The changes we seek may be relatively small or short-term, such as losing those holiday love handles or decluttering the garage. We may also feel a strong desire or need for more profound, long-term transformation in the form of a career change, quitting long-term habit, or moving to a new town.
Whether we deliberately pursue personal transformation and growth or have it thrust upon us, we can greatly improve our chances of achieving success by preparing for the changes we seek.
Understanding the Logical Levels of Change
In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), we use the Five Logical Levels to understand what’s involved in making personal change. This is a simple model that gives five useful windows through which to view any issue.((NLP Center: What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming -NLP- and Why to Learn It))
Here’s a quick breakdown of the five Logical Levels:
- Identity – Who are you? What roles do you play in your life?
- Beliefs – Why do you do what you do? What are your values and beliefs?
- Capabilities – How do you do things? What are your skills and strategies?
- Behaviors – What are you doing? What are your current behaviors?
- Environment – Where, when and with whom are you displaying your behaviors?
Changes and factors at each level impact those above and below it to a greater or lesser degree. For example, changing your environment may affect the levels above it, but altering a belief you hold will most certainly influence the levels below it.
To shift a behavior, which is the level we typically target when we resolve to ‘make a change’ in our lives, we often need to become aware of and adjust our underlying beliefs and sense of self, build our capabilities to include new skills, and possibly support the shift by changing our environment.
Let’s use an example to walk through each level; you’re unhappy in your current career as a Chartered Accountant, and have decided to go back to school to retrain as a Registered Massage Therapist.
- Identity – is your purpose to be happy and fulfilled, or to be the successful bread-winner of your family?
- Beliefs – do you value helping others? How much do you value income and status vs. happiness and satisfaction? Do you believe you are capable of making the necessary changes?
- Capabilities – how will you gain the skills you need to become a massage therapist? What training will you need? What soft skills will you need that you don’t currently have (i.e. communication, making people feel at ease)? Are you willing to do what it takes to obtain these new capabilities?
- Behaviors – aside from physically leaving your current job, what other behaviors might need to change? Will you need to cut down on luxuries to afford the transition? Are your beliefs in line with the changes you will need to make?
- Environment – does your current environment support the necessary changes (i.e. your spouse, boss)? Will you be able to study and work in your current situation, or will you need to move? When is the best time to make the transition?
8 Ways to Prepare for Change
Now that you have an understanding of the logics involved in making a life change, here are 8 tips to help you navigate transitions both small and large, and set you firmly on the path toward the life of your dreams.((Positive News: Positive Psychology: Five keys to preparing for change))
1. Get Clear on Your Desired Outcome
Take the time to clearly define exactly what it is you want to accomplish with the change in terms of what it will look like, when you want it to happen, how long you want it to take, and a basic outline of how you will accomplish it.
This is particularly important for those who like to jump right in once they’ve made a decision; enthusiasm is wonderful and will serve you well, but you also need a clear path and solid understanding of what it is you want.
2. Create a Pros and Cons List
It’s inevitable that with big change comes fear and doubt. Even when we know a particular decision is right for us and will benefit us in the long-term, we may feel a pull back to the familiar and comforting behaviors, habits, jobs and situations we are attempting to leave behind.
Make a list of the reasons you want to change. What are the deeper desires behind your decision? What specific positive outcomes will you experience as a result of your change? And finally, what are the negative consequences of NOT changing?
Create a detailed list of your answers to these questions, and post them where you will be able to review them often. When doubt creeps in, or when your motivation lags, your list will serve as an encouraging reminder of why you’re doing all this in the first place.
3. Imagine the Outcome
In NLP, we refer to this important step in accomplishing any chosen goal or outcome as Future Pacing. Simply put, you imagine and visualize the end result of the change you are making.
This step accomplishes two important things:
One, you now have a richly imagined successful future outcome as positive motivation on your journey; and two, from your imagined place of success, you can then ask yourself how you got there, creatively envisioning overcoming any obstacles and challenges from a place of guaranteed achievement.
Richly visualizing the life you will experience after you have accomplished your goals as a daily exercise is also a great way to practice manifesting your reality.
4. Ecology Check
Another NLP term, an ecology check is simply holding your envisioned end result up to the microscope of inquiry:
- What possible obstacles or conflicts may arise?
- What mindsets, habits or behaviors might sabotage your efforts?
- How will achieving your desired change affect others in your life (family, friends)?
- Are there any sacrifices you will need to make? Are you ready to make them?
- How will your life need to change in order for you to achieve your end result?
- Is the end result aligned with your core values and beliefs?
Asking yourself these important questions before you embark on a significant life change can save you time, effort and heartache, and allow you to make any necessary adjustments ahead of time.
5. Build Your Assets
Make a list of any assets you currently have, such as money and other resources, skills, training, talents and supportive individuals.
Now make a list of those assets, you still need to acquire in order to successfully accomplish the change before you, including things like adopting new mindsets and behaviors, training and education, mentorship, and physical assets such as living and working spaces, loans or transportation.
Make a plan for how you will obtain any skill or resources that are currently lacking.
6. Create Contingency Plans for Possible Obstacles
Once you’ve envisioned your desired future outcome, and scrutinized it for possible challenges and obstacles, you can come up with plans for those possibilities.
You don’t have to go into too much detail; just decide ahead of time how you might handle the bumps in the road should they arise.
For instance, if you anticipate resistance to your life decision from those around you, you might prepare a short and punchy answer to the question of why you’re doing it.
7. Create an Action Plan
It’s easy to become overwhelmed when we are facing big life changes, even those we choose and want. Any worthwhile life change involves letting go of familiarity and stepping outside our comfort zones, and this can be a frightening experience.
Having a clearly defined action plan will not only help you stay on track with your progress, but also provide you with reassuring structure in the midst of what may at times feel like chaos.
When you formulate your plan, be sure to chunk it down into manageable, preferably daily tasks and action items, and set several achievable milestones along the way towards your end goal.
8. Keep Calm and Carry On
Remember to be compassionate with yourself. Making significant personal and life changes can be challenging, and as with any journey, there will be bumps as well as milestones along the way.
You will make mistakes, and there will be unforeseen setbacks. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Stay present as best you can, stick with your action plan, and review that Pros and Cons list you created to remind yourself of why it’s all worthwhile.
Take time each day to visualize your desired outcome, and don’t forget to celebrate those little milestones and victories along the way.
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. — Barack Obama
And therefore, you’re the only one who is responsible to change yourself for a better life.
Before you decide to make changes, be clear about what you want and what you need. And identify the skills you need and find the environment that supports you to make the change you desire.
Keep calm and carry on, and you will be the change you’ve always wanted!