- Positive life change is challenging, but many strategies can be used to catalyze it.
- A specific foundation of values, attitudes, and beliefs is what makes personal growth strategies effective.
- Approaching change in a positive way makes one more willing to take the necessary leap of faith.
Positive life change is just plain hard. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are probably trying to sell you something. But positive life change is possible and decidedly worth the effort. What could be more meaningful, rewarding, and downright joyful than letting go of past liabilities and limitations and becoming the best version of yourself—the person you truly want to be?
The self-help industry offers an immense number of strategies you can use to catalyze positive life change, with varying degrees of demonstrated effectiveness. At the same time, to implement any of these techniques without a foundation of values, attitudes, and beliefs about the journey that lies ahead is like beginning a drive to a planned destination without being sure that your car is tuned and its gas tank is full. To help you establish that foundation for making the changes you want in your life, I share with you my eight Ps for positive life change.
We humans tend to be guided by the hopes, expectations, and goals we embrace. If there is something we really want and we believe we can get it, we’re more likely to put in the time and effort to achieve it. Conversely, if you don’t, you won’t. As Henry Ford once said, “If you don’t believe you can do something, you’re right.” This basic belief begins with having a positive attitude toward the change you want to make in your life. If you’re positive, you will likely have hope that you can make the change you want and trust yourself to do what is necessary to accomplish your goal.
Having a positive and hopeful attitude about the change doesn’t mean that you are certain you will make the change. If the shift is at all significant, there never is absolute certainty. At the same time, when you approach the change in a positive way, you are more willing to take the leap of faith and put in the effort necessary to do everything in your power to get where you want to go.
Meaningful change of any sort isn’t likely to happen if you don’t have a healthy perspective about what it will take to effect that change. That healthy perspective begins with the realization that it will take considerable effort. It also involves recognizing that change doesn’t come easily; rather, you will need to commit considerable effort and energy to it. With this perspective, you begin the journey of life change with a clear understanding of both the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
We live in a world in which so much comes so easily to us, whether microwaving dinner, getting information off the internet, or communicating with others through texting. We are also told by most of the self-help industry that we can change quickly. Unfortunately, this belief can cause impatience and frustration, which ultimately can lead you to give up far too soon and well before any chance of making that change is possible.
The reality of positive life change is that there is no magic dust or “fast-forward” strategies for growth. Instead, you must have the patience to give yourself the time necessary to create the change and allow the desired change to complete its course.
Keeping your “eye on the prize” of the positive life change you want to make can have real motivational value because focusing on the outcome you want to achieve constantly reminds you of who you want to be in the future. At the same time, because positive life change can be a long, difficult, and uncertain journey, paying too much attention to your destination can be frustrating and discouraging. Consequently, you want to focus most of your attention on the process, namely, how you are going to get to be the person you want to be. When you focus on the process of positive life change, you ensure that you stay on course and do what you need to do.
Similar to the benefits and costs associated with the outcome/process distinction, too much emphasis on the future can detract from your taking the incremental steps in the present to arrive at your desired future in the most effective and efficient way. When you focus on the present, your task of striving toward positive life change seems less overwhelming and more manageable.
As I noted in past writings, life change is very difficult because there are many forces that can resist your efforts to become the best version of yourself. After repeated attempts with little or no progress, it can be easy to think that you can’t change, so you quit. Yet, there is a robust body of evidence indicating that one of the best predictors of ultimately making the changes you want is simply whether you persist, in other words, you just keep at it until you wear down your old and unhealthy ways of living and instill new and healthy ways.
Persisting in your efforts is even more challenging because the change process is never linear and the curve is rarely very steep in its upward trajectory. There will always be periods of slow or no progress, failures, setbacks, and plateaus. And these experiences can be frustrating and discouraging and may cause you to want to cease your efforts to become the person you want to be.
I see positive life change as like the stock market. If you look at one bad day in the market (say, a drop of 500 points in the DJIA), you would likely want to cash out your investments. At the same time, if you look at the stock market over the course of the last 50 years, you see a jagged line with a clear trend upward. Just as you don’t panic sell when the stock market goes down, you can’t quit your efforts because your efforts aren’t being rewarded every day.
By accepting that pursuing positive life change will be a bumpy road, you give yourself the opportunity to persevere in the face of its many challenges. By persevering, you are able to mitigate their negative impact on your motivation, efforts, and resilience, thus allowing you to stay committed to your path to your best version of yourself.
Approaching your quest for positive life change with the previous seven "P"s as its foundation, you are able to then focus on and appreciate the progress you make toward your change goal. This awareness of your progress has several essential benefits. First, it reinforces your confidence that you are capable of the life changes you seek. Second, the progress you seek girds your motivation that encourages your persistence and perseverance. Finally, your progress consistently propels you toward your change goal until you have achieved it.