Okay, I’ll just say it. Creating transformation can be a real nuisance. We’ve been conditioned to believe that a clear picture of the outcome is the main thing required to make change happen. In fact, a clear picture of the outcome can actually misguide our actions and produce results that do not satisfy our deeper desires and intentions. Here is some food for thought on what transformational change is really about, how to maintain momentum, and how to make big changes stick for good.
What is your purpose for making the change?
Purpose gives our goals meaning beyond the superficial results of this or that outcome. Purpose isn’t the goal itself. It’s the change in our experience we hope achieving the goal will produce. We want to transform something to make life better, easier and more joyful. Purpose helps us focus on the long-term benefits our investment will return to us if we go all the way through the transformation process.
What is your true motivation?
Our Stone Age brain loves the pleasure of envisioning the result, but it doesn’t easily take into account the hard work that makes the result happen. This means the brain will tend default to what it misinterprets as disappointed expectations when change takes a lot of hard work over a long period of time, without immediate rewards. On the other hand, clarity about our true motivation translates directly into the energy we need to keep going when rewards for our efforts aren’t instantaneous.
What will you do when tempted?
In her groundbreaking book, The Willpower Instinct, Stanford University brain researcher, Kelly McGonigal offers us extraordinary insight into what helps us stick with it when we’re trying to make big changes. She points out that change happens as a result of “I want” power, “I will” power and “I won’t” power, that is, deciding in advance how you will deal with inevitable temptation. It has been my experience that the power of “I want” is dramatically increased when purpose is driving our desire for change; the power of “I will” gets a lot more fuel if our motivation is conscious and authentic, rather than driven by fear or fantasy. Both of these give a firm, supportive structure to reinforce the power of “I won’t” when we need it most.
Create supportive habits
Let’s face it. Habits are a large part of what got you the undesired result you’re now trying to transform. To create a transformation and make it stick requires building a set of new foundational habits that support our purpose, strengthen our motivation and help us stay on track when we’re tempted. Creating a new habit is like exercising a muscle. Exercising willpower in small ways through new habits definitely strengthens our self-discipline, giving us increased commitment when we need it for the bigger, longer-term changes that a true transformational shift demands.