The 3 Requirements for Effective Change

I’ve always been interested in change.

How to change, why people change, why people resist change, why people who want to change fail at changing … you get the point.

What makes change so compelling for me?

Movement

Change is what moves you forward in life.

People resistant to change usually fall under 2 groups:

  1. Those who usually don’t know what they want in life so they don’t want to move for fear of going in the wrong direction.
  2. Those who do know what they want but become paralyzed because they are not sure how to get there or there are too many options to choose from.

To the first group, I recommend that you do some self-reflection and really think about what you want and what your values are. An exercise that have helped me is to list on one piece of paper the answer to “If I could not fail, I would …” and to fill this list until the bottom of the page for 30 days. Only after you have some clarity of what you want in life will you be open to change.

To the second group, congratulations on knowing what you want. Now you just have to realize that most people don’t know how to get where they are going. They just launch themselves in motion and correct the course according to the feedback they get. Of course, by studying people who are successful in achieving what you want, you can come up with a good plan that can save you some time and energy. The main point for you is to just start.

Once you’ve decided that you are going to change (move towards your goal), you need to keep in mind 3 requirements for effective change:

1. Overwhelming Desire

To begin effective change, you must see the change as being a necessity. If the change is just “nice to have”, it won’t be sustainable because anything “nice to have” is also “ok not to have”. The stronger your desire for the change, the more effective the change will be. What is something you NEED to change in your life right now? Please write down the answer to this question somewhere. We’ll need it for later.

2. Begin at the Root

Thoughts are the root of all behavior. Before you can change your actions, you must change your thoughts. To change really means challenging your previous assumptions. It is impossible to keep all the same assumptions and still expect to effectively change. Look at the answer you just wrote down to the question above. What assumptions are you holding that is preventing the change? Challenge that assumption. Explore the possibility of that assumption being false. Understand that what worked before to get you where you are may not work to get you where you want to go.

3. Build the Habit

Once that assumption has been challenged and deemed to be incorrect. Think about how your actions will change now that the original assumption is no longer holding you back. What are the actions that are now possible that weren’t possible before? List the actions of change and prioritize the list to choose one action that would make the most positive impact in your life.

Now all that is left to do is that action, repeatedly … until it becomes a habit.

Once it becomes an automatic habit, repeat the process all over again to continue moving towards your goal.

Robert Chen

Robert Chen is a Business, Life and Career Coach and the founder of Embrace Possibility. He is passionate about helping you reach your highest potential. If you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.

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37 Comments

  1. “Build the habit”. . .yes indeed routine works Robert. I find that if I can muster enough enthusiasm to keep me consistent, I’m half way there. “There” being my goal.

    As Steven Covey says in his 7 Habis of Highly Effective People “Begin with the end in mind”. Even if I don’t know how to do something, if my “why” is in place and if I can visualize how it all turns out, I have a better shot at consistently being able to take the steps that move me forward. . . . and as we know the power is in the process. Thank you for your post.

    Reply
    • Hi Alison,

      You are exactly right with getting clear on the “why” and using visualization to send orders to the subconscious to help you figure out the “how” of achieving your desired outcome. I’ve found that it is really about keeping the faith in the process and knowing that you will reach your outcome.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  2. A great reminder that we need to design the life we really want, based on our core values, and then embrace the discomfort that comes with making personal change as that is the path to the life we really want. And after all, it is much better than living by accident (which is pretty much gambling with our one and only life).

    Reply
    • Great comment Ali.

      It is so important to design our lives according to our values but unfortunately many people haven’t even taken the first step to define what their core values are. I attribute my current happiness, productivity and well-being to looking within and really knowing what I want in life and then living my life to pursue it. Living life by accident is just not fun.

      Reply
  3. Robert, I am so impressed with your “to the point” advice and writing. And, your words are exactly what I needed to see today. Now, I’ll be following your blog. All the best to you!

    Reply
    • Hi Mary,

      I’m glad you liked my post. Change and personal mastery is not always easy so I try to at least make sure m articles are simple and practical. Thanks for the compliment and I hope I can continue to write articles that add value to you and my other readers.

      Reply
  4. Great advice. This is something that we can actually do today. No fancy words, just “do it now.”
    Unfortunately though, i think I belong to group one. But now, at least, I know.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Glori,

      Thanks for your comment. It is great that you are aware that you belong in group one. Many people think they know what they want but when they drill down deep, they found that what they wanted was either what someone else wanted for them or what they were told by society to want. I would recommend the exercise in the article and also Steve Palvina has an excellent article for eliciting your values (http://www.stevepavlina.com/articles/living-your-values-1.htm).

      Good luck and let me know how it goes.

