Last week I wrote about how much I like my box. It’s safe. It’s comfy.
But sometimes it becomes too confining, and I want to change something about my situation.
How do I overcome all my reasons for resisting change, even though I know that change will lead to a better reality?
Not a simple question, obviously. No one-size-fits-all solution.
But I’ve gleaned a few suggestions from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.
Here’s one that particularly resonated with me, because it seems to apply to those hard-to-define problems we face, like relationship issues, habits, internal attitudes …
Define the New Reality
Don’t start with the problems. Instead of focusing on what is not working, define what it might look like if your problem were solved.
Ask yourself this question:
If I woke up tomorrow and my problem was solved, how would I know? What small signs would tell me something had changed?
Can you see how empowering this question is? So simple, and yet it prompts some deep and insightful thinking. If we try to answer it honestly, it may lead us past the seemingly impossible knots of what is wrong, and point us toward where we should be heading.
A personal example:
Let’s say I wished I was a pro at the marketing side of writing. Right now the idea of marketing seems huge, scary, bewildering, and pretty much beyond my capabilities. And yet, if I want to be serious about publishing books, it is a non-optional part of the business. (Drats)
My answer to the New Reality Question might be something like this:
- I would no longer be afraid of marketing, but instead I would feel confident that I know how to work through the tasks. (I may never love it, but that is OK. I don’t love house cleaning, but I can do it when I need to without stressing over it.)
- I would know where to begin, and what process to follow.
- I could identify which strategies work best for me.
- I would have role models to follow.
- I would understand my target audience, where to find them, and what they want.
So, by answering the question, I have given myself:
- A glimpse of the destination. What it looks like and feels like.
- A growth mindset—a mindset that says, “with work I can become better at that.”
- An idea of some small steps that lead toward the final goal. Those “small signs” I’ve identified can help me discover concrete steps I can take are within the realm of my current ability.
Which leads to a related piece of advice from the book:
Divide the journey into small, achievable steps
Assume the destination is 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. So I ask where I am right now. The very fact that I have begun to look at the question in this way implies that I am no longer stuck on level one. So perhaps I am at level two.
Level ten, the final destination, is still far beyond me. But level three is within reach. So what might level three look like?
- I might designate a portion of my writing time to read up on the topic. (Without feeling guilty for “wasting” my writing time.)
- I might identify 3-5 activities I can work on and stick with them for at least a month. (Without stressing over whether they are the best choices.)
Level three looks challenging, but within reach. And when I do reach it, I can begin aiming for lever four. And so on…
So, what tough or bewildering problems are in your life right now? Can you find a way to use the New Reality Question to help you towards a solution?