#167: 6 Keys to Making Important Changes in Your Life Stick

Most of us realize that we are not perfect. In this imperfect state we recognize the need to change; to refine ourselves in some way to become better. But what is better? And how do we make changes in ourselves that will stick over time? While the answers to these questions aren’t hard to get, making the changes stick is hard.

Rowboat, Changes

6 Keys to Making Important Changes in Your Life Stick

1. Looking Backward to See Ahead

There is a Japanese proverb that may be roughly paraphrased, “A man in a rowboat looks behind to see where he is going.” If you’ve ever tried to maneuver a rowboat you know it is a constant exercise in turning around to see where you’re going and turning back around you to see where you’ve been. By picking out a point in front and behind you can draw an imaginary line between the two that helps keep the boat on course.

The first step in making positive, lasting change in your life is to understand where you have been. Like rowing the boat, it is important to look back at where you’ve been to help understand where you are going.

2. Behavior Reflects Values

Another thing we can learn from our past is what our values are (not what we would like to think they are). Our values are reflected in our behavior. For example, you may say you value persistence but you frequently quit projects before they are completed. So your behavior reflects your true values. If you don’t like what you see in the values mirror, there is a behavior you need to change.

Values that are important in the world are not values that are important to God. Men value power, possessions, and prestige. But these are not God’s values, “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world” (I John 2:16).

3. Develop A Values Based Vision

One author described vision as what you hope would be said at your funeral: “He was a man of great integrity” versus “He was an inconsiderate, self-centered jerk.”

A vision is a picture of what you want to achieve by the end of your life. Paul writing again to the Romans said, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2). Our personal vision should be based on the values that we have established for ourselves.

When we have a values-based vision firmly in mind we can put into place the changes we want to make in our lives. As the change is enacted we gain strength from our relationship with God, “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).

4. Surround Yourself with the Right People

Making change stick is tough, but you can enhance your chances significantly if you surround yourself with the right people. Solomon wrote, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17).

We need to surround ourselves with people who understand what we are trying to do, who will challenge us, hold us accountable, and encourage us. These people may be part of our work team, peers, mentors, or members of a more formal accountability group. Whoever they are and whatever role they play in our lives, we need to enroll people who can aid our change process.

5. Prepare Yourself for Adversity

The change will not come without difficulty. Work habits and social habits are learned over a long period of time so don’t expect to change without struggling. We should not avoid trying to change because of worry, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). So in the midst of your struggle to change, keep God involved through prayer.

When the time comes that you suffer a setback, remember that even in our difficulties God will bring some good, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).

6. Trust in God

Here is the most difficult step in making a lasting change. Trusting in God. Especially at work, we want to believe that we can control everything and don’t think about needing God’s help, but nothing could be further from the truth. God wants us to trust in Him to help make these changes, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13).

God is not, as some people fear, a cosmic killjoy. He wants us to lead good lives that honor Him, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11).

One Final Thought

Deciding what to change may be laborious but it is not particularly difficult. Making the changes in our lives and making them last is the really hard part.

There is one over-riding principle that we must keep in mind throughout the whole analysis and change process, and that is we need to make changes that honor God. Don’t worry about making changes in your life that make you more acceptable to the “world.” Rather, focus on making changes that make you more acceptable to God.

Paul writing to the Galatians said, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want (Gal 5:16-17). If you struggle with the change that you know is from God, then recognize that it is your sinful nature. Keep your attention focused on God and His plan for your life. When you do, you will have God’s power to help you, and who could possibly be a better mentor than God?

Bonus WhitePaper

This week’s post is excerpted from an 11-page whitepaper entitled “Under Construction–How to make Changes in Your Life.”

This whitepaper is a broader discussion of how to make important changes in your life, including:

  • 5 practical things to focus on as you begin to make important changes in your life.
  • 3 steps to help clarify your values.
  • a case study.
  • meeting notes to help employees identify what they want to change.
  • 10 tips to help you determine what and how to get started.
  • some great quotes to keep you motivated.

You can download the free 11-page whitepaper here: “Under Construction–How to make Changes in Your Life.”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. What barriers have you have struggled with to make important changes in your life stick?

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Category: Skills | Change