      Reply
  5. Hi Robert,
    Good article. I believe the hardest part is not just the thoughts holding you back.. but deeper than that is the negative emotions behind that, fears, doubts, insecurities. And then deeper than that past negative experiences where you may have learnt that change is bad or failure is bad or whatever.

    Take something i’ve done recently, changed my sleeping habits as I was doing a night job before, it was strange the kinds of fears coming up. The fear that I would lose some of my friends, because I see them more at night than during the day and they are always up late at night was one big one. Fear that they would criticize me for my change, which happened initially but I let go of the emotions around that which just made my resolve stronger with doing this!

    It’s interesting because I was forced to get up early and hated it, then all of a sudden when I was free to I started staying up really late, aswell as with my job, but I still did it when I didn’t work after a while, it was like a ‘middle finger’ and rebellion subconsciously to being forced to do it.

    But now i’m doing it because it is *my* choice and I seem to be getting more done being up through the day and have more motivation.

    It was uncomfortable and I still have to be aware when stuff is coming up to try to stop me, but it is worth it!

    -Ben

    Reply
    • Hi Bill,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. It is a great example on how choice and knowing why you are doing something is so effective in creating sustainable change. It is always uncomfortable when you challenge the beliefs that you hold and go against the fears you naturally will have. I think the fear of not being accepted is always tough to overcome but it looks like you’re doing a great job in terms of separating other people’s criticism of you and who you really are. In life, your power comes from realizing you ALWAYS have the choice.

      -Robert

      Reply
  6. Hi Robert, excellent post. We are on the same page. This is an interesting little video I made recently where I ask 30 people ONE question – their replies are enlightening in some cases. Their openness is disarming. Hope you enjoy: http://bit.ly/HUE8Ko

    Reply
    • Awesome video Stuart. It is interesting to see the different reactions to the ONE question. I like how you build up the suspense on what the question is. Great job!

      Reply
      • Thanks Robert, it was fun to do – want to do more now. :)

        Reply
        • Hi Stuart,

          What would you do it on? Also, do you use a professional video camera? I like the quality that you have on your videos.

          Reply
          • I would ask a different question in a different town. The camera is a pretty basic flip screen, with built in mic.

          • Best of luck to you Stuart and let me know when the video comes out.

  7. If I understand you correctly you’re saying that resistance comes often from fear and uncertainty and that one way to tackle this is to reflect on what we want to do. As an alternative perhaps small creative experiments/actions could be helpful in working out what we really want to do or indeed making some progress especially if we reflect afterwards?

    Reply
    • Hi Peter,

      I think the only way to know what you want to do is by taking action but you might be able to find a better starting point for your experiments by reflecting on your previous experiences and seeing what valuable information you can get from those to determine the next experiment you want to take. I definitely lead my life to what is called the “homing missile” approach where I just experiment and adjust according to the feedback that I get.

      Thanks for pointing that out and helping me to further clarify my ideas.

      Reply
  8. So true Robert. It’s that inner resistance that makes change so hard in the first place.

    Reply
    • Hi Justin,

      Inner resistance is always hard to handle because it is coming from the inside. It is something that is in us. What I have found helpful is to challenge the belief that is causing the inner resistance by first looking at what the positive intention of the resistance is. I believe that the resistance in some way is trying to help us but that help may be based on assumptions that are no longer true.

      Let me know if this method of finding the positive intention works for you.

      Reply
  9. Robert, I have witnessed both types of people and as a person who has been through change, I can say that if its not from the inside there is a great chance that change will not occur.

    Reply
    • Well said Lavaris,

      It is very hard to have sustainable change without changing from the inside. I can’t imagine how someone would be motivated enough to build a habit if there wasn’t a strong belief in how the change will help them. The comfort zone is comfortable and without inner commitment, it’s tough to stretch out of it.

      What are some ways you’ve been able to initiate and sustain change?

      Reply
  10. Great post, Robert. As the old saying goes,”a rolling stone gathers no moss”. Movement is critical to change, so it’s critical to keep going forward and to just course-correct whenever necessary. Without movement, then there’s no change and therefore no progress. I also agree that wanting to change is the first step. Tony Robbins says that people change either because of pain or the promise of reward (i.e. pleasure). And once you get moving success is simply about adopting the right habits, which is much easier to do once you get going. It’s the initial push or the launch that’s the hardest. And without any self-reflection there’s no incentive to change or move towards any meaningful goal.

    Reply
  11. Thanks George!

    From my own experience, it is exactly like you say. Change is like a large and heavy wheel that is hard to start but if you keep at it and working daily towards pushing the wheel, it’ll eventually gain enough momentum where it doesn’t take much energy to keep it going. Once it becomes a part of you, you look for the next large and heavy wheel. Each wheel should be a stepping stone that brings you closer to your dreams.

