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Plan for change

By Michael O. Cooper

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with change. On the one hand, we want to change all sorts of things in our lives, from the size of our bodies to the size of our bank accounts. On the other hand, we all resist change and many of us want things to stay the same, even if we pay lip service to the desired difference.

Take physical fitness. Millions of people make New Year's resolutions or some promise to themselves to get in shape. Simple enough. The reason most people fail at this simple goal is that they don’t understand, plan for and monitor the amount of change necessary to accomplish the goal.

But why?

Most of us tend to oversimplify how much work is involved in any sort of change. To get in shape, I simply need to play a sport or go to the gym on a regular basis. Wrong. To be physically fit (it is a state of health, not something you check off a list of accomplishments), you must change on several levels. To make this simple, I’ll introduce the six levels of change from the science of neuro-linguistic programming (a science of programming the mind):

  1. Environment
  2. Behavior
  3. Capability / Strategy
  4. Beliefs and Values
  5. Identity / Mission
  6. Purpose
Each of the levels of change require support from the lower levels (i.e. To change your identity, you must make changes in the lower 4 levels).

With this model, look at how many things you must change just to get in shape: your environment must support your new goal, what you do on a daily basis must change (behaviors), you need to learn how to eat right, rest, and exercise at a minimum (capabilities), then you must address your current beliefs and values to align with your goal of being physically fit, and finally you must view yourself as a fit person (identity) and align your lifestyle accordingly.

Additionally, you may include your new level of health into your purpose by changing careers or helping others get in shape. Failure to include the first five levels of this model in this particular goal will result in disappointment and frustration. So, whatever your goal (another name for change), be sure to understand how much change is necessary.

Plan for change. This is simple: Get clear on your intended outcome. Picture it in your mind. Now create a step-by-step action plan for arriving at your destination. For many goals, you may not know exactly how to get there. If you don’t, hire a professional to help you or ask a friend or relative to help you create your plan. Without a plan, it’s very difficult to accomplish much.

Monitor. You’ve heard the old adage: "Plan your work and work your plan." Here it may seem cliche, but if the goal / change is important to you, spend some time measuring your progress and celebrating small victories along the way. Create a simple, fool-proof way to measure your progress and ask someone else to check in on you from time to time—it will raise your accountability level.

Change is easy when you understand how much work you must do and have a solid plan to get there. If you have any struggles along the way, send me an email.

Here's the the new and better you!

Michael "Coop" O. Cooper is a personal life coach. Write to him at