Thoughts On Making Positive Changes – Can You Do It?

Over the last month I have made one big positive change in my life, and I have a few thoughts on the process of making change which might be useful to you. Have you ever heard of the conscious competence learning matrix? Basically it is 4 stages which you have to go through in order to learn a new skill. The four stages are –

Unconscious Incompetence

You don’t know anything about this new skill – You may know others have this skill but you may think it won’t work for you, you may think you don’t you need it, you may think you’re not capable of learning it it – you need someone to point out how this skill can benefit you before you are willing to consider learning the new skill

Conscious Incompetence

You are now aware of this skill – You are aware that you do not yet posess this skill – You realise that this skill can be useful to you – you make a commitment to learn how to perform this new skill.

Conscious Competence

You are now able to perform this skill without assistance from others but it requires concentration and thought – You are able to demonstrate this skill to others – You now have to commit to practising this skill over and over in order to become unconsciously competent in this skill.

Unconscious Competence.

You have practised this skill so often it enters the unconscious – This skill is now second nature to you – You can now perform this skill while thinking about something else and without concentration – You can now teach this skill to others – Over time you may become less able to teach this skill because you will find it difficult to explain how to do it.

The Four Stages –

Think it’s a load of psychobabble?

Think again. Can you drive a car? Sew? Knit? Type? Paint? Draw? Play a musical instrument? Ride a bike? You have been performing the four stages of learning all your life. You may not have known the name of it until reading this post, but if you take a moment to consider you’ll agree the four stages is exactly how you have been learning to do things.

The exact same process happens when you want to make a positive change in your life. You decide that you want to – lose weight, drink more water, be more positive, get organised, exercise more, play the piano, change a habit, learn any new skill, it could be anything. You think making this change will benefit you. So you make a commitment to change.

The most difficult part is the “practice” – the actual making the change. Unless you *make* yourself practice you will never make the change. Here’s some tips to make it a little easier for you.

This Is Also Known As –

Setting a goal. Sort of. Sometimes a goal requires a lot more work across a lot of different areas, so for the purpose of this post I’m talking more about forming good habits, routines and making *one* positive change at a time.

Pick One Change And Go With It –

Choose the most urgent thing you want to change and focus on changing that. Do not sabotage yourself by trying to change several things at once. You’ll do a lot better if you focus on one at a time. (I made this mistake – on top of the water change I wanted to get more organised. One had to give way – so now I will focus on the organise change I need to make)

Embrace The Need For Change –

You’ve got to want it bad! You have to be passionate about it, long for it, LUST after it! If you don’t want this change, you will find ways to undermine your own efforts. It is sometimes a good idea to write the benefits of making the change down and putting it somewhere you’ll see it often, to remind yourself why you want to make this effort.

Make Success Simple –

If the change is drinking water, carry a bottle with you. If the change is get organised, take time to put systems in place that you can follow. If it’s exercise more, hire a treadmill or exercise bike, whatever floats your boat. Identify how you can make this change easy and simple and then do that first, before you try to begin making the change.

Watch Out For Thwarters –

Friends, family, loved ones can be your worst enemy when it comes to making a change. They like you the way you are. They may not want you to change. They may fear you will leave them behind, not need them anymore. If they can’t get on board, they need to get out of your way – and you may need to push them out of your path.

If you explain to them you want to make this change, you need to make it, and you’re going to make it so you would appreciate their support, and they do not wish to give you the support you’re asking for? That’s a bad sign right there.

I’m not saying cut them out of your life completely, but perhaps it is a good idea to take some time out for yourself to focus on the change you’re making. Do not let anyone hold you back. Don’t let anyone argue with you about it either. You may find it best to – close your ears – smile – nod – ignore – when they try to talk you out of it – and some people will regardless of how much they claim to care for you and want the best for you. Be prepared. Don’t be surprised when it happens.

Look For Supporters –

If you can find people who want to make the same change or even a different positive change from the one you want to make you can support each other. There is nothing like surrounding yourself with people in the progress of positive change. There may be a support group for what you’re looking to do – if not in real life, on the internet. Be wary though, sometimes support can = thwart!

When You Want To Quit –

Keep going. Usually during the first or second week, you’ll have some second thoughts. You’ll think about giving up. You want to quit. Push through it. Don’t allow yourself to give up on your change. You decided to make the change for good reasons and whatever inconveniences you may be experiencing will seem like nothing in a couple of weeks once you get to the unconscious competent stage.

Chart Your Progress –

If the change is something like drink more water, make a simple chart where you can tick off each cup you drink. If it is exercise more, make a chart where you can tick off every half hour of exercise. Whatever your change, try to find a way you can tick boxes for yourself – and always use a tick (positive), never a cross (negative)!

Remind Yourself –

I once had to change my name. I was working in a call centre, and when you answer the phone if you have a longer name there is a better chance the person listening will catch your name if it has more syllables. EG – “This is Ben” will tend to get people saying “Who is it?” whereas”This is Benjamin” you get a lot less “Sorry, I didn’t catch that” which cuts down on your call time. So I wrote my full 3 syllable name on post it notes and stuck it all over my desk. Anywhere I would be looking when I answered a call merited a post it note.

