Change can be very motivational, particularly in its earliest stages. However, sustaining change can be difficult because, by its very nature, change unbalances equilibrium. Whether or not the equilibrium in which you are working is productive and effective is unimportant – the proverbial apple cart is upset whenever you bring a change into your life.
So, let’s assume that we’ve set goals to become more organized and effective at work. We have made changes to how we process paper and/or email and have implemented strategies to better balance our efforts across our competing priorities.
Time passes. Some improvements remain and others remain a struggle. How do we sustain the positive changes in the face of additional obstacles? How do we continually improve?
Five Tips for Sustaining Change
1. Integrate the change into all of your plans and priorities
If you compartmentalize your change, it becomes another “project” that can be put on the back burner as urgent issues arise. If “being organized” is the change you want to sustain, then each project you oversee needs to have an organizing component to it. Each meeting you facilitate needs to be held with “being organized” as a goal. If the desired change is an ever-present partner to your work, it is more likely to be sustained.
2. Ensure appropriate monitoring and feedback systems
Change often occurs gradually, which makes it very difficult to notice. Periodically stop and measure where you are in order to document (for yourself) how effectively you are sustaining the change. If you feel you are making little progress on getting your office organized, you may be surprised by asking a trusted co-worker what they’ve noticed and hearing their positive feedback. Conversely, if you receive constructive criticism, use it as a motivational tool.
3. Anticipate, but don’t tolerate derailments
Life happens. It’s a simple but true statement. Recognize that you will have days where you accomplish your goals and other days where things happen beyond your control. Take a moment to understand why you didn’t sustain your change, learn what you can from the experience, and immediately reapply yourself toward the behaviors you want to continue.
4. Display a positive attitude toward the change
In the movie The Sound of Music, Maria approached a new and frightening situation with a song of confidence. While bursting into song is rarely the norm in most offices, it is important to manage your attitude toward the change. Focus on accomplishments, not failures. Transform feelings of guilt over derailments to opportunities for improvement. Remember that perfection is never productive.
5. Celebrate your successes
Humans are naturally motivated to continue behaviors that make us feel good. Allow yourself some “quick wins” along your path to sustained change. Take a moment to fully experience the change by rewarding yourself for what has been accomplished.
Wouldn’t it be great if change sustained itself? Unfortunately, it does not and there are daily “opportunities” to veer off course. However, once solidified, changed behaviors become engrained habits. Then, you’re ready for the next change!
Are you ready to finally achieve what you set out to do?
Read my eBook Set Goals…even if you’re not convinced you’ll achieve them.
Dr. Melissa Gratias (pronounced "Gracious") is a work psychologist who helps overwhelmed and underappreciated businesspeople be more focused and effective. Since 2007, thousands of people have graduated with honors from her onsite sessions, distance coaching, productivity seminars, and corporate consulting projects. Based in Savannah, Georgia, Melissa is available for nationwide consulting and speaking engagements. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 912-417-2505. Sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter or visit her website, melissagratias.com.