THE “WHY” FACTOR
You are your own secret weapon. The battle against a lifestyle riddled with questionable habits is hard fought and hard won. Yet inside each one of us is a “conscious” competent with the power to change. It has been said by Daryl Conner, a guru in the field of change management and author of Managing at the Speed of Change, that we reveal the unanswered questions in our lives by the nature of the things we try to teach others. Changing ones own behavior and unwanted habits can be thought of as an overgrown landscape difficult to understand due to its perplexing unconscious intricacy. Many individuals, families and entire societies have entered the realm of self-change only to become tangled in the undergrowth of dysfunction, lack of vision, poor focus, and misinformation.
Your journey to becoming your own wellcoach will be filled with mystery and revelations as well as dangers and opportunities. As your own coach, you must understand that each person travels through life with variable rates of fluctuation when learning and applying new information and circumstances, which I will refer to as the “speed of change.” The speed of human transition is defined by how well we accept and absorb the implications of our decision to change and our resolve to these decisions will dramatically affect the rate at which we will successfully manage the shift to the new desired behavior. Psychologists like Dr. James Prochaska as far back as 1994 discovered when we take on less change than our optimum speed will allow, we fail to live up to our potential. In contrast, when we try to take on more change than our optimal speed allows, we start to run into unforeseen difficulty, become overwhelmed and stumble.
Life in Real Time
The research in today’s world points to the fact that we tend to skim through our demanding lives without taking a moment to consider what we want or where we really want to go. Once the day-to-day demands of life exceed our capacity, we unconsciously begin to make expedient choices that more often than not lead to mindless actions that promote ingrained mental patterns of convenience. Our contemporary 24/7 lives tend to be filled with little sleep, fast food, power drinks, and protein bars as we turn to alcohol and prescription drugs as a coping mechanism. A lifescape of wellcoaching comes down to acquiring the necessary resources, skills, knowledge, and experience needed to activate a new way of thinking to adopt healthier behavior. The continuum of life change demands the investment of time and effort to develop a realistic and motivating plan that allows substantive transformation. The root of change is found firmly planted in commitment to both attaining the goals and paying the price those goals entail.
To be your own wellcoach you must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a vision of a positive future and purpose. When the number of hours in a day is fixed and the quantity-quality of available energy is finite, the measure of success comes down to learning how much time and devotion is needed in the time that you have to execute each change decision. As a wellcoach, this is the most critical advice offered if you desire transformative change. The path to being your own wellcoach comes down to the following:
Vision – A defined vision bound by purpose is the foundation for planning. Vision is the key that unlocks the future and the belief that you can initiate and sustain positive behaviors. Research has shown if you believe you have the ability needed to succeed, you’re more likely to take the plunge into the unknown. This is referred to as self-efficacy.
Pros and Cons – An effective way to gauge alternative patterns of thought is to weigh the pros and cons of each life changing decision. This is referred to as decisional balance. Identify and connect to your strengths and capability by asking yourself these basic questions:
What’s my strategy to overcome the resistance I am feeling towards this change?
What is the positive or gains for my decision to change?
What is the consequences or losses if I fail to change?
What is my level of readiness to change for each goal?
Intention and Attention – Success in the future will be actualized when you fully accept, commit and prepare yourself for navigating the transition of change. Acknowledge your feelings surrounding the intention to change old patterns of behavior. Identifying the consequences-barriers-remedy that need to be in place when encountering the disruption and discomfort associated with changing those old behaviors. Building new habits requires defining very precise actions that will lead to the new behaviors. Then comes the phase of trial and correction. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Ask yourself:
How ready, confident, and committed am I to move forward with each change decision?
How important is this new behavior to me?
Implementation Plan – Develop a detailed plan that outlines and defines the behavioral goals, and tracks performance. Effective behavioral goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic, and Time-lined.) Achieving success is enhanced by setting appropriate goals that match your degree of readiness for each change. To create the atmosphere for SMART goals, start by asking yourself these questions:
Why am I engaging in change now?
What do I want to get from making this change?
What could get in the way of my success?
What are some of the things I could try to do to overcome the barriers I am experiencing?
Then there are the mental characteristics that must be develop for the new you:
Positive – Life is an opportunity. Shift your thinking onto the positive aspects of the past, present, and future.
Focused – A clear vision of the desired outcome and a clear picture of how you’re going to get there.
Flexible – Mentally pliable when encountering the uncertainty of newness. Rolling with uncertainty and the lack of control.
Organized – A structured approach to managing ambiguous situations with more than one interpretation. A defined strategy for not “what if” but “what will” happen “when.”
Proactive – A mindset that engages the change behavior rather than resist and defend the old behavior
Coaching come down to self-awareness. Self-awareness counts for a lot as you go through the long tedious process of changing the terrain of your lifescape. Yet awareness doesn’t make you immune from its implications. In the context of being your own coach, it’s ironic that being perfect at this process can lead to so many wrong decisions. There is no single solution that works for everyone at every time. A well thought out plan is everything. It is just as easy to implement the right decision, as it is to implement the wrong decision. And as your own coach, admitting and recognizing ones needs, flaws and vulnerabilities is what will give you true power to meet the challenges of change head on. Because of today’s accelerating nature of change, individuals tend to think of themselves as more of a victim of their own circumstances than as architects of their destinies. When coaching yourself, applying what you now know about managing change will bring you a special sense of potential. Of course, with self-coaching comes the responsibility not only to use it wisely but also to master the techniques. And to expect the mastery of coaching ones self without great effort is to misunderstand what you are seeking. Being your own wellcoach comes down to the mastery of skills, patience, and dedication of a serious student – yourself. From one coach to another, you will either pay for the learning and how to manage the change process or you will pay the price for not doing so. In either scenario, there is an invoice to be paid. As your own coach the opportunity and responsibilities to take action is now personally yours. Enjoy the process of self-change!
Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983; Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992) Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Moving Your Life Positively, an integrative model to conceptualize the process of intentional behavioral change. Avon Books, Inc., 1994.
Daryl R. Conner, Managing, Managing at the Speed of Change, Random House, Jan 19, 1993.
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, The Power of Full Engagement, The Free Press, A Division of Simon and Schuster, Inc., Jan 3, 2005.
Margaret Moore, Bob Tschannen-Moran, Coaching Psychology Manual, Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health 2010.