 min)

Week 5: go to gym on Tuesday (1 hour) and Thursday (45 min)

Week 6: go to gym on Tuesday (1 hour) and Thursday (1 hour)

Week 7: go to gym on Tuesday & Thursday (1 hour), and Saturday (30 min)

Week 8: go to gym on Tuesday & Thursday (1 hour), and Saturday (45 min)

Week 9: go to gym on Tuesday & Thursday (1 hour), and Saturday (1 hour)

Note: I recommend 8-12 weeks, depending on the scale of the change.

2. PUT THESE DATES/TIMES INTO YOUR CALENDAR. Treat these like important plans with a friend that you really care about (in this case, that friend is YOU). Pick a day, time, and place, as applicable. Keep in mind that your friend is understanding and realistic, so you can call her and explain that you just can’t do it, but you wouldn’t just bail on her without checking in.

3. Reflect. Each time a date comes up on your calendar, take a few minutes to note in your journal what happened. Did you keep your date? Did you skip it? Why? How did it feel, either way?

4. Tell your friend you’ll catch her next time: there is no making up for missed dates! Backlogging our missed dates causes anxiety and overwhelm – we don’t need that. Know that you’ll pick it up next time, and just take those few minutes to explore the reasons that you didn’t make it this time. Did something come up? Was your time schedule not realistic? How can you avoid skipping it in the future? Return to your motivation and remind yourself or make any adjustments.

5. Schedule in your celebrations and milestones. Add into your calendar time when you can check your progress, celebrate the changes you’ve made (no matter how small), and reward yourself for your efforts and any lessons learned.

Sweet plan – now get at it!

Even with this studied-and-proven structure, sometimes we "fail" at making change. We often need someone to hold us to the promises we made for ourselves, to remind us that we deserve this for ourselves and keep us motivated. This is why people hire coaches. If you feel like you've tried over and over again but never follow through, don't beat yourself up! But consider making a new commitment to yourself and this change you want to make by asking for help.

Best of luck my friends!!