Dr Peggy Marshall

Sprinting to Success for 2012

It’s August-most of us have taken our vacations; are renewed and are thinking about what we still want to accomplish in 2012.  I am introducing a strategy to help you think through what you need to do to achieve your goals fourth quarter.  The strategy is to explore the stage of change you are in as you prepare for the new-not just the end goal.  Moving through the stages of change acknowledges that by creating early wins you can leverage these wins to achieve success.  Thinking about the changes you want to make in terms of small steps recognizes that as you take actions towards targets you become firmly resolved to accomplish the goal.

In any behavior change you go through stages that lead to ultimate success with the change.  When you understand that behavior change is fluid rather than fixed you can be more empathetic of occasional lapses and “get back on the horse” more quickly.  The first stage in behavior change is pre-contemplative.  In this stage you consider whether you own the problem or whether someone else wants something for you that you don’t want for yourself.  It is critical that any behavior change you undertake is one that you are willing to own.  Thus, if you are trying to lose weight, exercise more, become more organized, etc., make sure that it is something YOU want to accomplish fourth quarter.

The next stage is contemplative.  You may have been reflecting on what you truly wanted to change during the first three quarters of 2012 yet haven’t been able to determine the action steps.  You may have asked for input from others, read tons of books but you still haven’t been able to initiate the change.  In the contemplative stage many people conduct a decisional balance index which provides decision points around whether to engage the change.  The decisional balance index asks you to identify the advantages of making the change and comparing them side-by-side with the disadvantages of the change.  A word of caution here-many people are biased toward the advantages or disadvantages so it’s critical that you are completely honest with yourself in this stage.

Once we have clarity about the change you want you move to the stage of planning for action.  In this stage you decide what tools and resources you will need to be successful with the change.  For example, if losing weight is your goal, you need to plan your meals and buy the foods you need to eat in order to achieve weight loss.  If being more organized is your goal, you buy the file folders and files so that you can organize.  You might also engage friends or family members to help you stay focused.  In this stage you focus on what you need to start doing.  In this stage, I encourage my clients to think about what they need to stop doing so that they can prepare for the obstacles that may thwart them in staying focused on the change. For example, if you have set aside one hour a day for anything relating to their goal, what might interfere with that hour?  Do you need to schedule the hour when you are least likely to be interrupted?  How will you handle interruptions?  Do you need to set boundaries with family or friends for the time you need to accomplish the goal?

Now, you are ready to take the action.  As the Nike commercial states, “just do it.”  You follow through with writing in your gratitude journal, you read that first hour upon wakening, your office is organized, you are exercising, you are eating better, etc.  In this stage you are doing the thing we want most to accomplish by the end of 2012.  You feel excited, exhilarated and are looking forward to successfully accomplishing your goal.

So what can go awry?  Habitual behaviors can sneak in to take you off course.  Ninety-five percent of what you do is habit-meaning that most behaviors are done without thinking.  This new behavior you are working on requires focus and thought.  You could be continually pulled into old ways of behaving so you need to be prepared for this.  This is why in planning for action stage, the advice was to try to identify most of the obstacles that might occur so you can plan for them.  Even if you haven’t planned for the obstacle, you may experience it and find that the obstacle is now in the way.  In this stage-called recidivism-many people give up on their goal.  They think they have failed because they couldn’t keep up the momentum towards success.  Don’t be pulled into this all or nothing thinking.  You made it through four stages of change.  Now, re-evaluate your progress, tweak your behaviors and start again.  Do you have the right tools and resources?  Have you carefully thought through the obstacles?  Celebrate your progress and remind yourself that missteps are all part of change!

Somewhere between now and the end of the year, you can expect that the behaviors that lead to success of your goal are now becoming habits.  You are exercising, eating more healthily, organizing, communicating more effectively, etc.  You may have not reached the ultimate goal but you are on your way.  My hope for you is that as you work on completing 2012 goals you will be both gentle and firm with yourself.  Firm in that you believe in your goal, but gentle with your progress towards the goal.  And celebrate your successes on the way!


To your success!

Dr. Peggy