We think we’re immune to change. We say, “That’s just the way I am, the way I’ve always been.” But the truth is, you can change. You are not defined by past choices, and you can become the better self that you imagine.
Here’s my advice on how to make that happen, gained from my recent work at making some real changes in my own life.
• The first and most important step is to make up your mind.
You may be able to imagine getting up early and having more time for coffee and reading the news, but it’s not going to happen, if, at 6 a.m., you find that it’s not more important than 30 more minutes of sleep.
However, if you truly believe in the benefits and are determined to see those to fruition, getting out of bed will be a lot easier.
Commit to the change, first, and be determined to improve. You’re ready for change. You’re truly set on making a change because you know that the change you want will get you to where you know you need to be.
• Second, set small goals to make the change doable.
Start small: 5-10 minutes of walking in the morning. Having your sandwich without cheese. Sitting down to relax after work for 10 minutes.
These may seem small, but it’s the accomplishment itself that will make them big. Once you stick with it for 7 days, you know you can do more, and you’re motivated to keep going.
• Third, be specific about what exactly you’ll be doing. Set dates and times. Mark your calendar.
Turns out that 21 days is all it takes to make something a habit. So, if you walk for 5-10 minutes every morning for 21 days, you’ve made a huge change.
The act of getting dressed and getting out the door to walk and the rituals you create during the walk, like listening to music or books, will become ingrained into your daily life. Small, specific steps add up to huge accomplishments!
I recently set a goal for myself to do 15 minutes of meditation every day for 21 days. I was committed to relaxing and focusing during the day. Some days, squeezing in 15 minutes just for myself seemed nearly impossible. But I wanted that clarity, so I kept finding the time. By the second week, I felt more creative and in tune with myself. Feeling so much better kept me going.
Once I got to 21 days, I added 10 minutes of running into the day. It wasn’t easy. Again, I was determined. I knew the benefits I would get from running even a little: more energy, less stress, a more active mind and a great model for my kids! It wasn’t easy—sometimes it was downright painful! By day 21, I was running 5K a day. I loved the energy boost.
The biggest boost, though, was to my confidence. By making the goals small and attainable, and by finally being determined to do the hard work, I reached my goals.
Reaching one goal led to another, and then another. Soon, I found myself on a 28-day detox diet, cutting out bad dietary habits like gluten, caffeine and sugar. Now, this may not seem like a “small” goal—and it’s not. But once you’ve got a couple changes under your belt, they get easier. After the detox, it was easier to stick to a dairy- and gluten-free diet. It had become a habit.
With all this energy and renewed self-confidence, I began to tackle those things at work that felt too big to handle. Making specific, attainable goals, I added tools and strategies to be more organized and accountable, making big goals feel doable. I’ve expanded my team, added new capabilities and have ambitious goals for the New Year.
Before, I spent way too much time thinking of the end results, believing they were too far to reach. But once I made up my mind and saw the goal as doing small things every day, I accomplished the changes I wanted to see in myself.
We can change! We don’t need to be immune to it!
We spend too much time thinking about why we can’t make changes. It’s time to decide we are ready.
Mag Retelewski is founder and president of Clarteza in Chicago, Illinois, and a member of NAWBO-Chicago. For more information, visit the Clarteza website at www.clarteza.com.