I continue to be caught up with the aspiration of getting better, yet still find myself confused and discouraged by how hard it is to move from the “idea” to reality. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out.”
To get better and to move from where I am to where I desire to be requires that I change.
Some change is good – easy to accept: warmer weather, different food, a change of scenery, getting over a cold, or the end of tax season. Some change is bad – never welcomed: loss of employment, illness, a drop in the stock market, conflict in families and teams, or the death of a loved one.
Sometimes change is something I want to make happen: an exercise program, a healthier eating plan, financial discipline, goal setting, business development, more time for family, or relationship building. Other times, the same change feels forced on me without choice.
Whether making change happen or accepting necessary change in my life, I have a pattern of getting started, showing some signs of progress, and then inevitably finding myself right back where I started. Why does this happen? Is there something wrong with me? Can anything be done?
In my ongoing reflection on the difficulty of change, I have identified three barriers or challenges, all of which continually come into play:
1. I don’t get it – I need to understand (and be reminded) why the desired change is good and necessary.
As Michael Wilcock, British author, pastor and theologian, observed, “The human mind is incurably centrifugal, flying off at a tangent; it must be brought back to the great central truths of the gospel, over and over.”
Not only do I need to understand why the desired change is good and necessary in the first place, I need to be continually reminded and brought back to the “why” on a daily basis, and maybe several times each day. Because as soon as I “get it,” I “forget it.”
This is why we are meant to work in teams: so we can remind each other “why” the change is necessary and what will likely happen if we stay the course. This is why we need an ongoing communication plan: to keep our “eyes on the prize.” This is why I continue to write blogs about change: to remind myself (and you) to keep on continuing the fight.
2. I don’t have the skills – I need daily learning and (a lot of) practice to get better.
According to American composer and lyricist Irving Berlin, of “God Bless America” and “White Christmas” fame, “The toughest thing about success is that you have to keep on being a success.”
It’s not that I’m unable to achieve any level of success; it’s more about sustaining the success that I am able to achieve. Is the inability to sustain success by definition FAILURE? Or is it simply the way life in this world?
It helps to acknowledge that success and setbacks, and one step forward and two steps back are common to all people and “normal.” Don’t let it get you down. Don’t give in to the little voice in your head saying, “I told you so! This will never work, why bother, you can’t do it, just give up!” Instead, consider what is to be learned from your setbacks and what improvements or changes need to be made. Become a learner, not a quitter.
Of course, we need to learn and hone the skills needed to achieve the desired change. That cannot be underestimated or overstated. But the most important skill to learn is the ability to get started, to get restarted when we fail, and to keep on keeping on.
3. I don’t want to - I need to change my attitude.
Either way, this challenge of sustaining success will move me in one of two different directions, either spiraling downward, or in a new, unexpected and positive way. Much of this depends on the one thing I have some control over: my attitude.
As the great wartime leader Winston Churchill understood, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."
How can you and I adopt and maintain the “never say die” attitude needed for success in the face of constant change, whether good and bad, desired or forced upon us?
- Reconfirm and restate why achieving the change matters, and why you started pursuing it in the first place.
- Look back – review past positive performance, count your blessings, and be thankful for the success you have enjoyed to this point.
- Take an honest look at where you are putting your energy. Are you blaming, complaining, defending, holding on with a death grip to the old ways you know aren’t working?
- Be a “team player” and encourage others to keep going. You will encourage yourself in the same way.
- Finally, be encouraged by these lyrics of American singer and songwriter, Curtis Mayfield:
And there’s still a lot of faith and warmth and trust
When we keep on keeping on…
We will continue to help our clients to learn and grow and succeed at life by addressing the hard but rewarding work of change. If you have ideas on how to “keep on keeping on” after a setback in the change process, please post them so others can benefit.