Saturday, May 24, 2008

INTERESTED in, or COMMITTED to change?

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

I was having a conversation with a woman a few days ago, and she asked me why it is that some techinques work for helping achieve goals, while others do not (she was specifically referencing weight loss, but this applies to any goal).

It was such a great question, because it gets to the heart of motivation to change. Psychologists and other behavioral health professionals dedicate entire careers to studying and researching behavior change - what works to get people to stick to something, what doens't work, what conditions need to be present before people decide to act, etc.

When we start talking about achieving goals, it often boils down to motivation. How motivated are you to take the steps necessary to propel you forward? And how motivated are you to take the needed steps to MAINTAIN the changes you've made?

And why is it, exactly, that our motivation tends to fluctuate? How can we have "willpower" one day, and not the next?

The good news is that psychological science has discovered answers to some of these questions! Now, whether you LIKE the answers or not is a separate issue....

When it comes to achieving a goal, whether it be growing your business, losing weight, keeping your house organized, or learning how to network more effectively, a whole series of conditions need to be met. Of course some goals consume more time and are more difficult than others, but the process appears to be the same.

In trying to understand the hows and whys of change and motivation, psychologists have developed a wonderful model that explains the intricacies of achieving goals. It is called the "Stage of Change Model" (psychologists aren't the most creative when it comes to naming things....).

In a nut shell, this model shows that people fall into different categories of readiness to change their behavior. It is a continuum, and at one end we have folks who exhibit exactly ZERO interest in changing their current situation, and at the other end we see folks who are ready to take specific steps to move forward.

For the average person, I recommend asking yourself the following question when you consider changing some circumstance in your life: "Am I COMMITTED to this change, or am I only INTERESTED in this change?"

Being committed to something means you are ready to take action, create an environment around you that will support your efforts, and you have the motivation and focus to see you through the change phase. People who launch a new business, or who are fed up with smoking and want to quit, or who begin a new diet fall into this category.

Being interested in something implies just that - interest in thinking about a particular goal, but no real motivation to take action. Usually this phase comes before the committment phase, and may last days, weeks, or even years before someone moves into the committment mode.

I believe it is important to honestly assess your level of interest or committment to something, because it can save you tons of emotional energy! If you want to lose weight, but simply lack the time and energy right now to devote to that endeavor, then you fall into the "interested" category. You don't have to beat yourself up for not achieving something or not "caring" enough about your weight to act on it.

You simply lack the resources right now to commit to doing something. And there is no harm or shame in that - it is completely normal! Sometimes we are so consumed with other things in our lives that we can't possibly put one more thing on our plate.

This is NOT lack of willpower. Rather, our willpower is directed towards other things at this moment. Research has shown that what we call "willpower" is like a muscle - we can exhaust our available willpower and have nothing left for other actions.

So don't beat yourself up if you aren't where you want to be, and you know that now is not the right time for attempting to change. Why set yourself up to fail?

Take the time to create what you DO need in order to embark upon that change. Hanging out in the "interested " phase allows you to research and plan for the specific actions you intend to take in the future. If you want to build your business but find yourself pulled into too many child-related activities, then put your time into planning for what you will do when you DO have the time.

And of course, work on MAKING that time eventually available - it will help you be more balanced, more fulfilled, and more accomplished!

Good luck,

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