Updated on November 6th, 2018
Do you equate making a change with taking the actions to bring it about? Most of us do. Yet before we can make change in real life, we go through a process of getting ready for it.
This can be lengthy, but ignore it at your peril, as it can hold up or even doom your change.
The good news? You can work on your change readiness – read on for my 5 Top Tips on how to do that!
As a coach, I help people find or renew their life direction. Many of my clients are actually not quite ready for a change in their life. Mostly that’s because, even though they know they need a change, they actually don’t know what that is.
I help them find out – but not-knowing-what is just one reason for not being ready to change. Here are some others:
- Not acknowledging or denying that we need a change, or even that we have a problem that needs addressing.
- Realising we need a change, but not committing to it yet.
- Not sufficiently understanding our change: What we need and why, and which options we have in order to go through with it. Or not having a compelling reason to change.
- Not feeling prepared enough – either psychologically, logistically, or physically – to actually make our move.
It’s easy to get stuck in not being ready for change, for fear of picking the wrong path, being judged, or experiencing discomfort.
Typical signs that you’re stuck
Have you observed yourself:
- vigorously denying that you have a problem or need to change your behaviour, when someone confronted you with it?
As in: “Should you really eat that additional slice of chocolate cake?” And you answering: “What do you mean? I’m really offended by that! I can eat whatever I want whenever I want!”
- researching and analysing your change to death, and still feeling you haven’t got enough information?
And the more detail you dig up, the less clear you become about what you want to do? I call this Analysis Paralysis.
- postponing and procrastinating what you know you could get on with?
Saying to yourself you’ll do it later, there’s still time, now is not the right time, wait for a better moment?
- making excuses for not getting on with a change you want?
You will know when your reasons-why-not are real reasons not to get started just yet, and when they’re excuses. (Because if you wanted to, you could get started.)
Have you experienced these signs – or other ones along these lines?
Andy Warhol quite aptly observed that:
“When people are ready, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them.”
And that’s because…
Change is a process
The scientific proof for it comes from American Psychologists and University Professors James Prochaska, John Norcross and Carlo DiClemente, who have extensively researched how people successfully change unhelpful (and even addictive) behaviours.
They discovered that the notion that we change by a dramatic and discrete act of willpower (e.g. we ‘suddenly’ stop smoking, give up the booze, lose that weight) is a myth.
Instead, change is a process, much of which is an internal getting ready for action, and therefore happens unseen to others. This process has 6 defined steps, which we all go through.
My own simplified take on this is that:
In fact, change is an iceberg
The large bulk of our change process is under water – that is, it happens inside us, as we work to get ready to make our change.
This internal, invisible process involves:
- Understanding what’s going on in our life.
- Facing up to our issues.
- Acknowledging we need to make a change.
- Thinking seriously about how to solve our issue, or make the change we want.
- Committing to making our change.
- Planning, preparing and testing it.
- And overcoming our inner gremlins such as fears, procrastination, or making excuses.
Until we finally feel ready to take action and make the change we want in our life.
What does this mean?
This means some bad news and some good news
This inner process – necessary and normal as it is – can take a long time: For some a life time, if we go by Andy Warhol’s quote above!
The danger here is that you can get stuck in getting ready and preparing, forever talking about your change, yet putting off real-world action towards it.
Staying stuck in ‘getting ready mode’ can become your very own Titanic disaster, and sink your change ship for good. So look out, and look after the underwater part of your change!
That’s the bad news. And the good news?
For starters, you won’t have to beat yourself up anymore about not immediately springing into action about a change you want to make in your life. Because taking your time to get ready for it is… normal and healthy!
Secondly, giving proper attention to the inner stages of your change – rather than unconvincedly and unpreparedly rushing into action because you feel you have to – will increase your commitment and your chances of lasting success.
So your change ship can stay afloat!
What to do if you’re stuck? 5 Top Tips
If you recognise yourself in the signs of being stuck, as listed earlier in this post, below are my 5 Top Tips for moving through your internal preparation stage, so you can free your change ship from being stuck to the underwater part of the iceberg. And eventually emerge into the action part of your change – making it happen in the real world.
(If yours is a general feeling of stuckness, head over to my post on 2 Principles and 6 Top Tips for Getting Unstuck.)
1 Create awareness and acceptance of needing a change
This is a tricky one: It’s about becoming aware of something you may not be aware of!
So observe others’ comments about your behaviour: Are you hearing similar remarks about your behaviour again and again, from different people? Observe your reaction to them: Are you feeling defensive? Offended? Are you brushing them off?
For a minute just entertain this thought: What if there was at least a grain of truth in what these people are saying? And if you allowed yourself to admit that you do have a problem or a need for change – what would it be?
2 Get inspiration and build excitement
Research, gather and test ideas related to the change you want. Keep things open for a while. Follow your interests. Be curious. Experiment.
Try things on for size: How do they sit with you? How do they make you feel? Take notice, but don’t judge. Instead, allow for trial and error: If you end up in a blind alley, or with something that isn’t right for you, treat this as valuable information about what you don’t want. And think about what you do want instead.
Savour the feeling for the potential and possibilities of your change, and let yourself be excited about it.
3 Talk to someone
Someone you trust, who will be friendly and supportive. Who will ask you questions, and listen to you finding your own answers. And help you work through your process towards readiness.
This could be a friend, a family member, a trusted work colleague. Or a coach. It could even be more than one person.
Speaking out your thoughts will make you work for clarity, identify what’s missing or what’s stopping you, and help you find your own ways of becoming ready for your change.
4 Find your compelling reason-why
What makes this change really important for you? What is it going to mean for you?
What will it allow you to move towards that really excites you, or fills you with anticipation and joy? A new home in a location of your choice. A new professional challenge and the feeling of stretch and growth this will bring. A new love. Deeper understanding and wisdom. Or greater peace of mind, satisfaction, happiness… Whatever it is for you!
Alternatively, you could ask yourself:
What will it allow you to move away from that really frees you, or fills you with relief? A constraining work schedule. A bully in your personal life. A toxic relationship. Over-thinking things. Feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Whatever it is for you!
5 Increase the urgency for your change
What will happen if you don’t make this change? Paint a vivid picture of the negative repercussions you’ll suffer by staying put in a life or situation you don’t love anymore. When I worked in Change Management, we used to call this technique ‘Burning Platform’. Is yours burning hot enough for you to want to jump off it?
You could also use external means to raise your sense of urgency: Set yourself a date by when you want to start. If you want to be radical, burn a few bridges – in a positive way, just to make it impossible for you to go back on yourself.
How ready are you for your change?
If you’re not sure, take my fun little quiz, find out, and win yourself a prize to help you move forward wherever you’re at!
Over to you now…
What are your experiences of getting ready for change?
I’d love to read your comments, please share below!