Establishing Lasting Change [Irina Issakova]

When are you going to change?

Everyone can change. Yes, even you!

My cousin Nadia lives in Russia. I love her to death and consider her one of my two best friends in the world. But within spending two hours with her, I want to bite her head off. She has an extremely complicated personality and to all attempts at suggesting to change, she replies with “I cannot change anymore. I am a grown person and my personality has formed.” She is 22.

I am a firm believer in that we can change ourselves if we really set out to do it. Change is not the hard part. The hard part is really setting out to do it. Often enough, I have pretended to myself to want to make a change in my life, failed once or twice to make that change and abandoned the effort altogether. It happens so often that getting discouraged with the thought of being able to change can completely overcome any kind of motivation.

So the central question that I ask myself is “how do I take on change so that it lasts and so that I do not give up a week into it?”

I still keep failing at change regularly, but sometimes I succeed. What makes those change “projects” successful? It is making the change I want to happen a habit in my life.

To succeed, you must fail

First, it is necessary to recognize off the bat that you will fail at the change when you first start (and probably will fail regularly for the rest of your life). For example, if you are someone who loves to snack and want to stop that behavior, quitting cold turkey on Monday morning is recipe for failure. Recognize that you will not be able to stick to the change perfectly from the very beginning and promise yourself to not give up when you fail.

Second, recognize the importance of habit-formation and the little battles. If you want to make the change to exercise more than you currently do, then exercise every time you plan on exercising. Do not let rationalization and “I will start tomorrow” postpone the exercise you planned on for today. Remember that every time you exercise the change muscle, it gets stronger. So does your habit. Therefore, going to the gym today not only yields positive health benefits, but also strengthens the habit that you have engaged in the change for. You will then be more likely to go tomorrow because you have a previous, recent experience to recall and rely on. This previous experience says: “Look, you did it last time. It was not awesome, but you did it. Which means you can do it today, too.”

Third, stay with the behavior and keep on going when you slip up, thus working it into the concept for who you are. I used to be a pretty sarcastic person, a tone which I adapted in high school, when I was not paying attention. When I started my first job in January 2009, I decided that sarcasm was inappropriate in the workplace. Every time I felt the urge to say something sarcastic, I would either remain silent or say something nice. Gradually, this habit (of not being sarcastic) spilled over into my life and became part of who I am. Now, I barely ever think of sarcastic ways to respond to people. Sarcasm no longer has a place in my self-perception.

So there you go. Change is possible and might not even be that hard. All it takes is a honest commitment on your part and winning the little battles along the way. And before you know it, it stops being change and becomes who you are.

Image courtesy of Teddy

Irina IssakovaAUTHOR BIO: I recently ‘met’ Irina after stumbling across her blog, Nine to Done where she talks about Gen-Y, careers, relationships, and life. I immediately knew she would be an awesome contributor to this series, and she was quick to jump on the bandwagon. You can dive deepr into her psyche by reading her blog and following her on Twitter. Irina, thanks for jumping into this on such short notice, you rock!


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16 Responses
  • Blake Reply

    There is one particular method that I’ve found really effective. Steve Pavlina’s 30 Days to Success is a simple yet powerful method to change habits and make them stick.

    (http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/04/30-days-to-success/)

    Since most personal changes can be expressed in some way as a new daily habit or routine, this method works wonders.

  • Blake Reply

    There is one particular method that I’ve found really effective. Steve Pavlina’s 30 Days to Success is a simple yet powerful method to change habits and make them stick.

    (http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/04/30-days-to-success/)

    Since most personal changes can be expressed in some way as a new daily habit or routine, this method works wonders.

  • Matt Reply

    Irina – it is a pleasure to have you as part of this series. I knew as soon as I stumbled across your blog that you would be a perfect fit into the collective spirit of this ‘mission’ for change. You bring up two important points. One, that you must fail to succeed. Trying and failing is a part of life, it’s inevitable that we’re not going to succeed in everything we do – but we have to overcome that fear of failure, put ourselves out there, allow ourselves to become vulnerable – that’s when we’re truly able to take a leap of faith and grow as an individual, which will lead to ultimate success.

    Second – establishing changes in everyday habits. Old habits die hard, they’re hard to break, a change in routine is inconvenient, breaking away from the norm is what makes change so hard. But if you really take a step back and think about it (and Chelsie made some great points on this in her post yesterday) – Change has been a constant since the beginning of time. Times have always changed, society continuously evolves. If this is true, why are we so resistant?

    I don’t have the answer there but I do know that through all the changes in history, there was resistance, and someone had to step forward and become a catalyst for change. Someone defied the regular and became extraordinary. The challenge for us is to become extraordinary in our own lives. It’s not easy, there is going to be obstacles in the way, but we’re all capable of bringing about real change in our own lives. Lead by example, and others will follow!

  • Matt Reply

    Irina – it is a pleasure to have you as part of this series. I knew as soon as I stumbled across your blog that you would be a perfect fit into the collective spirit of this ‘mission’ for change. You bring up two important points. One, that you must fail to succeed. Trying and failing is a part of life, it’s inevitable that we’re not going to succeed in everything we do – but we have to overcome that fear of failure, put ourselves out there, allow ourselves to become vulnerable – that’s when we’re truly able to take a leap of faith and grow as an individual, which will lead to ultimate success.

