We’ve all got someone in our social circle or extended family who has successfully made a lasting transformation in their lives. Whether they’ve lost a significant amount of weight, or started a wildly successful business - we can’t help but wonder what their secret is. Are they just lucky? Were they born with a special gene that enables success? Unlikely. It’s more probable that their success is down to their character - in other words, the behaviour traits that they practice on a regular, consistent basis.
In my experience, there are 6 character traits that these people have in common. And the good news is that all of us can choose to bring these traits into our change approach.
1. They Know Their ‘Why’
Having a purpose - a higher vision that fuels your motivation even through the toughest of times - is critical to success. I like to call this purpose a ‘why’ - it’s the answer to all the difficult questions that change throws at us.
Why are you doing this? Why is it so important to you? Why will it improve your life?
Why do you keep going even when everything seems to be against you?
If you can answer each of these questions with ease and energy, you are much more likely to stick to your plan for change.
Here are some tips that will help you to find your ‘why’:
- Think of a time when you felt proud, happy and fulfilled. What was happening? Who were you with? What was making you feel this way? Consider how your planned change aligns to this feeling - does this change support the feeling? In what way specifically?
- What do you yearn for most in the world? Try to put one single word to it. For me, it’s freedom - the freedom to do what I want, when I want and how I want. This one single word carried me through the difficult times when I lost my weight and when I started my own business. Both of these actions took me closer to freedom. My will to be free was always there for me to call on whenever I needed to find the strength to continue.
2. They Believe In Themselves
Self doubt is very common and totally natural. It plays an important role in human development - it stops us from making dangerous mistakes and encourages us to learn. But there are times when self doubt is a defence mechanism that damages our progress.
People who successfully implement change are able to objectively analyse their own situations, by removing the emotional noise and focusing on their capabilities. When self doubt creeps in, they are capable detaching themselves from the situation and viewing the evidence available.
Here are 3 ways that you can find more self belief:
- Look for proof. Consider your concerns about your ability to change. What evidence is there to support your concern? In the past, have you proven to yourself that you are capable of achieving change? Try to look at the situation objectively, as if you were judging somebody else if your shoes. What would you say to them?
- Choose the language you use with yourself carefully. Are you filling your head with negative thoughts? Are you telling yourself you believe you can, or you believe you can’t? As the famous saying goes - either way you’re right. If you have decided you are incapable of achieving change, and you tell yourself this throughout every moment of every day, you are bound to fail. You have written the script, and the script says ‘I can’t’. Choose instead to tell yourself ‘I can’ - positive thought is an incredibly powerful tool. Use is often.
- Recruit an advocate. Speak to someone you know and trust about your fears. Ask them to be your cheerleader, to remind you of what you are capable of when times get tough.
3. They See Immense Value In Learning
Change is in itself a learning experience. In order to do things differently, we must break our former patterns of behaviour.
People who do this successfully choose to see learning as an activity to be embraced, not feared. They actively seek out the opportunity to learn a new skill and try things in a different way.
In his book, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”, Shunryu Suzuki said "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few". By dropping our preconceived ideas about something, and approaching it without expectation, we are able to see the situation with fresh eyes - as a beginner would.
This practice allows us to see things in a totally new light. It helps to lessen anxiety and bring a fresh sense of excitement about a task. It allows you to be more flexible, more curious and more open to new ideas. Next time you find yourself locking into a preconceived notion of ‘how things are’ - take a step back. Question your assumptions, and try to see things from a new perspective.
4. They Listen To Everyone’s Opinion, Then Judge For Themselves
People who are capable of lasting change recognise that they’re apt to suffer from ‘tunnel vision’. They are focused so completely on the task at hand that they run the risk of missing the obvious. Because of this, they actively seek the opinions of as many people as they can. The more diverse their sources of input, the better.
This doesn’t mean that they have to accept everyone’s opinions. It simply means that they are opening their minds to alternative views.
There are some simple ways to bring this method into your own change journey:
- Talk to people about what you are doing. This gives you an opportunity to hone your message - to really nail down in a few words what exactly it is you are trying to achieve. The more often you do this, the more refined your vision becomes.
- Ask for their opinion. Once you’ve explained your vision, observe the reaction you get. This is a precious moment - an opportunity for you to see beginner’s mind at play. Are there any themes coming through that could help you refine your approach? Any off-the-wall opinions that never occurred to you previously?
- Gather data, review it objectively and make a decision. There comes a point where you have to trust your own judgement. Treat the opinion of others as data points - look for trends, patterns and points of difference. Use this data to help inform your own opinion, but remember that at the end of the day you are the one putting in the hard grind. Therefore, your view is ultimately king.
5. They Play To, And Focus On, Their Strengths
We are conditioned to jump to the conclusion that change means the fixing of fault. Something is wrong, so we must make a change. And to make that change, we must fix our weaknesses.
People who successfully implement change don’t look at it this way. Instead, they recognise the fact that something needs to change, and consider how their personal strengths can enable this change to occur. They are fully aware of their weaknesses, but instead of trying to fix everything themselves they outsource the work they aren’t so good at to people who are.
Take this example. You want to run a marathon, but right now you can barely limp a mile before collapsing in a heap. Something needs to change: your level of fitness. But you’re not a marathon trainer or fitness expert, so you don’t know they best way to go about it. What would be the best solution: to go out running every day hoping you get better at it, or to seek the advice of an expert who can give you an exercise plan? Many of us would likely try the former and then shift to the latter if things don’t go well. The people who understand successful change, however, would have gone right to that expert.
Here’s what you can do to make sure you’re playing to your strengths:
- First up, you need to fully understand your strengths and weaknesses. Think about the things that feel naturally easy to you - can you pin down the specific strength at play? Same goes for the things you find difficult or hate to do - what exactly is it that you find tough? Ask your friends, family and co-workers for their thoughts - ask them to be brutally honest and promise you’ll take it on the chin!
- Find people who can plug your gaps. Once you’ve identified your areas of weakness, consider who you know that holds this attribute as a strength. Can they help you to move things forward? If you don’t know anyone, have a look online - for more professional services try Fiverr or Upwork. For other needs, look for Facebook groups or popular blogs dedicated to that skill.
6. They Take Simple, Repetitive Action
When it comes to change, people generally fit into one of two camps: the planners and the doers. The planners make detailed checklists. They spend tons of time researching their options, watching ‘how to’ videos on YouTube or reading articles online. They buy books, they invest in courses - they become the guru of how to theoretically succeed in their chosen area of change.
But they never do anything about it. So nothing ever changes.
The doers, on the other hand, make stuff happen. Yes, they do some research (following the advice of previous points in this article), but they know when enough knowledge is enough. Early on, they take simple steps that take them closer to their goal and repeat these steps regularly and consistently.
Simple, repetitive action quickly adds up to a large forward momentum, and before they know it they are making a success of their change.
Here’s how to be a doer:
- Make sure you understand your ‘why’. Have a headline vision that expresses your purpose - something that you can call on when times are tough to realign your action.
- Create a list of all the things that need to be done in order for your change to be successful. Pick the 1 or 2 things that will give get you closest to your goal, and do them consistently for 30-60 days.
- Once you’ve done this, take a step back and review your progress. What went well? What would you do differently next time. Pick another 1 or 2 things from your list and go after them for the next 30-60 days.
- Repeat the process above until you have successfully implemented your change!
You are capable of achieving lasting change if you choose to be a person who can. It’s a decision you can make right now - practicing the characteristics outlined in this article is a great place to start.