Change is going to happen. Regardless of who you are, where you’re from, or what you do, change is inevitable. Many people struggle with change. The struggle occurs because the change happens to you, rather than for you. You are forced to change, rather than choosing to transform, and that lack of control can be uncomfortable, unnerving, and frustrating. It’s like being pulled by the undertow in the ocean; Fearing that you may never regain control and reach the surface again becomes very real.
The issue lies in the fact that we’ve never really been taught how to create positive change; We’ve never been taught that it’s a process that we can take control of it. During your schooling years from preschool all the way through college and post graduate studies, much of your self-development and growth occurs as a result of others guiding you through the learning and transformation processes. It teaches and conditions you to that change is done for you, rather than by you, making you feel like a passive participant in your own growth and development.
As you work your way out of school and into traditional life, the responsibility of personal growth and learning falls squarely on your shoulders. No longer are people intentionally guiding you to acquire more knowledge, build your skills, and develop yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. This is where most people stop developing almost completely and become stagnant in their life. They no longer consistently learn and grow, struggle to create positive change, and find themselves merely treading water. This is a scary place to be because it goes against our natural human desire to stay in motion and work to grow and achieve more. Even though change is scary, being stuck feels worse. Without that growth, without the positive motion moving us forward, we feel lost and struggle to find ourselves.
That’s where Intentional Change Theory can play a pivotal role. It’s a structured approach to self-development and personal transformation created by Richard Boyatzis. It was theorized and designed for use in the development of employees and growth in the business sector, but can work for everything from career improvement and emotional development, to physical transformations, relationship building and skill acquisitions. It helps guide you from where you currently are to where you want to be through 5 key steps:
- Connecting to Your Ideal Self
- Understanding Your Real Self
- Creating a Learning & Growth Agenda
- Implementing and Experimenting with New Behaviors &Habits
- Developing & Maintaining Close, Personal Relationships
With these 5 steps you will discover important things about yourself that will help you achieve personal growth and transform your life. Diving deep in the questions below, you will begin to uncover the truth about who you are; Your strengths and weaknesses, your dreams and aspirations, and your fears and personal obstacles will all be brought to the surface . This insight will guide you through building a structured transformation process and help you grow into the person you have always wanted to become, to develop the life you’ve always dreamed of living.
If you’re ready to take control of your life, seeking out and creating change intentionally rather than waiting for it to happen to you, continue reading this guide that will have you on your way to living your best life and becoming your truest self.
What do you want out of life?
Don’t think about what you’ll tolerate, or what you think is possible; what do you truly want and desire out of life?
Who do you want to become? What does the very best version of yourself look like?
Most of us tend to live small. We plan small, dream small and live small. It’s safe and it keeps us from feeling the anxiety and fear of being truthful about our dreams and goals and chasing them feverishly. It keeps us from being let down if things don’t work out.
But living safe isn’t living life to it’s fullest. It’s living below your potential and accepting less than what you truly want and deserve. It leaves you always wanting more, left with feelings of dissatisfaction and irritation.
Your ideal self breaks through these societal and self-imposed limitations, smashes through the idea that you’re not worth the effort to go after want you want. It helps you tap into your deepest desires for yourself and the life you live. This is the part of the vision building process which works on something called “Positive Emotional Attraction” to create hope and inspiration for individuals to create change. Rather than focusing on external limitations and factors that can lead to feelings of negativity, visualization allows you to look at yourself and your situation in the most positive possible light.
When going through the questions above, it’s important to be aware of any of the limiting stories or ideas that come across your mind. These are the stories that the world around you has told you for years, driven by their own fear and limitations, that you’ve adopted as your own. If you start thinking, “I can’t achieve that”, “I’m not good enough for that”, “I’m not X, Y, or Z type of person” or anything sounding remotely similar, understand that’s not your own true thoughts and feelings, but rather the thoughts and feelings you have absorbed over a lifetime.
This section is where you let those feelings go, be truthful with yourself about what you want and need out of yourself and your life and start visualizing what that would look and feel like. Put aside your preconceived notions about what’s possible based on your current skills, characteristics, attributes, etc.; Turn your focus to what you want your life to look like if there were absolutely no limitations and anything was possible (hint: in many ways, it is possible).
This is who you truthfully are right now. How do you act? How do you see yourself? How do other people see you and feel about you?
Your real self is the person that you currently are. It’s the way you act and respond, the characteristics you embody, the skills you currently possess, and the life you’re currently living. This is a difficult area for people to dive into because we all have our own biases and protections for our egos. We struggle to see ourselves honestly, without outside influences or personal opinions distorting the truth about ourselves. However, if we are afraid to look in the mirror, we can never change the things we don’t like. Embrace the “ugly”. Be honest. Put aside your ego and take this dive into who you truly are as an opportunity for reflection, self-awareness, and growth.
As you work through the questions above, it can help to reach out to other people to gather their opinion on who you are. Choose people who know you well but aren’t afraid to speak their mind and be honest, without fear of hurting your feelings. You must also be open to the constructive criticism these people may provide and welcome it as a self-performance review. It will show you where you excel and show you where you can improve. if you adopt a mindset that sees honesty and growth as a positive opportunity, the ability to improve is invigorating and energizing. These people will play a pivotal role in your growth and development over your lifetime, so getting them involved early and often is important.
Ideal vs Real Self: Your Personal Balance Sheet
Compare your ideal self to your real self. Where do they align? Where are there gaps and differences between the two?
Where does your real self live up to your ideal self? These are the strengths that you’ll continue to build on and use to your advantage.
Where does your ideal self outpace your real self? These are the weaknesses or shortcomings where you will focus your attention and put energy into improving.
