We all want to change ourselves somehow, but it is often more complicated than we planned. It is also easy to give up because of this difficulty in transforming ourselves, but we must resist the urge if we want to live more meaningful lives.
I’ve noticed over the last year that with a good plan, even the things that seem impossible can be accomplished with ease over time. I’ve created a list of my learning, so here are 17 ways to force yourself to change.
1) Be very clear about what you want to change
I’ve always had a sense of what I wanted to do with my life, but I was never clear about what it meant. It’s easy to say that you want to build a business, but what does that mean? When we want to change, we often only think about what we want to get rid of, but we should consider what needs to be put in place to make that solution possible.
It would be best if you were clear about what you want to change. If you don’t know what you are working towards, how will you ever get there? Instead of looking at your problem, look at the outcome you want and be explicit about how that would be possible.
2) Set goals and priorities, then commit
Being clear about what you want will make it easier to think about those changes and how they relate to goals. If you want to do something, you need to know what that means. I decided that I needed to write 100 articles, a straightforward goal that could be set. Once I had that in mind, I made it a priority, and if I ever had time, I was writing. Once you know what you need and know it is possible, it is much easier to commit to it.
Without commitment, this all falls apart, so you need to commit to making those changes to force yourself to change.
3) Be realistic, work on things that are possible to change
I’ve always wanted to be rich; that was my goal, but I never was able to make it happen; it was more of a dream than a possible reality. And while with anything in life, there are no guarantees, some things seem more plausible than others. It is impossible to make something unrealistic possible, so you need to adjust your goals and work within what is possible within the system.
Being realistic doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams. Instead, it means being honest about how you would make your dreams a reality. When you believe something is possible and have a plan, it is easier to force yourself to change.
4) Focus on one thing at first, add more as you make progress
It’s funny that I talked about writing because it wasn’t the habit that got all this started. I realized that I felt like shit and wasn’t taking care of myself; I was getting worried. But I remembered my bike, set it up and committed to riding every day for a week. Ten days later, my wife asked me if I wanted to shower first I said no, I can’t stop riding now. After a month, my health improved a little, and I was motivated to start writing.
Once you’ve committed to one successfully forced change in your life, it is easier to add additional ones. Exercise is probably a good first habit because being healthy makes everything else easier.
5) Create practical habits and stick with them
Riding the bike in the evening was a practical habit because we already have our showers at night, so I didn’t need to double shower. If you have to change multiple practices in your life to get one good one, you might be less inclined to force the change. Being practical about your habits means working them into your life in a way that makes sense and has the least resistance. Don’t throw your whole lifestyle up in the air; focus on practical, i.e., possible things, and change will be much easier.
6) Use SMART Goals
As I’ve hinted so far, making things possible requires goals, but goals are meaningless without order.
SMART stands for, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
One hundred articles is specific, I’ve got a spreadsheet I’m working through, so it’s measurable. I’ve worked on writing for years, so it is something I can do. A million hits is a great goal, but what does it even mean? Creating content and learning along the way sounds more realistic; it is something that someone would do. Timely, while I had no idea how long it would take, it wasn’t going to take forever, so it was possible.
Being smart about how you set goals is going to make them more likely to happen.
7) Doing something every day is more effective than sometimes
It had to be every day with riding my bike, or it wasn’t going to work. If I could take a break, then I could have taken the whole holiday off. If you give yourself a chance to get out of your good habits, they will not be effective. I write every workday, so there is a reliable routine that makes it much easier to keep up.
The more time you spend doing something, the easier it gets. The more regularly you can work at the changes you want to make, the more likely they will happen.
8) Find an accountability partner
Early on in the writing process, there was a friend with who I’d talked about building web businesses. I remember thinking that I wanted to have something to show the next time we spoke, which forced me to commit to doing work. I also remember that he made a lot of excuses for why he couldn’t make his work happen, but telling him about my progress motivated me.
Having someone to talk with who has similar goals will make it easier to keep you motivated, as you will be accountable to them.
