Jim Collins

Are You Ready For Change? 3 Steps You Simply Have to Take

Is there anything in your life you would like to change?  Perhaps a habit?  Or a goal that you want to accomplish that you believe will make your life better in some tangible ways?  Or to change a behavior or mindset that no longer is serving you well? I have yet to meet a person who is 100% satisfied with everything in their life.  We all have dreams, desires, hopes for something better, to improve some area of our lives, to move forward toward a more preferred future.

All of my coaching clients hire me because, though they are already successful people, they have areas they want to work on and move forward and improve--whether it's developing greater clarity about a job transition, or developing more effective leadership skills, or identifying some personal dreams that they want to pursue to bring more fulfillment and meaning to their already busy lives, or to design a more purposeful and effective spiritual path that brings them greater peace and a sense of groundedness and life balance, or to improve their most important relationships.

In all these cases, one of the issues I emphasize is momentum.  Life change develops most effectively when momentum is increased.  In other words, once you begin the process of change (whatever the change is) building forward movement toward where you're wanting to go is crucial to both initiating change and establishing effective and long term change.  Momentum.

In fact, one of my clients--an executive in a fast-growing firm in the finance industry--hired me (after interviewing multiple coaches) precisely because I used the word "momentum" in describing what my work with clients is designed to build.  That's exactly what he was wanting for his life.

So let me suggest 3 specific steps you should take to build momentum for the things you want to change or accomplish in your life that truly matter to you.

Step 1:  Identify What You Really Want

Setting very specific intentions (goals) is the first crucial step.  Make it clear.  And make sure it is an authentic expression of your deep desires.  Focus first on the feeling you're wanting to experience that this change or goal will produce.

Why start with your feelings?  Because feelings are more powerful intentions than simple behaviors.  Feeling actually drive actions.  You choose certain behaviors because--if you were to truly analyze it--you want to feel a certain way.  Right?  So start with the feeling you want.

Then choose behaviors that will get you to that feeling.  Specific actions.

Don't get fixated on one specific action.  Truth is, multiple actions can produce the same feeling you're desiring.  Hold tactics (actions) with an open hand.  If one isn't working for you, change to another one.  Emphasize the feeling.

Step 2:  Break Your Steps Down Into Small, Doable Increments

Sometimes we're tempted to think too big.  And then we get overwhelmed because the goal looms large over our heads.  And then we're tempted to give up.

Successful people know how to break their steps into small increments that are doable on a regular basis.

One of my clients recently, in describing his goal and the process he was using to get there, put it in a very profound way:

"What can I do today to shift the needle by tomorrow?"

I like his emphasis.  The word "shift" isn't talking about some huge, quantum leap forward.  It's a small, even slight movement.

Keep it small and simple.  All you're looking for is a shift in the needle day by day.

Step 3:  Take Steps Regularly & Religiously

This is the strategy to building effective momentum.  Consistency.

Jim Collins, in one of the most widely read business and productivity books in the last 13 years,  Good To Great, calls this process the fly wheel principle.  When at first you try to push a huge flywheel, you meet lots of resistance.  It's difficult.  Laborious.  But you keep pushing and turning the flywheel.  With great effort you keep pushing.  And with every push and spin, the flywheel begins to pick up momentum.  If you stay with this process, ultimately its momentum becomes a self sustaining power that moves it forward, on and on.

"Good to great comes about by a cumulative process--step by step, action by action, decision by decision, turn by turn of the flywheel--that adds up to sustained and spectacular results."  (p. 165)

The amazing thing is that often onlookers, who see what you've accomplished, think you've gotten there in one big step.  They're impressed and in awe.  They congratulate you.  They want to know the secret of your success so they ask, "What was the one big push that caused you to get here so fast?"

But those of us doing this kind of work know that that is a nonsensical question.  Was it the first push?  The second?  The fifth?  The hundredth?  No!

