Yes, You Can Change
By Marty Nemko
Imagine you had a heart attack and bypass surgery. Your doctor says, “Better change your lifestyle or you’re dead.” Would you change? According to Dr. Edward Miller, dean of Johns Hopkins Medical School and CEO of the John Hopkins Medical Center, only 10% do.
It's tough to change, even when your life is at stake. So, how in the world can you expect yourself to start looking for a job, to get your co-worker to be more motivated, or your spouse to be kinder to you?
The cover story of the May issue of Fast Company, synthesizing the latest research, offers help:
1. The time to change is now. Don’t think that to change, you must first hit rock bottom. It doesn’t get much more rock bottom than a heart attack, yet it still doesn’t motivate most patients to change their lifestyle.
2. Go cold turkey. Gradual approaches fail because the benefits don’t come quickly enough. When famed cardiologist Dr. Dean Ornish insisted that his patients with cardiac-caused chest pain change their diet not moderately but radically, in just two weeks, their pain significantly decreased. Because of the rapid results, the percentage of patients who stayed on the diet wasn’t 10 percent. It was 77 percent. So, if you want to change something about yourself, create a zero-tolerance plan: for example, every time you contemplate procrastinating, force yourself to do the task, non-negotiable.
3. To motivate change, use emotion more than facts. As every advertising agency knows, our behavior is motivated more by emotion than by facts. Want to be a kinder boss? Think about how embarrassed you’d feel if, behind your back, your supervisees called you an ogre. Want to motivate your supervisees? Tell them stories of how customers’ lives have been changed as a result of the company’s products.
Here are other techniques that have helped my clients (and me) to change:
4. Reduce fear to a manageable level. Your goal is not to be fearless. That takes too long. Just reduce your fear enough so you can feel the fear and do it anyway. Here are ways to reduce your fear:
a. Increase your skill. For example, let’s say you’re scared you’ll sound like an idiot if you cold-call a prospective employer. Solution: practice with a tape recorder, mirror, or friend until you’re no longer terrified.
b. Imagine the worst that could happen. For example, let’s say you cold-called and you did sound like an idiot. Could you survive?
c. This won’t work for me, but has for many: faith in God: Tina was terribly afraid of looking for a job because she was afraid she’d fail again. She prayed and felt God’s support, which calmed her down enough to look for a job. By the way, she recently landed a temp job, and after just a few weeks was so successful, she was offered a well-paying permanent position.
5. Eliminate choice. I had tried a million times to lose weight, to no avail, but one time, I decided I’d eat exactly the same thing three times a day, with no deviations. Eliminating any choice enabled me to succeed.
6. Build momentum. My diet’s first few days were tough, but soon, my new eating practices became automatic. Make the extra effort to be perfect in your new behavior and after a few days, you’ll find it getting easier and easier.
7. Constant reminders. Your bad ways have been hard-wired into your brain. To undo that wiring usually requires constant reminders. So if, for example, your goal is to be less stressed, give yourself pep talks, aloud if possible. “I really want to be less stressed. I can do it!” Put the word “calm” on your computer monitor, on your refrigerator, anywhere you’re likely to be stressed. Every time you drink something, force yourself to say, “I will be calm.” Keep a chart of how calm you are each day on a scale from 0 (basket case) to 10 (guru calm.) Daily or weekly, tell or email your loving taskmaster your score for the most recent period.
If some other “magic pill” made
you change, please email me your story to email@example.com. I plan to
write a follow-up column consisting of your emails.
© Marty Nemko 2004-2018. Usage Rights