If you have a vision of change for your life or your business, today is the day to get started moving toward that goal. The problem with lasting change is that it requires momentum.
You need the drive to start moving and the commitment to keep things in motion. Otherwise attempts at change will just fizzle out after a while and things will go back to the way they were. You and the rest of the people around you are already used to the way things are. Your habits, your default routine is built around “the way things are.” To create real change, you don’t just need to disrupt that routine – you need new habits.
Our lives are made up of habits, both big and small. Brush your teeth in the morning, go into work at 8AM, pick your child up from school – they’re all habits. They’re the basic schedules that we follow every day and can do without thinking. The only difference between a habit like buying a latte on the way to work and a routine like eating lunch every day or making dinner for your family is how deeply you’re attached to it. Some habits become so regular that we don’t even consider them habits anymore.
But all of these habits represent values and priorities. If taking a regular, consistent lunch break is one of your deeply ingrained habits, it’s because you know the importance of feeding your body and giving yourself a bit of rest in the middle of the day. If picking up your kids is such an automatic routine that it seems silly to call it a habit, it’s because you value your kids and your role as their provider.
Reflecting on Priorities and Moving Toward Change
The first step to shifting your life or your business in a new direction is to take stock of the habits that you’ve already built. These routines can show you the priorities and values that are most central to your life or business, for better or for worse. Examine the routines of your employees, or encourage them to reflect as well. The habits and priorities you already have are the foundations for you to build from. Your disappointment or pride can help give you some energy for starting a new habit, and some existing habits can be tweaked to help you move in the right direction without trying to impose an entirely new habit on the schedule.
Once you’ve examined the priorities you you already have, it’s time to consider the priorities you want to have. “You’ve got to decide what’s most important for you and then find a way to make it happen,” says Steve Lewis, the business-savvy founder of a Las Vegas AC repair company. “If you’re trying to do or be everything at once, nothing’s going to happen. Commit to one thing, and make sure you do it better than anyone else.” So pick one value you want to prioritize, whether that’s family, health, customer service, employee community, or anything else. Then you need to plan one new habit to try to create or one existing habit to adjust.
Making It Stick
The most essential part of making lasting change is the planning process. If you’re going to make a real change in the daily schedule of you and others’ lives, you’ve got to think it through. It has to make sense and be intuitive. If you’re going to get others to buy in, it has to feel worthwhile. If an hour into work every morning you just pull employees into a conference room to brainstorm and “innovate” without very specific goals and incentives, you’re going to get some grumbling and it’s not going to be a lasting change.
The defining feature of a habit, and what makes it automatic, is that it’s consistent and regular. Find ways to use the natural rhythms of your life or the workday for it to fit intuitively into your schedule. There’s no shame using lots of notes and reminders either. But the most important part is that the change represent a clear value and priority for you or your business. That’s what creates the drive for the change and the commitment to see it succeed.