"It was all of them added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in consistent direction.  Some pushes may have been bigger than others, but any single heave--no matter how large--reflects a small fraction of the entire cumulative effective upon the flywheel."  (p. 165)

Summary.  Three nonnegotiable steps to creating the kind of momentum that gets you where you want to go:  1) clearly identify what you really want and how you want to feel, 2) break your steps down into small, doable increments, 3) and take those steps regularly and religiously (keep turning the flywheel and don't stop).

One of the great rewards of my work is creating the space for people where they can engage in this process, giving them accountability and encouragement every step of the way, and then seeing them create the kind of life they truly want.

I see it every time:  after pushing on that flywheel in a consistent direction over an extended period of time, they inevitably hit a point of breakthrough.  Change happens.  Transformation.  And they begin experiencing the joy of living the life they truly want, the one that matters most to them.

Action:  If you would like to have a short phone conversation with me about how this could work for you with something that you're feeling the need to address in your life, email me and I'll work out a time to visit.  It could set up the breakthrough you're really looking for.


Looking for a Speaker or Coach?

If you or someone you know in your organization is looking for a keynote speaker or workshop teacher for events in your company, congregation, or association gatherings, I would be happy to come speak on this theme or others like it.  And interested in strengths coaching?  Feel free to email me at greg@gregorypnelson.com or look at the Speaking or Coaching pages of this site.


Four Steps To Turning Your Hope Into Reality

"Christina's World" Andrew Wyeth (who died in January 2009 at 91 years of age) was one of the best-known U.S. artists of the middle 20th century, and was sometimes referred to as the "Painter of the People," because of his work's popularity with the American public.  He learned art at an early age from his father, who inspired his love of rural lan

dscapes, sense of romance, and a feeling for Wyeth family history and artistic traditions.

In October 1945, his father and his three-year-old nephew were killed when their car stalled on railroad tracks near their home and was struck by a train. Wyeth referred to his father's death as a profound personal tragedy and a formative emotional event in his artistic career.  Shortly afterward, his art began to be characterized by a subdued color palette, realistic renderings, and the depiction of emotionally charged, symbolic objects and people.

One of the most well-known images in 20th-century American art is his 1948 painting, “Christina's World,” currently in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

The woman of the painting is his neighbor Christina Olson who was 55 at the time of this painting. She had an undiagnosed muscular deterioration that paralyzed her lower body. Wyeth was inspired to create the painting when through a window from within the house he saw her crawling across a field.

He described her as being "limited physically but by no means spiritually." Wyeth further explained, "The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless."

"In the portraits of that house, the windows are eyes or pieces of the soul, almost," he said years later. "To me, each window is a different part of Christina's life."

So the painting depicts Christina’s journey of hope to get back to her house, the windows to her soul – the journey to reconnect with her true self in the midst of her disabilities, to hang on to the hope that she can fulfill her true soul’s purpose no matter what obstacles she faces.

The Power of Hope

Experts tell us that hope is one of the most powerful emotional attributes in helping us move our lives toward where we truly want to be.  Without hope, we die.  As author Brennan Manning wrote, there are three ways to commit suicide:  take our own lives, let ourselves die, and live without hope.  In those terms, consider how many people there are among us who are in reality committing suicide - they're letting themselves live without hope.  Perhaps they're afraid of hoping (for fear of getting disappointed).  Perhaps they don't even know what to hope for.  Perhaps they don't think they're worthy of anything good to base their hopes on.  In any case, they're taking their own lives by living without hope.

Hope is an optimism that believes something is possible, even when the reality we see appears to contradict the possibility.  Hope not only refuses to let go of the possibility, it chooses to take action to turn possibility into reality.

So how does this work in real life?  Think of people like former South African President Nelson Mandella and world-class athlete-cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong.  They represent countless everyday people who have done the same thing:  rather than wait for their fears to disappear or for facts to back up their hope, they used hope to create new facts and reach their goals.

Here's what Lance Armstrong once said:  "If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from the.  When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope?  We have two options, medically and emotionally:  Give up, for fight like hell."

The power of hope is in its ability to help us create new facts about our possibilities - to chart new directions, to establish new behaviors, to take bold action in the face of odds and obstacles.  That's what successful people do.

