Are you taking stock of the last twelve months? What went well? How could things have been more successful? What did you hope to do but fail to get started? Which new habit fizzled away and which one became the norm? Are your thoughts already turning to plans for the new year ahead? Understanding how to effectively break old habits and make powerful new ones stick is an important part of the process but how do these changes successfully become habit?
‘There is nothing so stable as change‘. Bob Dylan
Transition and Change
Are you working on your New Year’s resolutions, transitioning from old habits to new and making changes in your personal or professional life?
Change is defined as something that takes place quickly and is a shift in the externals of a situation, for example, a new leader is appointed within an organisation. Transition, by contrast, is the internal, emotional and psychological process that a person undergoes when they relinquish the old arrangement and embrace new situations. Change is made up of events whereas transition is an ongoing process. The Transition Model is the work of the late William Bridges, and is valuable for those experiencing change because it focuses on transition rather than change. This transition model is predominantly used for organisational change but the three stages can just as easily be applied to personal change.
Three stages of transition
The Transition Model highlights three stages of transition that individuals experience during the change process:
Ending, Losing and Letting Go.
The Neutral Zone.
The New Beginning.
Stage 1: Ending, Losing and Letting Go
This is the initial stage that occurs when people are confronted by change and is typified by resistance and difficult emotions when people are confronted with letting go of what is familiar and comfortable to them. In stage one people focus on the past, on what feels certain and safe. William Bridges cautions that many change projects fail because organisations and individuals try to proceed too quickly to the third stage (the new beginning) and don’t spend enough time at this initial letting go stage. Typical emotions at this stage are:
A sense of loss
Support in Stage One
It’s crucial to acknowledge emotions during stage one, doing so is part of the process that enables people to accept the ending and begin to progress to accepting the new situation. Open communication and listening is key at this stage, people will have lots of anxieties and questions about the change taking place and what it means for them. The more people are encouraged to envision the positive role they will have in the future, when the change has occurred, the more likely they are to progress to the next stage.
Stage 2: The Neutral Zone
The second stage is characterized by uncertainty and can be disorienting. New ways of doing things may create increased pressure as people develop new habits or ways of working. Typical emotions at this stage are:
Low productivity and low morale
Anxiety regarding their place in the future
Doubtful about the effectiveness of the change process
Resentment regarding the change
Support in Stage Two
Ensuring a strong sense of direction and purpose at this stage is essential and avoids feelings of being adrift and rudderless. In the neutral zone it’s important to envision success and be able to see the positive effects of the change. Setting and achieving easy win goals is crucial at this stage, such goals help us to see that efforts have been successful. Celebrating effort and achievement is also an important element of highlighting success.
Stage 3: The New Beginning
The final stage is characterized by an acknowledgement of progress and embracing of the change. At this stage people are more accepting of the change and their transition includes developing their skills to meet new demands. Typical transition experiences now include:
Increased energy for their role
Commitment to the organisation (or individual change)
Enthusiasm to learn new skills
Support in Stage Three
Sustaining enthusiasm, positive attitudes and positive relationships is key during the final stage of transition. Not everyone will reach this stage at the same time, so maintaining the momentum is crucial, if momentum starts to flag, it’s possible to slip back to earlier stages when advantages and positive effects of the change are not felt. Some people will not move through the stages at all. Continuing to highlight success stories and celebrate individual, team or organisational wins embeds the change.
Want to follow up with more tips on change? See Dan Heath on change:
A big thank you to Gill Thackray for her guest blog with tips for kickstarting those New Year’s Resolutions for success.
4 Tips to Kick Start your New Year’s Resolutions (and give you the crucial 1 in 8 chance of maintaining them)
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Another New Year, another set of resolutions. Good intentions abound but somehow, when January comes around, it all just seems harder than it sounded. Hands up if you’ve ever resolved to ;
- lose weight
- exercise more
- find a work-life balance
- stop smoking
- eat healthily
- spend more time with family
- manage your time more effectively
- just be nicer to be around
It comes as no surprise then, to learn that research from the university of Scranton suggests a measely 8% of us keep our New Year’s resolutions. After the first week of January a whopping quarter of us will have already ditched the goals we committed to at the beginning of January.
4 Steps to Kick Start Your New Year’s Resolutions
For all of the resolution doom and gloom, the 8% success story is doing something different to the rest of us (and those persevering after the first week of January aren’t looking too shabby either). But what is it that’s setting them apart? Positive Change Guru investigates…
- Begin before New Year
Take time out to really consider what is important to you, where you want to be in a year’s time, five years time or even longer. What do you want your life to look like?
Think about what you’d like to achieve, things you want to change (and why) and commit to a handful of goals rather than an avalanche of changes. If you’re randomly choosing things on New Year’s Eve they’re likely to be half hearted and lack a genuine commitment to make them happen.
- Believe that you can
First things first, if you don’t really believe it’s possible for you to achieve any of those new year’s resolutions that you held your hand up to, it’s not going to happen. Build your self belief by;
- Recognizing what you’ve already achieved. Buy a journal and make a note of goals you’ve conquered to date, along with new accomplishments each day.
- Create an ‘achievement’ box of things that remind you of your successes; certificates, thank you cards, momentos.
- Identify your strengths and use them to leverage your New Year’s goals. The VIA Strengths Character Assessment is a great place to start authentichappiness.org
- Monitor your self talk. Banish negativity by making your mind a ‘No put down’ zone. Whenever you hear your inner critic doubting your ability to reach a goal ask “Where’s the evidence?” “Is there another way of looking at this?” and then counter the negative thought with a positive response shifting from “I’ll never be able to do this” (negative) to “What can I do to help me achieve this goal?” (positive).
- Start small
The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. If you are aiming for several huge, audacious, scary goals all at once, chances are you’ll feel overwhelmed pretty quickly. Start small by identifying two or three goals that you genuinely want to commit to and then break them down again into manageable chunks.
Keep it simple, for example, if building more exercise into your week is a goal then committing to visiting the gym seven times a week is setting yourself up to fail. Think about a goal that allows scope for slippage, start with going to the gym three times a week and build from there.
- Create a Plan
Professor Richard Wiseman from the university of Hertfordshire studied a staggering 5,000 New Year’s resolution hopefuls. His research found that only 1 in 10 of us will reach our goals successfully. The reason? That 10% didn’t possess super – human willpower, they simply had a plan (Doh! Why didn’t the rest of us think of that?).
Wisman warns that strategies relying on willpower, pictures on fridges of how we want to look or choosing role models alone won’t work. Instead creating a detailed plan and sticking to it is the way to go. Begin by;
- Identifying your goals, remembering to keep to one or two.
- List the benefits of achieving your chosen goal. Will you feel fitter? Healthier? Less stressed? Whatever the benefit, ink it so that you can remind yourself when the going gets tough.
- Remember the to start small. Chunk them down into smaller goals, think of how you will achieve them, step by step. Keep them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) it’s hard to hit a target if you can’t see it. Then write them down somewhere that you can refer to them regularly, in a journal or on a spreadsheet. If you’re visual, plot your progress on a graph to keep up your motivation.
- Create your own ‘cheerleading’ team. Tell others about your goals and enlist them for support.
- Reward yourself for achieving sub-goals. Acknowledge your achievements and celebrate them.
- Have a strategy for when things go awry. Remember that failure is normal, it’s how we learn as human beings. If something doesn’t go to plan, recognize it, learn any lessons and move on.
So now you’re armed with your guide to becoming one of the 8% who reach and maintain their New Year’s goals we look forward to hearing about your achievements.