6 keys to changing almost anything

Tony SchwartzComputer breakAs part of his work, Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project has put together a great short list of steps to making change that lasts. Lasting change is something we promote at Somatic Vision, and is essentially the goal of Alive and our other work. Ton's list perfectly complements our work, so I am including some highlight below:

  1. Be highly precise and specific. Imagine a typical New Year's resolution to "exercise regularly." It's a prescription for failure. You have a vastly higher chance for success if you decide in advance the days and times, and precisely what you're going to do on each of them.
  2. Say instead that you commit to do a cardiovascular work out Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 a.m., for 30 minutes. If something beyond your control forces you to miss one of those days, you automatically default to doing that workout instead on Saturday at 9 a.m.
  3. Take on one new challenge at a time. Over the years, I've established routines and practices, from weight training and running to doing the most important thing first every morning without interruption for 90 minutes and then taking a break...to spending 90 minutes talking with my wife on Saturday mornings.
  4. In each case, I gave the new practice I was launching my sole focus. Computers can run several programs simultaneously. Human beings operate best when we take on one thing at a time, sequentially.
  5. 3. Not too much, not too little. The most obvious mistake we make when we try to change something in our lives is that we bite off more than we can chew. The only way to truly grow is to challenge your current comfort zone. The trick is finding a middle ground — pushing yourself hard enough that you get some real gain, but not too much that you find yourself unwilling to stay at it.
  6. What we resist persists. Diets fail the vast majority of time because they're typically built around regularly resisting food we enjoy eating. Eventually, we run up against our limited reservoir of self control. Instead, keep food you don't want to eat out of sight, and focus your diet instead on what you are going to eat, at which times, and in what portion sizes. The less you have to think about what to do, the more successful you're likely to be.
  7. Competing commitments. Think about a change you really want to make. Now ask yourself what you're currently doing or not doing to undermine that primary commitment. If you are trying to get more focused on important priorities, for example, your competing commitment might be the desire to be highly responsive and available to those emailing you. For any change effort you launch, it's key to surface your competing commitment and then ask yourself "How can I design this practice so I get the desired benefits but also minimize the costs I fear it will prompt?"
  8. Keep the faith. Change is hard. It is painful. And you will experience failure at times. The average person launches a change effort six separate times before it finally takes.
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