“No one likes change except a baby.”

I ran across this quote on the Internet the other day, and despite the fact that it made me chuckle, I don’t believe it.

I think people do like change. What they don’t like is the uncertainty that comes along with it.

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate as a panelist on the topic of “Reinventing Yourself” at Senator Mark Warner’s 5th Annual Virginia Women’s Conference at Old Dominion University. More than 800 women attended the conference. There was a record turn out of 200 for my workshop – that’s a lot of women interested in change.

Most of the women were professionals in business or the nonprofit industry. Their presence got me thinking about how the process of personal change is very similar to organizational change.

Personal change, like organizational change, takes strategic thinking, a solid strategic plan, and follow through. Successful personal transformation includes the determination of vision, identity and purpose, evaluation of beliefs, values, and behaviors, setting goals and measurements, and individual accountability. It also involves putting the “right people on the bus” to support the process.

When thinking about making a change in your life, be it personal or professional, here are six important thought steps that come directly from the strategic planning handbook.

Step One: What’s my personal vision? 

First, dream.
• What do you imagine your life will be like after the change? 
• How will you measure the change?
• How will you know when you have arrived?
Visioning will guide your transformation.

Step Two: Who am I now? 

Will who you are now support who you want to become?
• How will your beliefs and values support the change?
• How will your behaviors, skills and capabilities make the change possible?
• How will the change express your innate sense of identity and life purpose?
Say, for example, that you want to make a major change in your career, and you’ll have to learn a new set of skills to acquire a credential. Do you believe you have the capability to learn and study hard to obtain that credential? 

Beliefs and values are at the very core of one’s ability to make personal change.  If they don’t align with the change you want to make, the change won’t last.

If your behaviors, skills and capabilities won’t support the process of change, you’ll have a hard time moving forward.

Step Three: How do I get from here to there?

Create your own personal plan.
• What are your goals?
• What are the resources you need?
• What are the steps you need to take and how will you measure the outcome of those steps?
• What’s your time frame?
• What may get in your way and how will you meet challenges?
Write down the plan. In so doing, even in a simple form, the plan becomes real and you’ll be more committed and accountable to making it happen.  Just remember, keep the plan flexible. You know life will throw some curve balls along the way – you may need to make adjustments.

Step Four: Who will help me?

My friend and colleague, Wally Schmader, just published a great new book, What Exceptional Leaders Know, with co-author Tracy Spears. He suggests that people create their personal board of directors.
• Who do you want sitting around your table to provide you with the networking, mentoring and consulting that you need in order to succeed?
Develop the human capital resources you need to support you. Change is not a solo endeavor!

Step Five: Will the change be worth it?

Most people don’t think this far through, and it’s a crucial step in the personal strategic thinking process.  Take an ecological read by asking –
• What will your environment be like once you make the change?
• What will you get, and what will you give up? 
I recently coached a highly successful professional woman who worked long hours – far too many her friends thought.  She began to think her life was out of balance.  In coaching, she realized that the long hours were exactly the balance she wanted in her life at this time. Change wasn’t right for her. Only you can determine if the change you are considering will be worth it.

After going through these five steps, there’s one last step to think about.

Step Six:  Your 3 “R’s” – Responsibility, Risk and Routine.

Responsibility – You have to take personal responsibility for making the change in your life. Although your board of directors can help you, they can’t do it for you. You must make the commitment. How will you hold yourself accountable?

Risk – Every change involves risk. People are risk adverse because of fear. They fear uncertainty, and they fear making mistakes. Only you can decide how much risk you are willing to assume, but the better you think it through and plan, the more control you will have for the successful outcome of your personal change.

Routine – During change, routines will be upset. Sometimes the comfort of routine is the hardest thing to give up even if you don’t like your current circumstances. Make the commitment and take the time to establish a new routine that supports the change you want to make.

Lasting change takes self-awareness, careful thought and perseverance. It takes a good plan and accountability.

You can do it!

Here’s wishing you every success as you change and grow to achieve your true potential!