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Change for the Better!
Posted: April 23, 2013
It can be said that everybody needs to change a few things if they want to experience more success and more happiness.  As the great basketball coach John Wooden used to say, "Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be."   
 
The good news is there's a process you can use to change or eliminate any non-productive behavior.  In brief, to make effective change, the following steps are recommended.
 
1.  Focus on changing one problematic area.
 
You may have twenty different things you need to change, but start with one.  Trying to tackle all twenty problems at once is like releasing twenty pinballs in a pinball machine all at the same time.  You'll see a lot of activity, score a few points, but have most of your balls go nowhere but down the tube.  You'll accomplish a great deal more if you're focused on one area of change rather than be distracted by several areas.
 
2.  Focus on daily successes.
 
Chances are you didn't get your non-productive behavior overnight, and you won't overcome it overnight.  So don't get all frustrated with yourself when you don't find yourself changing as rapidly as you would like.
 
Remember the old joke, "How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time."  Take heed.  Break your chosen non-productive behavior into bite-size pieces.  You may not have enough strength and skill to completely change a lifelong behavior all at once, but you can make a step in the right direction almost every day.
 
There's another old saying: "Life by the yard is hard, but by the inch, it's a cinch."  Perhaps that's why Dear Abby publishes her version of the "Just For Today" poem each year.  As she says:   
 
JUST FOR TODAY, I will live through this day only. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my problems at once. I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime. 
JUST FOR TODAY, I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine. 
JUST FOR TODAY, I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things I can correct and accept those I cannot. 
JUST FOR TODAY, I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer. 
JUST FOR TODAY, I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I'll not speak ill of others. I will improve my appearance, speak softly, and not interrupt when someone else is talking. 
JUST FOR TODAY, I will refrain from improving anybody but myself. 
JUST FOR TODAY, I will do something positive to improve my health. If I'm a smoker, I'll quit. If I am overweight, I will eat healthfully - if only just for today. And not only that, I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it's only around the block. 
JUST FOR TODAY, I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions. 
 
Dear Abby is right.  You can make amazing progress on any or all of your goals or non-productive behaviors if you take it day by day.  And then...
 
3.  Focus on the positive, not the negative.
 
You've heard about being stuck in a rut.  Well, it's literally true.  Every time you think a thought, it sends an electrical impulse across your brain and that impulse creates a path.  Every time you think the same thought, the path ... or the rut... gets deeper and deeper and reinforces that same brain pattern.  
 
Chances are you have some negative ruts in your mind because you've thought the same negative things over and over.  You've thought about that irritating colleague or your tendency to shirk your responsibilities repeatedly.  And guess what, the more you think about those things, the more they will dominate your life and your behavior.  You see ... what you focus on is what you move toward, and whatever has your attention has you.
 
So what's the answer?  You change the mental channel of your mind.  Every time that negative thought comes into your mind, think about something positive instead.  And over time, the process works beautifully.
 
5.  Focus on doing good, not feeling good.
 
If you wait until you feel like changing, you'll never change.  But if you go ahead and do the right thing, your feelings will eventually catch up with you.  If you don't feel loving toward your spouse, for example, begin to act loving, and the feelings will come.  If you wait until you feel like it, you may wait forever.
 
You've probably heard someone say, "Fake it 'till you make it."  Perhaps you've read it in one of my "Tuesday Tips."  That's because it's always easier to act your way into a feeling than to feel your way into an action.
 
Do the right thing even though you don't feel like it. Do it because it's the right thing to do.  Anytime you try to change a major part of your life, it won't feel good at the start.  In fact, it will feel awkward.  It may even feel bad for a while because it doesn't feel normal.  And sometimes we are so used to feeling abnormal that abnormal doesn't feel good.
 
Let's say you're a workaholic, and you decide to do the right thing whether you feel like it or not.  So you go home at five, and you don't take any work home with you.  The first time you try this, it's going to feel weird.  The first time you try to relax, you may find that you don't know how to relax because you've worked so hard for so long.  Just keep on doing the right thing, over and over, and eventually your feelings will catch up with your behavior.
 
6. Focus on people who help you instead of block you.
 
The Bible says, "Do not be fooled: Bad friends will ruin good habits."  In other words, if you know what type of people lead you astray, stay away from them.  If you're struggling with negativity, don't go to lunch with your constantly complaining coworkers.  Bad idea.  If you're struggling with assertiveness, don't hang out with a friend who lets other people walk all over him.  Don't hang out with people who mess you up.
 
On the other hand, you DO need to hang around people who will help you make positive changes in your life.  There is power in numbers.  If you fall, you'll need the kind of friends who can help you out.
 
7.  Focus on progress, not perfection.
 

You should be seeking progress, not perfection.  Life change is a process. It's a decision you make followed by a process you take.

 

 

©2013 Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman, a full-time professional speaker who specializes in attitude, motivation, and leadership programs that pay off. For more information on his programs ... or to receive your own free subscription to the 'Tuesday Tip' ... go to http://www.drzimmerman.com/ or call 800-621-7881.

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