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#58 This is why you can't change

How do you know if someone is actually going to do what they say?

When you promise yourself you’re going to complete your project this week, or when your partner promises you’ll never have this kind of argument again, or when you wonder for the hundredth time if you can believe your friends apologies - when do you trust changes are actually going to happen?

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what distinguishes the potential successful change from the hopeless one, not only because it might save me a lot of anguish and futile planning, but also because it could help me know when to trust that things come to fruition.

And I think I’ve finally got something: I now use a mental formula for trust to change. When I think I’m going to do something or someone brings a potential change to me, these are the three criteria I’m looking for:

1. Insight

How much insight does the person have into the situation?

For example, when wanting to start a new behaviour or new goal: Do I really know what the problem with the current situation is? Do I really know what and why I am changing? Do I know what this actually requires I give up?

Or when someone is apologising: Do they know what they’re actually apologising for? Do they know what the real issue is for the other person? Do they know what specifically caused the upset? Do they know what line of reasoning the other person used to get hurt and how it differed from theirs?

2. Willingness

The next essential element I'm looking for is how genuinely motivated the person is to carry out the change.

I'm looking for motivation: how bad do I actually care for the result? How enjoyable do I think the process or the result will be? How much do I believe in the result?

Willingness is the passionate conversation I have in my head to gym 5 days a week, or the fuel behind the 20 item to-do-list, or the dreams to create a wonderful life, or the passion with which someone suggests they want us to do something.

Willingness is also what I used to think was the only or most necessary element to change. It used to be the single element I thought was needed, and ignoring everything else is what got me in a fair bit of disappointment and trouble.

3. Action Plan

Lastly I need a path to getting the change done. It doesn't need to be a detailed to do list, but it needs to be a series of actions that can bring about results.

I've seen genuine apologies from people who seemed to fully appreciate what damaged they'd done and were highly motivated to fix things, but had no idea how to do it. Or realisation that they had no idea to do it.

“I know what is needed and I really want it” can seem enough to get something, but without a series of steps, it's still nothing. As obvious as this now seems to me, it's funny how many times variations of that sentence have had me oversee how little I knew what to do next.

So these are the three steps I'll think of:

Creating a new habit/starting a new task: “What do I need to change?” “What isn't working?” “What do I need to give up?” Then “How bad do I really want this?” Then “What exactly do I need to do?” “How do I know I'm succeeding?” “Where do I go in case of an issue”

When I'm getting/giving an apology: “What damage was caused exactly?” “Why is it important?” “What exactly was done?” “What did I think I was doing/saying?” “What exactly did the other person think was being said/done?” “What do I need to give up to change/fix this?” Then “How bad do I want to fix this?” “What am I willing to give up or change to fix this?” Then “How do I fix this exactly?" “How do I make these changes?”

Hope it helps!

PS. You might've noticed I've stopped sending newsletters recently after my previous hosting platform was shut down - any feedback on how this new newsletter looks would be amazing.



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