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We all talk about change. I talk about it, you talk about it, businesses try to sell it, politicians promise it, and David Bowie sang about it.

Life is a process, and as it unfolds, we all seek change at one point or another.  Sometimes we need to make changes to save our lives, or we seek changes to be healthier, improve our relationships, or advance our careers.

As you’ve stood in line at the grocery store, watched TV, or gone online, you’ve probably been bombarded with sales pitches or stories about fast, dramatic, life-changing transformations:  Seven Days to a Flat Belly, Five Moves to Spice up Your Sex Life, One Weird Trick to Sound familiar?

It’s natural to be attracted to stories about dramatic personal transformations and we all want to improve our lives in some way.  But you know what? Big awe inspiring change is usually achieved through many small changes.  We sometimes forget that change is a process and it begins with us defining our own values and goals.  We need to value the change we strive for, know why we want it, and respect its meaning.

Planting the Seeds of Change 

We’ve all heard that talk is cheap, but I’m here to tell you it’s not.  And neither is thought.  In fact, talk and thought are central themes of change.  Our society tends to focus on action.  We think of change happening in a day and we look for definitive results we can see or measure right away.  But change begins with thought.  First we have to have an inkling, a small passing thought that perhaps there is something we want to work on.  Thinking and talking about it helps us develop our commitment to change and determine how to achieve it.  There are some important questions to ask ourselves as we embark on a path to change.

The Who, Why, and What 

Who are we making a change for?  If we are changing for others or focused on achieving results visible to others, then odds are the “change” won’t stick.  What happens when the others go away and we are alone with ourselves?  Many of our greatest gains are those that only we are aware of.  To be ready for change we have to think about it, consider the alternatives, and make a decision that this is a change we want and value for ourselves.

For us to change we also have to consider “What can I do?” Why is that so important?  We have to be aware of what we can change and what we have no control over.  Sometimes I hear people talk about change that depends on other people doing things, so I ask “What can you do?” If we are busy thinking about what other people need to do for us in order to change, we get in trouble.  Of course, people and events will throw us curve balls, but stay focused on what you can do, or you won’t be ready for the next pitch. 

Just Do It….and Keep Doing It

Once we’ve thought, talked, and committed to change, we show up for ourselves and take that first step.  As they say… “Just Do It.”  But how will you maintain your change?  What if it is a crazy day at work?  What if you are running to stand still? What if you are traveling? The reasons we provide ourselves for not maintaining change are always there. The key to any change is keeping at it.  We can all do something (or abstain from something) for a day.  But change is not a singular event.  It linking those events over time.  In other words, sticking with it.

Be warned, most of us will have a day or month or year when we fall short.  Depending on the change, some missteps have more consequences, but what is the alternative? Not trying?  Change is not automated and when we fall short it can help to remind ourselves that just like everyone else, we face adversity.

Many people will tell me, “I failed. I did not change.” But that is not true.  Change is like climbing a mountain—we can slowly chip away at it.  We might fall back, lose our way, or the scenery might shift, but this is not failure.  If our standard is perfection how can we overcome the odds that we might fail?  We can’t.  Indeed, we might need to rethink our approach, but this is part of the change process, not a sign of failure.

Whether you want to overcome an addiction, get to the gym more, improve a relationship, or get organized, change is a story.  Make it your story.