A skill you quickly pick up in a call centre is the ability to listen to what is going on around you as well as on the phone. I heard people discuss my “lack of memory” “That poor girl can’t even remember her own name!” “Doesn’t she know who she is?” – it got so annoying to me that I sent out an email explaining why I had my name all over my desk. Guess what happened next? All kinds of post it notes began to appear all over the office.. I started a trend!

So, write yourself little notes about the change you’re making. Put them in every room you spend time in, where you’re going to see them. On the fridge, on the TV, on the back of the toilet door, on your bathroom mirror, on your bedside cabinet, on your computer monitor.

Reward Yourself.

If you practice, there will come a day when you do this thing without even thinking about it. That day came for me a few days ago, when I noticed I had gone through a 1.5 litre bottle of water during my day without once *thinking* about it. It will happen if you have practiced, so make a plan of how you are going to reward yourself for the hard work you’ve put in.

When The Day Comes –

Celebrate it, you did it! :) Then pick the next thing you want to work on and get started. You’re on a roll, so keep it going. ;)

Don’t Stop Now –

If your choice was to lose weight – most people who made the choice to lose weight put it back on eventually – that is because they get *out* of the good habits they made in their life. When you make a decision to lose weight that is a *lifestyle* change and you have to be committed to it for LIFE. As soon as you stop practicing the good habits you will find the weight creeping back on.

If You Do Stop –

Just as you can get back on the bike and remember how to ride it without having to learn from scratch, you can do the same with any of these changes you committed to making. So simply get back on the bike and start pedaling towards your original goal again.

What Change Did I Make?

In case you didn’t know, I challenged myself after reading this article 9 Great Reasons to Drink Water, and How to Form the Water Habit to begin drinking more water. I used to drink Coca Cola – one can a day – and fruit juice or coffee. I wasn’t getting enough liquids and water retention was a huge issue for me.

Week One –

Visits to the bathroom were more frequent than usual in this week. I was expecting this – the article had mentioned it. It wasn’t too bad but there was one day I felt like quitting the whole thing because I was back and forth too often. Push through that urge to quit. Just keep going!

Two Weeks Into Making This Change –

I noticed a big difference with respect to water retention. The backs of my hands went all wrinkly. The puffiness went away. My body could now rely on me to get enough water during the day and it wasn’t holding to any nugget of water it could get just in case it didn’t get more. Visits to the bathroom were now less frequent than *originally* – I was so glad I didn’t quit!

Sometime In The Third Week –

The unconscious competence kicked in. I was keeping a bottle of water on my desk and suddenly I did not have to remind myself to pour a glass and drink it – and I’d filled in a whole day’s worth of ticks to my chart without once noticing I was doing it. I got some scales at the start of the third week because I thought I’d been losing weight and found I was 10kg lighter than the last time I weighed myself, but that had been over a year ago so I couldn’t be sure it was due to the water. Clothes that fit well three weeks before were suddenly a bit roomy, so I think at least some of the loss was due to it.

I have been so busy drinking water that some mornings I found I wasn’t having my coffee until lunch time – which gave me headaches. This week I focused on making sure I have that morning coffee in the morning. Yes, I am a caffeine addict but during this challenge I’ve cut back to 2 cups a day rather than my usual 4 cups. Wow, what a difference!

Four Weeks Into Making This Change –

I’ve lost 3kg (6.6 pounds) over the course of one week, without making any changes to eating or exercise – in fact I’ve been eating 2 pieces of Lindt chocolate each day, something I normally do not do! Now I’m reasonably confident a large part of the weight loss was due to the water drinking. I can see a noticeable change in the mirror. I’ve been working on getting the hands less wrinkly but it will take time for the skin to shrink back after losing the puffiness.

Was It Worth It?

Absolutely. I am feeling a lot better for it. Now I’m all about the next change, which is getting more organised. Over the next week I’ll be putting systems in place to help me do that. I wanted to do it at the same time as the water change but I found two changes at once was too much for me.

Did you find this article helpful?

Let me know in the comments section. :) Let me know if it inspires you to make your own change, too! ;)

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5 thoughts on “Thoughts On Making Positive Changes – Can You Do It?

  1. This is all good advice. As for thwarters, sometimes they don’t realize what they’re doing and you have to make it clear to them that you won’t be sidetracked. Sometimes they get the message, but if they don’t you have to stay strong.


  2. I absolutely believe what you are saying. I drink a huge amount of water a day. I started as you did, and now it’s natural for me to drink half a gallon a day. I feel wonderful.

    I did the same thing when I decided to lose weight (aka eating healthier). It took some time, but now I naturally make healthy choices, without thinking about it. After nearly a year, I’ve lost 92 pounds. :-)

    Great post!!

  3. Wow. Ok, after my last comment, I scrolled down and read this. This is word for word (well, almost, but the terms are the same) what I cover on the last session of my culture/diversity courses. Amazing! You’re reading my mind!

    And I’m asking myself…why don’t I ever blog about the stuff I teach? Hmmm….

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