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Change Work January 2014

Yes you can!

Although it's nearing the end of January it still feels like a beginning.  The year hasn't really got going yet and the optimism that usually comes with the season continues to colour things.

How have your New Year Resolutions turned out in the past?  If you're like most people then your good intentions have probably fizzled out by about week four.  And yet you feel that this year will be different...

And so it may be - provided you make it different!

But what's gone wrong in the past?  Why is it so difficult to achieve your dreams, the goals you set with the intention of changing your life?

You hear inspirational stories of people who have succeeded in making changes against all odds.  Or successful business leaders who always seem to pick winning ideas and to carry them through.  These examples prove it's possible - so why can't you do it?

Well, you can!  There's nothing superhuman about those achievers, those people in control of their own lives.  Their advantage doesn't lie in their genes; it's solely about what they do.  So, if you want some of that success, you have to model the successful.

To enable yourself to do what they do, you have to begin by thinking the same way they think.

Now, if you could look inside heads I expect you'd find that there are many different components to this "success thinking".  Individuals have their own combinations of mental loops and patterns that allow them to do what they do without having to think about it very much at all.  These are the "programs" that their unconscious minds run.  And so does yours!  And the difference between success and failure lies in the effectiveness of those mental patterns.

But what are these patterns or programs that work better than the ones you have? Well, there are probably many that work in all kind of combinations, but there's one general principle that seems to explain a lot.  It was put forward by Albert E. N. Gray in a speech to a conference of insurance professionals in 1940.  His key idea can be summarised as:

"The common denominator of success - the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful - lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don't like to do."

Very simple.  Obvious perhaps.  And exactly what you didn't want to hear!

We already know that it's insane to expect different results from repeatedly doing the same things.  So, if you want different results from this year's resolutions you're going to have to do something different from what you've done before.  And Gray is saying that whatever that different thing is, you're not going to like it!

But what is it?

Well, I don't know precisely what habits you need to form - or which bad ones you need to lose - but there are two things I'd suggest that will move you in the right direction.

  1. Set yourself "awesome" goals and commit to them - even though you don't know how to achieve them.
    Goals that are outside your past experience inevitably look impossible.  As we've already seen though, whatever you want, someone has always been there before and proved that it can be done.  So, all you need to know is "how?"  If you allow yourself to be committed, then you'll begin to notice opportunities and sources of help.  Your unconscious mind will start working on the problem and you'll steadily work out what to do.
  2. Mix with the right people.
    It will probably be uncomfortable to meet people whose success shames you.  It's easier to spend time with those who reassure you that there's no need to push your boundaries.  Deep down they want you to fail so that you won't shame them!

And then, when you identify a specific task that you really don't want to do, use mental rehearsal to ease your way.  Imagine yourself doing it, copying someone else if you know a suitable model, so that you're successful in the imagined situation.  Repeat a few times and the feared thing will soon lose its threat.

It all boils down to changing some of the things you habitually do in order to change the results you get.  In a sense, that's about changing you - which isn't easy but is certainly possible.  And a lot more useful than waiting for the world to change to suit you!


"When I was growing up I always wanted to be someone. Now I realize I should have been more specific."   Lily Tomlin