The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking. – Albert Einstein
The writer and podcaster Tim Ferriss came up with a soundbite that he found resonated again and again with audiences.
“The major fears of modern man”, he said, “could be boiled down to two things: too much email and getting fat.”
I don’t know about you, but I have any number of excuses for why I can’t exercise right now or tomorrow or every day.
And many of us have experienced the oscillations of diets and impulse eating and in general just how hard it is to get and stay healthy.
But this challenge is the same in many other fields as well.
It’s hard to create and sustain a healthy sales process, an operations process or a commitment to creating research output or content.
Now, when we look at problems we often come at them in one of two ways.
We think of solutions – ways to solve problems.
Or we think of them as investigations – looking to understand and explain what is happening and, in doing so, improving the situation.
But, even if you know using these processes or others what needs to be done – what stops us or our clients from implementing them?
For example, if you know and your clients know that they should have a social media marketing strategy – then why don’t they just go ahead and do it?
Are they lazy? Uninformed? Lacking in vision? Unable to grasp the nettle? Reach for the stars?
Cliches leap to mind when we think of others and how they fail to do the bleeding obvious.
The situation is more nuanced when it comes to ourselves, of course.
So, in such situations the stages of motivational readiness for change model by Prochaska and DiClemente (1983) might be a useful one.
The model, as shown in the picture above adapted to the problem of physical activity has five stages.
In the first stage you’re just not thinking about being active – it’s home from work and feet up in front of the telly.
In the second stage you’re aware of your expanding belly and wondering what you might do about it.
In the next stage you take some tentative steps – walking more, perhaps. Going for a run.
In the fourth stage you’re doing enough activity and you have been doing it for some time – perhaps exercising three times a week for the last six months.
In the last stage you’ve made it a habit – you exercise regularly and have arranged your life so that it’s something you do as part of your daily routine.
There are a few things worth noting about this model.
The first is that if you skip stages you are more likely to fail.
For example, if you are in stage 2, thinking about change and jump straight to going to the gym three times a week, the effort required and the increased chances of injury are quite likely to stop you when something goes wrong.
And when that happens you don’t go back a stage, but perhaps all the way back to the very beginning – when you stop thinking about change at all.
The second is that wherever you are in this model, you could always slide back – it’s sometimes seen as a cyclical model for that reason, as you fall back a stage and then clamber forwards again.
If you do social media marketing the similarity with a client’s journey is probably obvious.
A tool making company’s crusty old founder thinks that this whole social media thing is complete nonsense.
The next generation are more digitally savvy and trying to see what they can do.
If they move too quickly the founder will rein things in – so that have to start with a little activity.
Then, as comfort with the process grows they ramp up until they’re doing enough to keep up with the competition.
And finally, they reach digital maturity – become digitally native and thrive.
Or slide back and go out of business.
Each one’s mileage varies.
So, if you recognise that you’re in one of these stages what can you do to move forward?
Here are a few suggestions.
First, start with small changes and work up to bigger ones. Try and do things that result in success – remember that nothing succeeds like success and that works for this too.
Second, make choices that work for you and not because you think they are the right ones to do.
Don’t go running because your friends do – when you would rather lift weights or jump rope.
Pick things that work for your body and environment.
Third, assume you will fail and work out what you will do when that happens.
If you planned to go for a walk, for example, and the heavens open – what are you going to do?
Watch telly or do some yoga?
It’s important to decide ahead of time what you’ll do when things don’t work out because you’ll probably do the easiest, most pleasurable thing – like flopping on the sofa and watching telly.
The main point of this model is that even if you know what you should do – it’s really hard to get yourself motivated to do it.
The key is making it easier for you to create, grow and sustain a habit – whether it’s do with exercise or the way you run your business.
And it all starts with being more aware of which stage you’re in right now.