    Reply
  12. This was a great post! Most people are immobilized by the fear change. By discovering and acknowledging the need (or desire) to change your life you can start taking small steps to force yourself beyond the comfort zone. Doing so can help make stepping outside that comfort zone a habit (as stated in the post) and make it more comfortable and less fearful. Thereby enabling you to keep moving towards a better life. Thanks for the great information and ideas!

    Reply
    • Hi Renee,

      I’ve realized that people’s reaction to change is all based on unchallenged assumptions that become a part of our belief system. If someone believes change is scary, they’ll notice all the times when change resulted in something bad. I’ve found for myself that a good way to get over the fear of change is thinking about all the times when change turned out to be a good thing. Sometimes changing our perspectives is all we need.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  13. Great post
    I think habit is one of the biggest things that prevents us from changing. We get the big vision, we know why we want it and we start to implement change, then when life throws us the usual wobblies we slip back into habit.

    I carry my goals on a card and make sure i read them and spend five minutes visualising 3 times a day.

    I’m a big believer in smiling and sending out gratitude when you visualise.

    Thanks for a great post I will be following you from now on and have quoted some from this post on my blog.
    Regards
    Caroline

    Reply
    • Thanks Caroline!

      When things get hectic or when we get stressed, it’s natural to go back to our tried and true ways. That’s why there is a period of time when it’s necessary to be conscious of what we’re doing when we are trying to implement lasting change (conscious competence before unconscious competence).

      I like your idea about having your goals on a card and visualizing them. I am sure you are achieving many of your goals with this method.

      Reply
  14. Great post Robert.

    I love when you say that the need for change is what shapes the change in terms of size, importance, way. Having that “aha” moment won’t happen if we are chasing the mediocre. Rather then that we have to dream for more, want more from life. Only then can we expect our drive to get more intense, and only then can we make the change for better.

    And thoughts truly are the root. We are what we think, and there is no question about that. Perceiving situations differently, and changing our view on things can lead us long way. We are what we believe in, so in order to change the reality we must perceive it differently within our mind first.

    Reply
    • Hi Slavko,

      What you are saying is exactly right. Everything in reality originated with a thought. Two people can be in the same place but experience a different “reality” due to their lens of the world which comes from their life experiences, knowledge, etc.

      Reply
  15. Change – music to my ears – Every season brings change and it’s a welcome thing.

    Maybe that’s how we need to approach our seasons of life – with compassion, love and welcoming the change.

    I love what my mentor Dr. Wayne Dyer has to say, “when we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.”

    So true and what a terrific article,
    Nancy

    Reply
    • What a wonderful metaphor and attitude towards change, Nancy. We don’t question the seasons and we accept whatever they may bring knowing that the change is inevitable. Speaking of Wayne Dyer, I recently saw The Shift, which was inspiring. Love his outlook on life and letting life flow knowing we come from perfection.

      Reply
  16. Great Post! I have been trying to make a very difficult decision about changing my career path, but it definitely falls into the “nice to have” category. Thanks for the help!!

    Reply
    • Thanks Nancy. I find that the best way to make decisions is to really be clear on your values and make the decision that is aligned with your value. Two questions that I find helpful is to really ask yourself “What is important to you in your professional life” and “If I could not fail professionally, I would …” and make a list for answers for both questions then review the list and prioritize it. Good luck to you Nancy!

      Reply
  17. What is something that I need to change in my life right this very second?

    That’s one of the hardest questions that I’ve ever been faced with answering I think. There’s so many small changes to my life that I would like to make, but I don’t know if there’s one significant thing that I need to change right now.

    I guess if it was anything, it would be how hard I am on myself. I cannot allow myself to be happy for always questioning everything around me. To sum it up, I’m my own worst enemy in that sense.

    So, if I needed to change one thing in my life right now, that’s what it would be.

    Reply
    • How will you start on that?

      Reply
    • Hi Jaimie,

      Recognizing what needs to be changed is important. Now make sure you meet the 3 requirements mentioned in this article.

      1. Create an overwhelming desire to make this change. How is being hard on yourself causing you pain?

      2. Be sensitive to what triggers you to be hard on yourself. Every action has a positive intention so before you challenge it, ask yourself, what is the positive intention that you get from being hard on yourself? Once you recognize that positive intention, what others ways can you fulfill that intention? Remember to have compassion for yourself.

      3. What will you do differently now that you recognize the positive intention and the alternatives for achieving it? Be specific about how your actions will change and how you feel about yourself.

      Good luck and I would love to hear how your are doing with your change.

      Reply

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