I always think of that David Bowie song when I write or talk about changes. And I’m not really a fan. I guess that says something about his talent for songwriting, though. And I do respect talent.
But let’s talk about changes. What if I told you that there was a simple way to make lasting changes in your life?
Would you be interested? How about skeptical but interested? Does that hit the mark?
We all try to make changes all the time. We even have a holiday for it. It’s called New Year’s.
Every January 1st, we make some resolutions about how we’re going to be different this year. We make big plans, drastic ones, sometimes. Lose weight, go to the gym every day. Cut out sugar or alcohol or cigarettes.
And the thing is, we don’t just make one resolution; we make a few. And they’re all grand, sweeping, change your life kind of resolutions.
Except that they rarely work. By February – or maybe even early January – they’re just a distant memory,
We have all kinds of reasons why they didn’t work: there was no time to get to the gym, it’s hard to eat healthy when you have a crazy schedule, you just don’t have the time right now.
Those are more excuses than reasons. Some people might say that if you had really wanted those things, you would have found a way.
And that might be true.
But here’s another truth: you’re doing it wrong, right from the beginning and you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Let’s Talk About How it Feels
Most resolutions or vows to do better are made because there is something about ourselves or our lives that we don’t like, or that we wish were better. We feel bad about the way we look, or the number on the scale, or not spending enough time with our kids, or you fill in the blank.
We want to change because we want better.
So you decide to do things differently. You go from one extreme to another. Go big or go home, right? No pain, no gain?
I use the analogy of losing weight because it’s easy to understand and for many people to relate to, but the same principles apply no matter what you’re trying to change.
Here’s the way it goes:
So basically, you feel bad, you try to make changes and do too much at once, which leads to failure. And then you feel worse than when you started.
Not only do you feel worse, but you’re likely to do something to make yourself feel better (temporarily) and end up even deeper in the hole.
There’s a reason that people who fail at a diet often end up weighing more than they did before.
Let’s Change the Way We Change Things
I know. You’ve been waiting for this miraculous easy, simple way to make lasting change, and all I’ve talked about is all the things you’re doing wrong. But I think it’s important that you understand why your way is ineffective: you’re trying to do too much, too fast.
Because that’s the culture we live in. We want what we want and we want it yesterday.
Let’s freeze our fat or have it sucked out. That’s way easier and faster than diet and exercise. Those are hard and slow. We don’t like slow and we certainly don’t like hard.
Now if you read the headline of this article and thought, “A simple way for lasting change? No way!”, it’s most likely because you’re still thinking with the wrong mindset. Drastic change, fast results.
My way will give you lasting change, maybe even drastic change, but very slowly. Ahhh….you knew there was a catch, didn’t you?
Slow changes, made consistently over time, always heading towards your goal, will give you lasting change. And not only that, it will give you easy steps to follow and make you feel good.
No more feeling bad about something in your life, because you are making changes. You are being consistent with them every day, and every day you have more success. And you can do this because the steps and changes are easy. You decide what they are, you can change them at any time, and you can make them as easy as you want. In fact, it’s encouraged.
It’s Called What?
Kaizen. It rhymes with fly + zen, or shy + zen. Like kite without the t sound. Kaizen.
Kaizen is a Japanese concept adopted from an American one.
During the depression, American manufacturers came up with the idea of continuous small improvements in order to make their companies stronger, more efficient, and ultimately more successful. Many people say this contributed to the U.S. winning WWII.
Japan learned this practice from us. General MacArthur instituted it when we helped Japan rebuild after the war. It was the Japanese who named it Kaizen.
We don’t have to be running a huge company to take advantage of the principle of Kaizen.
As Thomas Oppong points out in How to be 1% Better Every Day, it’s easy to apply this same idea to your personal life.
Now I don’t know about you, but I have no way of measuring what 1% better looks like in my life on any given day.
I write this blog, I clean the house and cook, sometimes I craft, I volunteer. I do lots of things. What does 1% of that look like? If my house were 1% cleaner tomorrow, would anyone even notice? Would I? Probably not.
But I can still use the idea of small changes made over time to improve my life.
I am big on being a life long learner, taking good care of myself (or trying, anyway), and reading books that help me in some way. Right now I am reading two, and they both recommend the use of affirmations daily. I think it’s a great idea. I think it would help me a lot.
Do I do them? No. I could give you my list of reasons (excuses), but instead, let’s look at what I can do. A small change I can make.
These books suggest 3 – 5 affirmations several times a day. That’s a lot, and a lot to remember.
So here is my small step: one very short affirmation (I am worthy). It’s easy to remember, but maybe not so easy to remember several times a day when I might want to use it. Remembering to use it, I mean. So, I can add a note to my planner, and if I’m ambitious, to my phone.
And that’s all I might do for a few weeks until it becomes second nature. And then I can add a second one. Slow, but very effective.
How Can You Make Some Lasting Changes in Your Life?
I should have rephrased that; you only want to work on one change at a time. I would suggest no more than 2 or 3 for the entire year, taken one at a time.
Start by taking a look at your life and deciding where the biggest benefit would be:
- Your job?
- Personal development?
If you decide on your health, here are some ideas to start you off:
- Make a doctor’s appointment
- Start drinking one more glass of water a day – or better yet, water instead of a soda
- Park a little bit farther away each day
- Eat one more fruit or vegetable a day, or one less sweet
If finances are your focus:
- See if your bank has a program that rounds up your purchases and adds them to a savings account
- Start a payroll deduction to a savings account for whatever is comfortable for you
- Eliminate one regular purchase each week – if you buy coffee out every day, skip one day and have water instead
- Add $5.00 extra to your credit card payment each month
If you need to make changes in your job, think about what kinds of changes you’re looking for. Do you want a new job? Can you find a way to change the one you have? What about finding one positive thing about it every day, or every week?
Don’t be afraid to make your changes small. That’s the entire point. They need to be so small that you can’t possibly fail.
Let’s say you want to drink more water each day, but you hate it. One glass of water is just not possible. It’s too much and you end up avoiding it.
So change the size of your glass. Get a 4 oz glass instead, or a shot glass if you have to. It’s OK. It’s more water than you’ve been drinking and it’s easy enough that you will succeed every day.
That’s the point. Set yourself up for success. Be a winner.