I know I want to change... Yet, every time I set a goal and decide to change, I seem to get sidetracked or lose sight of the end point. It never seems to work out as I planned.
How can you effectively make a change? You know how to set goals. You even have a framework for this: SMART - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Tangible.So you set up your goals using this framework. You get specific and say that you want to become better at participating in team meetings so you can have more influence in decisions. You set up a measurable outcome by saying that you will have your ideas adopted in an upcoming meeting. You see this as attainable; you know your ideas are good. It is a realistic goal and there will be tangible benefits for you and your team when it happens.
So where is the problem? Why is this the third time you have set this goal? It could be that you have no plan for accomplishing this change. No idea how to become more effective in meetings. No idea how to influence others in a group setting. And no ways to determine if you are even doing the things you are trying to do effectively. So how can you expect to accomplish this without a new approach? You can't.
You can't that is without a plan. Just like you need a plan or framework to be able to set goals, you need a framework for accomplishing those goals. Just setting a goal never accomplishes anything. You have to take action. Yet that action needs a direction and its own plan to become reality.
Making Change Happen: A Plan for Change
The steps are easy.
First you need to discover what you need to know. Do you need a book or a course? Do you need a mentor or coach? Do you need to talk with peers? Are there tools available that would help? What ever is needed must be identified and found. In the case above you might need a coach to help identify effective ways to interact in groups and it may be helpful to read about communication Balkonkraftwerk skills. (There may be other things needed depending upon the particular circumstances, these are offered only as an illustration.)
The second step is to put the information, tools or learning into action. You need to test the new ideas. This step is all about practice. It is now time to take your new game on the road. In this case you become more interactive in the meeting; you present your ideas and propose solutions.
The third step is all about feedback. Without feedback you will not know how your performance went. Feedback is your measurement of results. Part of the feedback will be a self assessment of the results. You will review the actual result of the practice - the action taken. In this case you will assess your results in terms of ideas presented, ideas accepted and implemented. Another part of the feedback can include a discussion with a coach that reviews the actions taken and the results obtained. In the case we are following, a possibility is to talk with a colleague prior to the meeting and ask that person to pay attention to what you will be doing differently in the meeting and then debrief with them at the end of the meeting.
The fourth step is to use the feedback information to determine if you need to go back to steps one or two or if the desired results have been obtained and you can check the completed box next to this goal. If you need more practice, go back to step two and practice until you get the desired result. If more information or tools are needed, go back to step one and start there again.
- Get the needed information or tools.
2) Put this in to action - Practice the new techniques.
3) Get feedback about results.
4) Make corrections, get new information, practice more, or obtain the desired results and call the goal complete!
Use these steps for any kind of change. The example was of a behavioral change; however this same framework or set of steps will work with any kind of personal change. If you wanted to become more strategic you could first find a mentor, and then start practicing the advice obtained from that person. You would then assess the results yourself and consult with your mentor for their feedback. Based on these assessments you would wither get more mentoring, practice the advice more or declare your self a strategy guru.
Four Great Books On The Theme Of Creative Living
If you think the creative life is the one for you and you'd like some practical advice as well as inspiration on the topic, just take a look at these four superb books...
1. Creating A Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd.
Billed as 'A practical course in career design for artists, innovators, and others aspiring to a creative life', there's a clear message right from the start that creativity can take a vast number of different forms. Simply assigning someone the label of 'creative' is a serious generalisation. Your version of creativity might be making art, teaching, generating ideas, inventing objects, interpreting music... and Carol Lloyd is most helpful in encouraging you to understand your own unique brand of creativity.
The book begins with a section somewhat similar to Julia Cameron's Artist's Way programme - a process of search and research through your childhood desires, your timeless inclinations and present needs. From there it goes considerably further into the dreaming, planning and design stages for a new way of living. And on into the development of a down-to-earth action plan for your day-to-day life.
There's a chapter on the various kinds of day jobs which can support or undermine your long-term creative goals. Another on how to deal with indecision and competing interests. And one that asks you to analyze your current lifestyle and build a new model for your everyday creative process.
This book is an excellent tool if you want to undertake some self coaching. I have learned much from it to enhance the life/creativity coaching that I do. So if you want to redesign your life in a way that will support and inspire your creativity, this is the one for you.
2. Your Life As Art by Robert Fritz
What a great concept! To take the nuts and bolts of the creative process and apply them to creating your life. Your Life As Art takes that idea and explores just how you can make it real.
The interesting thing about this book is that it concentrates on the structural processes that make up the creation of works of art, be they paintings, musical compositions, films, novels, poetry. It's not about ways to find inspiration - in fact it advises strongly against relying on inspiration. The theme is more about conscious creation through the application of appropriate structure, and how to achieve it in your life.
The first half of the book looks at the concept of structural tension as it applies to both creating works of art and achieving life goals. This involves having a clear and realistic sense of where you are now, combined with a vision of what you want to achieve. The structural tension is the gap between the two and it's what pulls you towards your vision.
The second half of the book looks at the structural patterns in our lives. Some people have structural life patterns which lead them through one successful project and onwards to the next, and the next. Others have repeating life patterns which take them round in less successful circles. Robert Fritz explains how the self concepts you hold can get in the way of your success and lead you into the frustration of a repeating pattern. He also explains (hurrah!) how to stop going round in circles and to change the structural patterns in your life.
If you want your thoughts provoked on the nature of creativity as a structural form, both in relation to art and to life itself, this will really get you thinking. It may sound complex, but it's well written, easy to follow and well worth the read.
3. Coaching The Artist Within by Eric Maisel
Eric Maisel is described as 'America's foremost creativity coach' and in this book he offers well-structured advice, illustrated with anecdotes and personal reflections on his many years of creativity coaching experience.
The book is divided into twelve sections - each one covering a skill that will help you along the path to becoming your own creativity coach. To give some examples, three of the skills he covers are: 'Passionately making meaning', 'Becoming an anxiety expert' and 'Creating in the middle of things'.
As is the rule with all self development books, there is no quick fix here, but the advice offered is shot through with the occasional artistic twist and steeped in common sense. All the books I've read on the topic of the creative process are unanimous in stating that, ultimately, it's a case of simply getting down to and getting on with the work. This book is no exception, but it includes an interesting extension to the theme by advocating positive forms of obsession. Maisel explores the fine line that divides emotional stability from instability when you're in the midst of a creative obsession. In those moments when you produce your most inspired work, how sane are you?
I found this book to be both practical and inspiring. So if you want to try a spot of creative self-coaching why not take a look?
4. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
The full title of this book is 'The Creative Habit. Learn it and use it for life. A practical guide'. And that's genuinely what it is... a practical guide, setting out and exploring the habits and attitudes that sustain a fully creative life.
Twyla Tharp, the world famous choreographer, now in her sixties, details with clarity, style and authority how to keep yourself productive and motivated even when you think you've run completely out of enthusiasm.
She writes about the structure and organizational aspects of creative projects - 'Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box'; scratching for inspiration in potentailly productive areas, like scratching a lottery ticket to see if you strike lucky; mastering the underlying skills of your creative domain and building your creativity on the solid foundations of those skills; getting out of ruts (stuckness) and creating grooves (productive flow).