If you want ______ to happen, you must do _______
The formula above is straightforward and designed to simplify planning as it applies to goal attainment, but in too many cases we struggle terribly with the second part of the equation. For example, it is easy to fill in the first prompt with things like “lose weight” or “make more money” as the goal, but what happens with the things you must do in order for the goal to become a reality? Ironically, the steps to success are not difficult to determine in most cases, but following through on the steps to success is the part we don’t always welcome.
We are creatures of habit
The layman definition of insanity is doing the same thing, yet expecting a different result (some of us refer to this as wishful thinking). One big reason why we don’t always welcome changing habits is that we are creatures of habit, and we yearn for comfort by means of familiarity. We like things we can count on, and things we can trust. The challenge, however, is when we want something different — like an important life change — and realize that doing the same thing over and over again won’t likely lead us to the change we want. Another great saying to use here is “if you keep on doing what you have always done, you’ll keep on getting what you have always got.” The big point is that different future results only come with different approaches to life, and not simply because you are tired of the way things have gone recently.
When you revisit the question at the beginning of this column, the “things you must do” to achieve the goals you want will almost always include new things, including different ways to view and solve problems, overcome adversity, or changes you want to make. The good news is that in most cases by following through with the new behaviors, you will inevitably enjoy a new (and hopefully better) result. Yes, change is possible, but it will require a commitment to new and different approaches.
Be weary of the path of least resistance
Another common hurdle we face that often goes hand-in-hand with yearning for familiarity is our common desire to follow the easiest and most efficient paths to future success. Put another way, we often follow the path of least resistance — and in many instances this approach serves us quite well. For example, if you are driving home from work today it makes sense to follow the route that gets you home the quickest and with the least chance for problems. But what happens when we try to use the path of least resistance when attempting bigger life changes? Employing the “path of least resistance” when trying to lose weight and simply grabbing whatever food is closest (even if it is unhealthy) might not serve you well, especially if taking a little more time with this choice results in a much healthier meal. Taking the easy route in life helps in many cases, but when it comes to serious life goals that include big changes you will soon find that the easy way is not always the best way.
Deciding on future changes in your life is step one, but it is the action plans you implement that will directly impact your likelihood for future success toward those changes. Take comfort in knowing that in most cases the steps you outline will lead to the changes you want, but the challenge is following the steps rather than changing them into simpler or more convenient behaviors. Change can happen, but it only occurs by doing different things in order to experience different outcomes.