This works as a personal balance sheet designed to compare where your strengths lie, and where opportunities for growth can be found. It’s important to approach this process entirely judgment free, focusing on unconditional acceptance of self. Look at is as a chance to improve yourself and your life, rather than beat yourself up over your weaknesses or areas in which you aren’t living up to your potential.
It can be helpful to set up a Venn diagram comparing your real and ideal self and putting the overlapped areas in the middle to show where they align. You can then move onto the next section and start building a plan to bridge the gap between your ideal and real self, using your strengths to get you there.
Your learning agenda is the plan you develop that guides you step by step from where you currently are, to where you want to go. It’s the map that leads you to the treasure chest of wealth that is your ideal self and life. It’s important to build a clear outline with goals that are broken down further into skills and practices/habits. This ensures that you’re giving yourself the best chance to succeed in transformation.
What do you need to learn to become your best self? What skills do you need to develop?
In what areas to you need to grow physically, mentally and emotionally to become the best version of you?
How can you take the information from above and break it down into manageable steps that can be achieved through daily action (habits and behaviors) over the course of weeks and months or even years?
The learning agenda is a guide; it’s the Yoda to the Luke Skywalker that is your personal growth and development. It acts to not only show you the path to your highest self and form of living, but also to motivate you by proving that it’s actually possible to achieve. Focus on the key aspects of your personal growth, the areas that will bring you the most drastic change the quickest. Then, narrow your lens view as you achieve those major changes.
A large portion of your focus will be on bridging the gaps between your ideal and real self, but attention should also be paid to strengths and areas in which you are already succeeding. This works to reinforce those strengths and to ensure that you continue to maintain them as you move forward. This gives you a boost of motivation by working in an area where you already excel. Working on weaknesses and constantly struggling to build upon them can become a grind, so it’s necessary to affirm your strengths.
But while it is important to focus necessary attention on those areas, don’t become lost in that. It can be easy to be absorbed by the good feelings and comfort of the “pat on the back”. Acknowledge what you’ve done well, and what you will continue to do, but don’t let it take you away from the process of transformation.
Practice and Experimentation with New Habits and Behaviors:
This may be the most important step in this entire process. Without the previous three steps, however, it will fall far short of its potential. This is where you take the planning, motivation, and insight built over the first three steps and put them into action.
What habits and behaviors must you adopt if you wish to become your ultimate self?
How can you implement the practice of those behaviors into your current life?
How will you ensure that failure in practicing or creating a new behavior doesn’t end up in you quitting the improvement process entirely?
It’s important to understand and accept that change doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t just decide to become a better person, to live a better life, and then wake up expecting it to happen. It takes hard work and a level of dedication that gets you through the low points. But if you keep your eyes on the end goal while believing in your ability to achieve it, the work will come naturally. Though difficult at times, it will be well worth it. Focus on what you do daily as a way to weigh your success in the process, working for consistency rather than perfection. Measure those habits up to the check points you’ve set for yourself, and continue to do this process over time.
It’s also necessary to remember that your ultimate self is probably unattainable– meaning, perfection is something that will never happen. You will never do every single thing you set out to do daily. It’s about a majority win. When good habits prevail 90 percent of the time, you’re winning. The idea that your ultimate self won’t be 100 percent achieved shouldn’t dampen your emotion but rather keep you level headed as you work towards it without ever truly achieving it.
Development and Maintenance of Close Personal Relationships:
Humans are built for connection. It plays on our need for survival. Those who are connected with others and work well in groups typically survive better than lone wolfs. It also works with our desire to reproduce, as connection is a vital component to create relationships and families. Though our needs for survival have drastically changed throughout human history, there is still a large need for human connection and support in achieving anything of worth, especially a massive transformation. You can go at this journey alone, but your chances of success and the speed at which you succeed will fall greatly without the assistance from people close to you.
The relationships that we have with individuals and groups work two fold. They work as a support system, providing feedback on your progress, and helping you through your struggles so you don’t revert back to old behaviors. They also help develop your identity. Because of this, it’s important to surround yourself with people who will be honest and challenge you, those who believe in your vision for your life and live their lives in a similar manner. Working toward personal growth and aiming to live the best life possible is so much easier when done together.
Your personal relationships include friends and family, but expand outside of that small circle to encompass people you wouldn’t normally expect. Bosses and mentors, coaches who have already achieved what you wish to work for, and anyone else willing to invest in your process of change are all people you should keep close to you. Start looking within your life to find people who fit the criteria of being a supportive member on your journey, and then expand outward searching for coaches or mentors who can help guide you where others cannot.
Remember that the relationship should be mutually beneficial. You will be gaining something from them, and giving something in return. Enter the relationship in such a way that ensures you’re not simply taking.
Change is Your Choice
Change is going to be tough no matter how it happens. Whether you change as a result of difficult times that force change, or simply decide that you’re going to dedicate yourself to the betterment and improvement of your life, it’s going to be difficult. The difference between intentional change and the change that happens to you and is forced upon you, is that the former makes you feel empowered with the ability to create change, while the latter leaves you feeling out of control and at the mercy of life. It’s your choice and responsibility to decide who you want to be and the life you want to live, and it starts with your approach to your own development and growth.
Do you want to accept life as it is, always at the mercy of the inevitable difficulties that life throws at you? Or would you prefer to grab the reins of change, take control of your life and grow into the person you’ve always been capable of becoming?
Ultimately the choice is yours and I can’t fault you for not wanting to put forth the immense amount of effort it takes to create change for yourself and work toward a better life. But the truth is that your time on earth is limited and you’ve already been living a small, underwhelming life, so isn’t it time to try something new?
P.S. If you’ve been struggling to make a change in your life, especially if it’s related to health, nutrition, fitness or mindset, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss my coaching process and how I can help you implement some of the tools from this article and ensure you make the changes you desire and start living the life you have always wanted!