Underlying most personal or leadership development efforts is the need to change some aspect of the way you do things. Whether it be learning to engage your team more effectively or improving how you handle difficult situations, some form of doing things differently on your part is par for the course. If you’re like many who venture down this road of self awareness and growth, you may well underestimate just how difficult behavior change can be…and that can set you up for failure.
The truth is, changing the way you communicate with others or choosing to take better care of yourself, for example, can be very tough. Yet at the same time, if you manage to stick it out, the outcomes can be incredibly transformative for you, your team and your organization.
Here are some things to know about behavior change that can help you set up realistic expectations of the road ahead:
- Behavior change can be hard – It’s rarely a matter of simply deciding to do things differently. Behaviors don’t happen in a vacuum. They are often part of a greater chain of successive triggering events such as prior experience, views, values or even your current environment. If you don’t uncover and understand the impact of these triggers, your behavior change efforts may fail quickly…in similar fashion to many a New Year’s resolution.
- Behavior change takes time (and focus!) – It can take awhile before a new behavior sticks and becomes a habit. It takes focus and repetition, day in and day out, ironically to the point where you don’t have to think about it. It is then, when it simply becomes your new way of interacting, that your new habit is cemented. This can take anywhere from several weeks to many months.
- Behavior change can take courage – If you are looking to grow your leadership the feedback can be scary…but hear it you must in order to improve your skills. Similarly, if you’re looking to get healthier, making the right choices everyday can take steely determination. Sometimes the internal fortitude required to successfully grapple with a goal can seem massive, especially in the beginning.
- You will have setbacks – You will have setbacks that will test your will to continue. Your mettle may be tested as never before as your ego, pride and even your sense of identity can be roughed up. However, knowing that setbacks are simply part of the process can help you avoid the guilt of missing a benchmark and avoid the requisite downward spiral of discouragement. When you fall down you simply need to dust yourself off and continue on.
- You will be tempted to move your goal posts – As mentioned, people often underestimate both the time and internal resources that behavior change can require. You may decide to resolve this internal tension by simply giving up or by being satisfied with a much diminished version of your behavior change goal. In other words, you might be tempted to move the intended finish line much closer to where you began or currently are.
- An accountability partner will accelerate your success – Don’t go it alone, particularly if you find you’re not getting the results you want. A friend or trusted colleague can provide you with critical feedback along the way and help you stay motivated and inspired along the way during challenging times.
Know that when the going gets tough you’re likely in the zone of positive change; it’s probably the best indicator that you’re on the right track to making significant change. So dig deep, inhale fully…and keep moving forward.