    Second – establishing changes in everyday habits. Old habits die hard, they’re hard to break, a change in routine is inconvenient, breaking away from the norm is what makes change so hard. But if you really take a step back and think about it (and Chelsie made some great points on this in her post yesterday) – Change has been a constant since the beginning of time. Times have always changed, society continuously evolves. If this is true, why are we so resistant?

    I don’t have the answer there but I do know that through all the changes in history, there was resistance, and someone had to step forward and become a catalyst for change. Someone defied the regular and became extraordinary. The challenge for us is to become extraordinary in our own lives. It’s not easy, there is going to be obstacles in the way, but we’re all capable of bringing about real change in our own lives. Lead by example, and others will follow!

  • Morgan Reply

    This was a great post and a wonderful addition to Matt’s series. I like the way you presented change in very simple, understandable terms. Change is not some elusive being that we can not grasp. It can be a tangible, real part of our lives as long as we work toward it. I especially like how you bring up habit formations. True change can be as easy as changing habits one day at a time. Everybody slips up, but each time you do something correctly (like exercise, say no to that brownie, bite your tongue) it positively reinforces that change. Enough repetitions – and before you know it you are no longer “trying to change” but merely living your life. Although, if you ask me, people should always be working on changing something and continuing to better themselves.

  • Morgan Reply

    This was a great post and a wonderful addition to Matt’s series. I like the way you presented change in very simple, understandable terms. Change is not some elusive being that we can not grasp. It can be a tangible, real part of our lives as long as we work toward it. I especially like how you bring up habit formations. True change can be as easy as changing habits one day at a time. Everybody slips up, but each time you do something correctly (like exercise, say no to that brownie, bite your tongue) it positively reinforces that change. Enough repetitions – and before you know it you are no longer “trying to change” but merely living your life. Although, if you ask me, people should always be working on changing something and continuing to better themselves.

  • DrJohnDrozdal Reply

    As usual,Irina your wisdom comes through.

    Through the experiences I have had in coaching people though individual and organizational change, I have a learned that a major derailer is fear. When we deconstruct change, what we are really talking about is abandoning and old comfortable structure – even if it is no longer serving us – for the new. That transition calls on us to move away from the safety of the old and embrace the fear of the unknown. And that can be very scary. So if we can help others feel a sense of safety in navigating the change, we help them overcome the fear that may be blocking them.

    Keep writing!

  • DrJohnDrozdal Reply

    As usual,Irina your wisdom comes through.

    Through the experiences I have had in coaching people though individual and organizational change, I have a learned that a major derailer is fear. When we deconstruct change, what we are really talking about is abandoning and old comfortable structure – even if it is no longer serving us – for the new. That transition calls on us to move away from the safety of the old and embrace the fear of the unknown. And that can be very scary. So if we can help others feel a sense of safety in navigating the change, we help them overcome the fear that may be blocking them.

    Keep writing!

  • Joseph Hsu Reply

    Yes! I really believe in living life flexible (not meaning bend to everyone’s will). The hard part is that to have that attitude you need the willingness/desire to. As you stated, you won’t realize this until you fail.

  • Joseph Hsu Reply

    Yes! I really believe in living life flexible (not meaning bend to everyone’s will). The hard part is that to have that attitude you need the willingness/desire to. As you stated, you won’t realize this until you fail.

  • Carlos Miceli Reply

    I loved this one. It’s practical, to the point, and clear. It’s true, do able, and powerful. It’s well written, insightful, and most of all, it’s easy to feel related to it. I’m definitely bookmarking this one, and I’ll re-read it every time I need to get through change.

    Thanks Irina, this was a great post.

  • Carlos Miceli Reply

    I loved this one. It’s practical, to the point, and clear. It’s true, do able, and powerful. It’s well written, insightful, and most of all, it’s easy to feel related to it. I’m definitely bookmarking this one, and I’ll re-read it every time I need to get through change.

    Thanks Irina, this was a great post.

  • Sam Reply

    Irina, I love your perspective on change! You point out some key factors that some people may not consider. Failure is a part of life, and if we learn how to deal with it and use it as a learning experience, it can actually help us. Making a habit of something and sticking to it, even when you mess up, is extremely important. No excuses, we just have to brush ourselves off and keep on going. Chances are it will be worth it in the end. Great post!

  • Sam Reply

    Irina, I love your perspective on change! You point out some key factors that some people may not consider. Failure is a part of life, and if we learn how to deal with it and use it as a learning experience, it can actually help us. Making a habit of something and sticking to it, even when you mess up, is extremely important. No excuses, we just have to brush ourselves off and keep on going. Chances are it will be worth it in the end. Great post!

  • Yu-kai Chou Reply

    Hey! Great post!

    One interesting thing that this reminds me of is hypnosis. s”Supposedly” when someone is hypnotized, she can do a lot of physically amazing things that she can never do in a normal state. That somewhat suggests that we are capable of so many amazing things. It’s just our own minds and thoughts that limit our potentials.

    Change is hard, but not changing is boring. I rather have a hard life than a boring one.

  • Yu-kai Chou Reply

    Hey! Great post!

    One interesting thing that this reminds me of is hypnosis. s”Supposedly” when someone is hypnotized, she can do a lot of physically amazing things that she can never do in a normal state. That somewhat suggests that we are capable of so many amazing things. It’s just our own minds and thoughts that limit our potentials.

    Change is hard, but not changing is boring. I rather have a hard life than a boring one.

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