Saturday, March 09, 2013

FACT: The best process for personal change

Often often do you catch yourself wishing you could change something about you? It can be easier to wish for change than to do the work to make it real, whether that change is personal (weight loss, addiction, or bad emotional habits) or professional (time management, diplomacy or confidence). We often know what we need but feel like it's unreachable.

The change you want will be unreachable until you reach for it.  And then you need a process that will help you manage your will power and persistence until the change becomes natural. There is no road to intentional success that does not require some hard work and discipline. But the FACT process will allow you to be more effective with less suffering and no room for the self-loathing that sometimes accompanies failed efforts at personal change.

FACT begins with focus. To get something you want, you have to be willing to know what it is that you want, to spend some time developing a representation of it that is detailed enough to be compelling. You also have to be willing to want things that your whole self is willing to want: if you're going to be pulled in two directions, you are wasting your time. People who allow themselves to "sort of" want their goals are "sort of" ready to fail before they begin.  If you cannot find support for a goal in your whole self, let go of that for the time being and embrace a change that all parts of you are willing to accept.

The A is for accessing and adding. What you need to change combines external support with internal strengths, skills and capabilities. The most important of these are the internal resources that you already own. Change requires two steps: accept that you are already stronger, smarter and more flexible than you think and go looking for experiences where you have demonstrated qualities that would be useful in making the change you want now. As you connect with more of your internal resources, you will find that it becomes easier to also find the external resources you need.

C is for choice. The most difficult part of change is knowing what step to take and making the choice to take it. Sometimes you will know what you need to do and adding more resources will allow you to simply take the step you need to take. At other times, you may have a hard time identifying the first step (you only need one at a time).  Either there are no obvious possibilities or there is no obvious way to choose among the steps that are possible. In either case, the answer is to build your ability to choose. If you want to move, move. This might mean making a change in another part of your life (one where you do know the next step) or it might mean moving your body so that you mind can follow suit. Choice is a muscle that grows with use. If you're stuck, find somewhere else to make a choice and practice.

T is for testing.  It's not enough to choose a direction. After each step, it's worth making sure that you like where you are heading.  Not every step will be equally rewarding, but each will give you a chance to make subtle course corrections so that you make the best use of your resources to get where you want to go. The first test is whether or not you know what your next step should be.  The second is checking in with how someone you respect might view your progress. And the third test is knowing how the step you have taken fits into the bigger picture, the whole story of your life and achievement.

If you find you're moving in the right direction, take another step and then test again. If you're not sure, go back and gather more resources.  Then check in again.  If your more resourceful self is still not sure, revisit your goal. Perhaps it needs fine-tuning.  Keep moving in and through this process until you find that change has happened. You are more what you want to be and you are doing more of what you want to do.

Everyone changes in response to changes in their relationships and environment. You can change in response to your own will: you can shape yourself, step by step. FACT will get you going, keep you going, and enable you to set your sails in a new direction after you have achieved the change you want.

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