We often see that we can stick to a plan for long-term change over a short period, but then the whole thing derails and we go back to our usual ways. No matter what we want to accomplish, how much we want that change to happen or how much it will affect our life or our business, sometimes we completely forget that we have committed to it.
The New Year is still fresh, and a huge majority of us already failed to stay committed to whatever it is that we set out to do full of zeal. But it does not need to be that way. All it takes is some mind power to remain committed. Not that easy, right? So, how do we make the switch from short term change to long term change?
Whenever I get stuck and lose sight of my priorities, I apply the Picasso Rule. Once, asked by his need to constantly change his painting style to explore new concepts, Picasso said, “Our goals can only be reached by means of a plan, in which we must fervently believe and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success”.
Why do we fail in our plan for long-term change?
Take the example of an entrepreneur who keeps thinking that she should explore new markets to expand her business but never actually makes the time to lay the groundwork for it. Or someone who is so disorganized that her business is being affected by it. Even yet, a person who is so shy that her business marketing is taking a hit.
We cannot really say that these people ‘forget’ their problems; it is their attention that is not on their commitment to explore new market opportunities, become more organized, or network. These are all life-impacting situations reminding them of the need for long-term change every single day.
So, if we know that change and constantly adapting is a big part of being successful, then why do we fail?
The brain has its own ways
Now, we have a robust scientific base to affirm that the only way of creating behavior change is through habit formation, and we also know scientifically that if we change habits we will be able to create a sustainable and successful change.
This change process lies deep within our brain. When the brain is habituated to a particular behavior –let’s say that you start your day reading and responding to emails despite knowing that it is time consuming, and affects your mood and effectiveness– that’s because the brain is working at a level that is deep and ingrained and is controlling your actions.
To overcome what your brain believes is normal takes time, patience and most of all, motivation. When you realize this is when the Picasso Rule never fails. There is nothing that ignites your motivation more than firmly believing in what you want to do and heartily acting upon it!
A plan for long-term change
The process of change is never simple. There are so many stages that you go through, even to begin making changes.
- First, you realize that a problem exists.
- Next, you start thinking about the need to rectify it.
- The next step is to chart out the action plan for long-term change and
- Then you take the first step in implementing it.
This entire process can be said to be the preparation stage. However, “Action is the foundational key to all success,” said Picasso, and the first step to implement the plan for long-term change marks the beginning of the action stage.
Beyond this stage is where the challenge happens. No matter what your goal, whether you want to become a better decision-maker, or you want to improve your fitness or you want to do better in your business, the key is to make the changes you think are essential and to keep working at them.
“When they tell me I am too old to do something, I attempt it immediately”, said Picasso. He was motivated. The main reason we start so many grand ideas but fail to sustain them is that we lack the motivation to keep at it.
Look at it deeply and it is quite simple to understand. At some point, we no longer feel happy about doing it or we lose conviction that doing this can really yield the results we seek.
When you are motivated about the goal, these feelings do not find place in your psyche. However, when your motivation levels are low, doubts begin to creep in, and you wonder if all the effort is really worth it.
To keep motivated and consequently, sticking to the plan for long-term change, what you need is to constantly remind yourself that you are making a positive difference with every single step you take towards the goal.
Evaluate your progress periodically and compare it against achievable milestones that you have set for yourself. Let this be your way of reminding yourself of how far you have already come in your journey.
Being aware that you have actually made a difference with your efforts gives you the motivation to keep working at it because you are assured that you are really making headway.
I would only add three more small recommendations that have always helped me to navigate through difficult times of change:
- Own your strengths;
- Have the humility to see where you need the strength of others and simply ask for help; and lastly, and most fundamental,
- Keep your mind open and impressionable to change.
With these steps in mind, you can shoot for the moon because, as Picasso reminds us, “Everything you can imagine is real”.