Changing behavior can be excruciatingly difficult because learning new behaviors causes discomfort, distress and conflict. Anyone who’s tried to lose weight or stop smoking can attest to this fact. Those who’ve made an effort to change their work situation by getting their boss to slow down the pace of assignments or a coworker to improve their attitude are familiar with utter frustration.
Persistent problems are not solved easily. However, researchers have found that using four or more change strategies simultaneously gives people 10 times higher probability of success than employing only one approach. Psychologists have discovered that the vast majority of individuals limit themselves to only one method of influencing the outcome, frequently dooming their efforts to affect change.
Only by combining several different potent interventions is it possible to effectively influence the way in which human beings think and behave. Even then change requires a trial and error process of learning to discover which motivators will work. Some studies have found that on average it takes 7 attempts before a person succeeds in finding the right levers to pull in order to permanently alter a behavior.
Because we live in a quick fix world where we expect instant results, we’re often frustrated when our first fledgling efforts fail to produce profound improvements. Not to mention that familiar habits are comfortable, even if they’re dysfunctional. Change requires a willingness to open the door to the discomfort that is associated with not knowing the answers right away. Only by trying different approaches can a person incrementally increase awareness of how to apply 4 different change strategies that will eventually work.
You probably have things you’ve tried to change, but haven’t discovered the formula to enable success. The book Influencer identifies six general strategies proven necessary for effective change. Allow yourself to consider how you could apply each of these approaches to your situation. Once you can picture specific steps you could take to affect a change you’ll feel much more confident about achieving a positive outcome.
Strategy 1: Personal Motivation. Developing the internal motivation to change is essential. Take one of your elusive personal goals and identify a reason for changing that is so compelling that it will overcome your resistance to making the sustained effort that’s required to be successful.
We’ve tried to change others by exerting external pressures such as pleading, demanding or threatening. None of these approaches work with a person who doesn’t care. The most effective way to create caring is to link a change in behavior to what’s most important to the individual needing to make the change. How will they derive a significant benefit?
Strategy 2: Personal Ability. Top performers aren’t naturally better than other people. What they possess is a powerful drive to acquire the expertise they need to excel. The ability to succeed comes from a combination of passion and practice. People must over invest in building their capabilities in order to accomplish a goal.
What specific behaviors are necessary for you or another person to acquire to successfully achieve a goal? What’s required to master those capabilities? How does that translate into a practice schedule?
Strategy 3: Social Motivation. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all tremendously influenced by the approval or disapproval of the people in our lives. Another key to creating successful results is to harness the energy of positive people and disengage from the influence of those who are critical and pessimistic.
Who could provide almost daily encouragement for your change efforts over the next 6 months? How could you do the same for someone else?
Strategy 4: Social Ability. Making changes requires that we find friends and mentors who can provide support and coaching. Whose support do you need? Who do you know that’s already been successful in accomplishing the desired goal? How could they help? What information or other resources do you need?
Strategy 5: Organizational Motivation. It’s important for an organizational system to incentivize desired new behaviors without undermining people’s intrinsic motivation. Therefore, recognition and reinforcement needs to follow the first fledgling steps that produce some forward progress. Also, what consequences need to be put into place to deal with counterproductive behaviors?
Strategy 6: Organizational Ability. Who will provide the time, money, and physical environment necessary to achieve the desired outcome? How will progress be measured toward the outcome that’s trying to be achieved? What feedback loop will provide the data needed to determine what’s working and what else needs to change?