Motivation is nothing more than a desire to act, but for anyone who has ever wanted to change a behavior or radically alter a situation in her life it can seem as elusive as setting out to find a four-leaf clover. While research shows motivation levels are flexible and goal attainment is an option for almost anyone, the path to change is so intimately connected to the desire to change that it begs a number of questions: if the desire to change is the essential starting point behind which all change or growth happens, how do we spark that desire? Once it’s sparked, how do we fan it into a self-sustaining flame?
Simply wanting to change is at the core of any transformation, yet truly changing is tricky. Whether you recently heard an inspiring and well-known speaker who revealed your own self-defeating behavior or you just have a sense of your own potential, here is a look at the ways and means of real and lasting transformation.
Passion and Inspiration
Most people wish benignly for external circumstances to force them to change bad habits of mind and practices. Research shows even the most basic habits take 66 consecutive days to rewire, which means external pressure will likely not last long enough to effect any change in you. Instead, what a person needs is to be inspired in such a way it elicits his own passion to work toward change. Meeting goals, modifying behaviors — these things take stamina, and without the fuel and energy of true passion, stamina can’t be built. Passion and inspiration, when held in delicate and dynamic balance, form a formidable team aiding you in your quest to change.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and there really is only one way to get to Carnegie Hall. Without the repetition of new skills and behaviors, no new change can develop and form. As you practice the new skill or behavior, do so incrementally. Smaller bites of new information help our brain adjust so over time, new neural pathways are formed, and these new pathways become the ones your neurons regularly travel on. In time, all the repetitive behavior helps ensure those pathways become old hat. Commit to practicing, and change will follow.
The more consistently you can perform the new modification, the more successful you will be at accomplishing it. Trying to learn piano? Practice at the same time every day, and play the same piece or scales until you master them. Trying to quit smoking? Every time you get a craving, pop a piece of gum in your mouth. If that fails, drop down and do 20 push-ups. Follow a routine so when you feel a craving your thought process changes from, “I need a cigarette,” to “I need a piece of gum and a pectoral workout.”
One of the biggest roadblocks to change is in the realm of appropriate expectations. Be realistic and gracious with yourself. Chances are, you’re trying to undo something that is deeply rooted in your psyche or behavior, or you’re tackling something outside of your comfort zone. Don’t expect too much too soon. Consistent practice will yield change, but the inertia of your old ways will resist your attempts to shift momentum. Be patient, and celebrate any progress, but be realistic, too. You don’t want to lose focus and fall off the wagon.
A Belief in One’s Own Self-Efficacy
One of the most important components to effecting true change lies in your own sense of self-efficacy. This is the belief in your own ability to take action, respond to different situations and order your life to your own desired ends. What you believe about your ability can inspire you enough to do the hard work of changing and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t, you’re much more likely to give up or stop short of meeting your goals.
People can and do change; it’s just a long and bumpy road. Believe in yourself and get in the way of inspiration, so that your passion can yield a consistent and realistic practice. Changing is a remarkable thing for anyone to accomplish, and the jumpstart only takes wanting to change.