4 powerful principles for successful personal change

Do you have what it takes to change yourself?  

As a part of my job, I have the privilege of coaching many people at all levels of organizations; people who want to become more powerful and effective professionally and personally.

People often have to go through personal changes in how they think and behave in order to reinvent themselves and achieve the next level. I have reinvented myself a few times in my life, and I can share from personal experience, both as a coach and a player, that doing so can be very challenging.

Even when we really want it and we have a clear strategy for change, actually ‘internalizing it’, ‘carrying it out’ and ‘living the change’ are often the most difficult parts of the change. In fact, most people don’t succeed – I am sure you’ve heard the cynical phrases: “A leopard can’t change its spots” and “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Every reinvention is different. However, there are a few powerful principles and tips that are universal to all types of personal change. They are all in the realm of our mindset, attitude and mental game. If you understand these principles and tips, know what to expect and how to deal with them you will have a higher chance to succeed in your reinvention. Here are four of them:

  • Tolerate things getting worst before they get better – When you take a stand about reinventing yourself the universe listens to your desire and then says: “Let’s see if you are serious about this.” To check you out, it throws you some initial challenges. If you remain positive, on-course and overcome the ‘small’ stuff it then sends you ‘medium’ level barriers. And if you can again stay the course and overcome these, it sends you even bigger challenges. However, if you overcome all levels of obstacles the universe concludes: “Yes, you are for real” and then things begin to change in your favor and you start seeing a momentum towards your desired change. The problem is that most people give up too soon. They don’t stay the course for long enough to get to the other side and reap the rewards.
  • Act and behave in counter-intuitive ways – When the caterpillar emerges from the cocoon during its transformation to becoming a butterfly, there is a moment when everything seems to be confusing and upside down. The caterpillar, who still thinks as a multi-legged slow crawling creature, takes one look at its two legs and two big and heavy wings on its back, and it feels like the world has come to an end. It’s the same for us when we want to change ourselves. If you are a highly-strung, aggressive and driven person, and you are presented with a critical situation, staying calm and not immediately reacting with action could feel quite counter-intuitive. In fact, if you see someone else not responding with action you’re likely to judge them as lazy, complacent, slacking off or dropping the ball. It’s like learning to ski; you start falling to one side and intuitively you want to swing away. But, you are supposed to lean into the fall rather than away from it. In order to reinvent yourself, you have to behave in counter-intuitive ways, stay the course and trust the process.
  • Stay courageousIt’s scary to reinvent yourself. You are in new territory. You go through a roller coaster of emotions including hope, fear, frustration and resignation. And, especially in the down moments your mind constantly tries to persuade you to draw back. It says things like: “It wasn’t a good idea!”, “You’re in over your head!”, and “What were you thinking?”. To succeed you need to stay in the moment, clear from noise. You need to keep reminding yourself to focus on and strive for making progress, not achieving perfection. Winston Churchill said: “Success is moving from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm”. He meant: it is easy to stay the course when everything is in your favor. However, it takes courage to stay the course in the face of challenging emotions or circumstances.
  • ‘Fake it till you make it’ – I came from a small village where the dress code was extremely casual. Needless to say, I’d never worn a suit and tie. When I was a junior consultant at the beginning of my career, I had to wear a suit and tie for all my client engagements. In the first year of my career, I kept having this nagging feeling that I was out of place, out of my league and a phony. But, I played the part, and over time the suit-and-tie image and role grew on me, or I grew on them, and I started to feel more authentic and at home. If I had listened to my feelings and internal noise, I would have never gotten this far. Instead, I took a stand about who I want to be and I faked it till I made it. To succeed you will have to do the same, even if your first steps feel robotic, inauthentic or contrived.

Founder and President of Quantum Performance Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in generating total alignment and engagement in organizations.

His work has encompassed a broad range of industries including banking, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, real estate, retail, startups and non-profits.

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