Dr. Srinivasan Pillay, Harvard neuroscientist and psychiatrist, describes the difference between successful and unsuccessful people.  The study of successful people reveals that they “rely less on existing facts about any given situation to get what they want.  Instead, they recognize the challenges, and rather than giving in to the relative impossibility of achieving their goals, they seek out routes that will allow them to achieve them.  In other words, successful people do not lead statistically sensible lives.  Rather than asking questions based on what is probable, successful people train their brains to focus on what is needed to accomplish the less likely of two options.”  (Pillay, Life Unlocked, pp. 49-50)

How Hope Works the Brain - the Four Steps to Creating Your Reality

And the power of this Hope Approach is that it actually taps into and leverages the way the brain has been wired to work.  “When the brain thinks that something is possible, it will stretch out the route for achieving it.  It will chart a path toward your goal that is radically different from the course it would chart without hope.  We call these motor maps and they are action plans based on information that we give the brain.  They are highly dependent on what we imagine.  If we remain fearful, fear will disrupt our imagination.  If we focus on our goals instead of on our fear, the brain can use what we imagine as a guide for sketching out motor maps.  This imagining is tied so closely to doing that expert athletes can literally make improvements in their performance by first imagining them and then practicing them.  We call this motor imagery (or imagery of action), and it precedes actual movement or action.  So, if you want to make a change in your life, first imagine yourself making that change so your brain can determine the route that will take you to your goal.  Hope is necessary for action.”  (Pillay, p. 51)

So what’s the process of using hope to create your new reality?

  1. Start with hope – believing that something is possible
  2. Then imagine yourself doing it (motor imagery)
  3. And your brain creates motor maps – action plans – to help your whole body mobilize into action
  4. Then ACT on those plans.

And the good news is that it’s a self-reinforcing cycle.  If we continue to take those steps, it becomes a self-perpetuating process and creates its own momentum.  Jim Collins, in his best-selling book Good To Great, calls it the flywheel principle.  With every simple turn of the wheel, it begins to pick up speed.  Every turn creates more turn, until it finally has its own momentum.  Our part is to keep turning the wheel - to keep doing the simple actions, keep taking the small steps that move us forward.  The flywheel reminds us that our actions will ultimately generate a sustainable momentum.

Keep affirming your hope - keep imaging yourself doing what you're hoping for - and then keep stepping into the actions your brain creates to bring your imagination into reality - keep acting - and then keep on repeating those steps.

I'm a firm believer in this process, having seen the reality of it take place again and again for myself.  Hope generates belief, which generates vision, which generates action, which generates reality.  As long as I keep turning the flywheel, momentum keeps building.  Don't stop turning the flywheel, don't stop hoping and acting!

Christina's World, Your World

Go back to Andrew Wyeth's painting.  Notice Christina's body language.  She's paralyzed from her waist down.  She can only get around by crawling.  There's a cross wind blowing - notice the strands of hair on her head.  Her arms have an emaciated thinness.  What's more, she's off the beaten path.  See that?  In the middle of a barren field.  And her house stands on the top of a hill that for a paraplegic must seem starkly unattainable.

And yet what is her body language?  Does it describe defeat?  Hopelessness?  Resignation?  No, she's leaning forward, toward her home, what Andrew Wyeth describes as her soul, her true self.  She hasn't given up.  She's focusing her life on where she truly wants to go.  She's about to mobilize all of her strength to move up the hill and get home.  One crawl forward at a time.  Putting one arm ahead of the other, pulling her lifeless legs behind.  One crawl at a time.

Now that's courage.  That's the power of hope.

So what do you find yourself afraid of?  What feels hopeless to you at times?  What do you tend to despair about?  What are the obstacles you face that stand in the way of your dreams?

What does stepping into hope look like for you?  What is the new reality you want to imagine?  How can you affirm that vision to yourself and others again and again?  Are you willing?  Are you willing to take action, to create new facts and act on them in ways that move you forward?  And are you willing to keep hoping, keep imagining, and keep acting, refusing to stop turning the flywheel?

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