Here is the step that makes all the difference between keeping our New Year resolutions – and not. Step 4 in the Success Cycle is “action”. It is actually about taking actions that align with our vision.
I got my inspiration for the Success Cycle from a quote from Joel Barker, who said:
“Vision without Action is merely a dream. Action without Vision just passes the time. Vision with Action can change the world.”
I built the Success Cycle around this principle and joined up Vision and Action using goal setting, planning, monitoring and review / celebration. So, in today’s post I am going to take you through how to align new actions with our new vision of ourself and our life at the end of the year.
Just to remind ourselves, we started by creating a compelling vision or dream of what we wanted for 31st December 2018 (Step 1). We broke that down into some compelling goals (Step 2) and developed milestone plans to achieve those goals (Step 3). We also sneaked ahead to decide how we will monitor progress against plan (Step 5). But it is Step 4 that is often the tricky one.
Life is full of good intentions. We often plan, even promise, to do something new or different and end up slipping back to what we have done before. Habits are very powerful and highly resistant to change. So, how can we change our habits and align our actions to our new vision?
Just as we develop habits, so it is possible to change them. A combination of motives, determination and technique helps.
Motives & determination
Motivation is about satisfying needs or wants. The clearer, sharper, more attractive, desirable and aspirational our vision is the more it will act as a motivator for us to change our actions or behaviour. The benefits of achieving the vision must outweigh the benefits of not doing so. Ultimately we have to persuade ourselves that we want the new situation, according to our vision, more than we want the current one.
Determination is an attitude of mind and can be linked to being motivated. The more we can envisage the benefits of achieving our vision and goals, the more we can build our determination to succeed.
There are many techniques for changing habits and these are just a few of of them.
Break the pattern
Habits are closely linked to patterns of behaviour. So, when I was a smoker – years ago – I would always light up a cigarette when I changed my location; leaving somewhere, arriving somewhere. I couldn’t stop leaving or arriving at places but I broke the pattern by eating mints instead of having a cigarette every time I did so. As for my resolution to eat more healthily, my current pattern is that there is no real pattern to my meal times. So I am going to break this pattern by creating one. I shall have a breakfast of porridge and honey every morning. I am also going to drink a lot more water, by taking a water bottle around with me and by drinking water rather than tea when I am working at my desk. Other changes will follow once I have established this new pattern as a habit.
Make healthy choices
Every choice we make is between options that are more or less healthy. Or between actions that are either aligned or misaligned to our vision. If we programme ourselves, through determination, always to make the healthy choice then we will gradually develop new habits that may well displace the old ones.
A technique I use to help with this is to draw up lists of healthy and their opposite unhealthy choices. I then tick off the actions I take each day and count up the number on each list. Over time the number of ticks on the healthy list increases and overtakes those on the unhealthy. I can track the numbers and see the improvement.
Make it visible
Visual reminders of our vision and goals can help. Surrounding ourselves with visible reminders around our daily life, using whichever technologies we like, are a great way of building motivation and determination. I put prompts in the space around my computer screen. Some people set up screen savers, notes on doors and fridges and other visual spaces that they use often.
Make it public
Sharing our vision with others and asking them to encourage us and to reinforce our positive actions can be a great help. Their nudging us along and their support can be very motivational.
Reward the positive
Reward reinforces positive actions. It is the basis of psychological conditioning and is used in everything from dog training to some approaches to education. We can reward ourselves, or arrange for others to reward us, when we we choose actions aligned to our vision, or when we achieve milestones. We just have to make sure the rewards are commensurate with the actions or achievements.
In Step 5 we set up some monitors to track our progress and to check whether we are doing what we plan to do. Using these monitors regularly themselves reinforce positive actions and motivate us to continue.
Whichever techniques you decide to use, regular reference to your vision, goals and plan will always help as will using the monitor system you have set up.
Tomorrow we will examine Step 6 of the Success Cycle, when we review and celebrate.
Let me know if you want further support with achieving your goals.
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