9) Chunking makes things easier to get done
Another project I worked on during the year was a youtube channel; my goal was to create six months’ worth of content. To do that, I needed to complete eight videos a week for eight weeks. While it was a lot, it was made much easier by chunking all the big tasks together. I’d have script days, a recording day, then editing days. Because each of those tasks was batched, it gave me a chance to practice and get better. It was helpful to focus on one task at a time because I didn’t have to change my flow.
The more similar things you can do together, the easier it will be to manage your time on a longer scale.
10) Surround yourself with people who have similar goals
While I didn’t have any real people around me, I watched some youtube channels where people talked about things similar to what I had in mind. Hearing them talk about it was motivating initially, which helped me get started and believe it was possible to do what I was trying to do.
If you want to force yourself to change, you need to look for a group of people who share similar sorts of goals.
11) Have a solid foundation and build up from there
When all this started, I wanted to change myself into a better person who ran a business online. I found an online course that talked about creating content blogs; they outlined a process and had suggestions about how to pick and create articles. In the past, when I wrote, I wrote about what came to mind, but that didn’t often jive with other people. Having a program and process to follow gave me a solid foundation that was easier to build up.
12) Be honest about where you are making progress and where you are failing
Earlier I mentioned making the videos, but I didn’t say that that was a sort of escape from writing my articles. After writing my first 26 articles; needing a break, I made working on the videos. The thing was, at some point, I realized that I was failing at my main goal of writing the articles, so I quit what wasn’t working and got back to writing.
I failed at one goal and worked at another, but I had to be honest that I needed to get back to the writing. After realizing my mistake, I got back to writing, and it has been much easier to keep working towards my goal.
13) Keep track of your progress with measurable goals
Making six months of videos, writing 100 articles, riding the bike every night are easy to measure. Two of them have a clear target; pick a number and countdown until you get to 0. It wasn’t the same with riding, but basically, I didn’t want to break my streak, so I was keeping a record of something easy to measure.
Keeping progress of the changes you have made will make it easier to keep them happening. You can’t make progress if you don’t measure it.
14) Mark your progress on a calendar; seeing progress keeps you motivated
While I have not used this technique myself, I believe in it. Jerry Seinfeld is said to have kept a calendar and marked it every day he wrote jokes. Once he started to see the progress of x’s all over the page, he knew he was on a roll and didn’t want to stop and break the flow. Sometimes silly things like drawing lines on a page can keep you motivated for longer than you’d expect.
It is easier to believe that something has happened when you see progress, motivating you to do more things later. The best way to force yourself to change is to know that it is happening in the first place.
15) Create an environment where change is possible
Due to the health crisis, I was forced to work from home, but in most respects to my mental and physical health, it made me more able to change things because I had more control of my time. Knowing that I wouldn’t be stuck on the train trying to get home gave me a lot of time that wasn’t available before. And while I didn’t create the situation, it was the kind of environmental change that made a lot of things more possible.
If you want to force yourself to change, you need to make your environment congruent to the changes you want. You can’t put your favourite food in front of your face every day and think you will never try it.
16) Remind yourself that discomfort is a sign of progress
If everything is always easy, we might think that things are good even if they aren’t. Before getting into the habit of riding the bike, I watched TV and ate snacks in the evening; that wasn’t hard to do because it was lazy. Getting up on that bike the first few days was difficult, but even to this day, sometimes I’m not excited about doing it, but I do it anyway.
It’s good to be comfortable, but if you want to change something significant about your life, comfort is often causing the problem.
17) Stick with what works ditch what doesn’t
In the past, I have tried out so many different ideas for business or online projects. During most of those projects, I put in some effort but then gave up. Maybe those goals weren’t clear or working out as planned, which made me stop. Whether the articles are good or not doesn’t matter; what does, is that I have stuck with a process that worked for me. Completing something is a powerful motivator because it makes the ideas of success more realistic and possible.
Forcing yourself to change is more than just working at something; it’s also about being smart about where you focus. It is a lot easier to stick with something if you see the everyday efforts as something important in itself.
While this list might not cover everything, it talks about some ideas that have meant a lot to me over the last ten months, so hopefully, they can be helpful to you.
Thanks for reading, and we will talk next time.
What is SMART: https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/knowledge/other/smart-goal/