Change takes more than simple thoughts or strategy. If a business wants to change the culture it cannot do it by just talking about change. It can’t simply identify ideal values and tell the staff to adopt them. An individual can’t change by thinking about the change, he or she must consistently change actions and behaviors. By doing this, his or her mindset will start to change.
In an article titled Aging and Attitude Change, authors Tom R. Tyler and Regina A. Schuller evaluate change from 2 models. The first model focuses on change being possible in early years rather than consistently throughout life. The second model claimed that there was an openness to attitude change throughout life.
One of the key takeaways that I found was personal experiences were the driving factor for change. They concluded that the openness model, regardless of age, was validated. This is very interesting.
Despite many beliefs that argue age is the major controlling factor in the willingness to change, the authors found this to be untrue. The fact that experience was a precursor to change was also very important and points to actions and behaviors rather than simple shifts in thought.
How can we use this insight to truly change something about ourselves? Many authors have argued that there is an invisible law of attraction that states that if you want something and think hard enough it will appear. I have found this to be largely untrue. Thoughts alone don’t attract change. But specific action can have a great impact on ability to change.
Ghandi once said “your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values and your values become your destiny.”
The problem for me was always that no matter how hard I wanted to change, I just couldn’t make change last. It may have started with beliefs but usually got stuck right around actions and habits.
For years I struggled to exercise. I would convince myself that I was going to succeed, buy necessary exercise equipment, motivate myself, talk to others about my new goals…and then crash and burn after about 2 weeks. I always seemed to get stuck at developing new habits rather than individual actions.
But habits are the crucial piece that so often gets overlooked. Our habits are much more than we realize. In fact some psychologists estimate that 90% of our lives are habitual. They are simply taking patterned responses to situations so that our mind is free to focus on other things.
Until we unlock this autopilot response, our habits will continue to move us in one specific direction. It doesn’t matter how much we think about changing or even our wants and desires for change. More often than not it is what we do to change, and what we do repeatedly.
This is the key. To repeatedly do something until it becomes a habit. That is the major obstacle for most people. It certainly was for me when I was younger. I was always frustrated when I couldn’t seem to reach any of my goals.
This insight isn’t new. This has been around for centuries. In fact, Aristotle has a famous quote that sums this up perfectly. He said “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” What do you repeatedly do?