Another new year begins with good intentions.  I know from first hand experience that regardless of the month of the year, cracking a new routine or breaking a well rehearsed pattern is a tricky job.  How hard does it need to be?  How many self-help articles and books do I need to read, again, before I remind myself there is a humungous crevice between intellectualising what I know I ‘should’ be doing – and actually doing it.

The chronicles of those who have sustained success are well documented.  Behavioural psychologists and ‘how to get rich quick’ entrepreneurs will all profess that achieving success is possible for who work smart and work hard.   If this is the case, why do so few of us feel satisfied that we are where we want to be?  How is that we are going to feel better about ourselves if we could puff a little less as we quickly climbed those stairs, lose just a little bit of those kinda well rounded love handles, or got that job where we could have a more comfortable work-life balance?  Here are 4 ways that are all part of the process of successfully making sustainable change.

It is likely you need a vision, some pain or both.

Cruel but true.  Can you see where you would really like to be and how you would like to be living your life? It often is excruciatingly difficult to do something new unless it takes you to a valued and meaningful place or relieves some sort of discomfort. Yes it would be fantastic to get a job where you can spend more time with the family and feel more energised more often, have a great boss, flexible hours, and stimulating work.  But realistically, having to think about updating your LinkedIn profile is seen as tedious.  And let’s not think about writing my resume and cover letters, looking on seek, doing all that schmoozing with ruthless recruiters. Blahh!

And only when the pain becomes unbearable is it likely to distress us into action. Thinking about changing jobs is a necessary first step but is not usually enough to kick us into action.  And perhaps you’ve never stopped to consider how miserable you have been recently, or how Sunday evening is energy depleting when you’re haunted about turning up to work on Monday morning. How much discomfort your current job causes you (well have I been bored all these years or just comfortable), how much are you in denial ( it’s not that bad I’ve managed to live with the stressful workload this long ) or avoid the issue all together( I’ve kept the treadmill going – hey,  it pays the bills) matter? What would it feel like to enjoy your flexible working hours, find a more relaxed and happier you, get on with your boss, get more job satisfaction, boost your professional identity, and stimulate your intellect and soul?

Make one small step at a time.

Chances are, you have read or heard of the Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu…’the journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step’.  It’s true.  Just doing one small action at a time towards your goal will eventually get you to a meaningful place.  And persevere. Get one goal. Make it SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timeframe). Eg find ten minutes at lunchtime today, log onto Learn how to set up a job alert!  Then maybe lunchtime tomorrow set up the job alert! Just ten minutes.  Then just like your successes at the gym, increase the frequency and the intensity of your job search effort.  More ten minute episodes. Extend some to fifteen minute blocks.  More small steps more often. Mind map all the usually overwhelming aspects of the goal, set more goals, and then make a chunked down ‘to do’ list by creating a series of small steps. Finish just one step at a time. Persevere.

Expect setbacks – its normal.

Slipping back into old habits when you are trying to establish new habits is normal. Start your job search knowing that your efforts will stall at various times throughout the typically long and protracted process. Expect organisations to take excessively long times to make decisions (it seems especially long when you are keen), for recruiters not to return calls (you ring them, don’t leave messages), for your application to be rejected (there is only one successful applicant for one job), and for you to be frustrated with how many coffee meetings you need to make (you’ll be onto green tea quite quickly). Most of these setbacks occur with monotonous regularity.  Expect them. Such irritations are a very normal part of the job search experience. Reflect and learn from all the common irritating episodes and strengthen your job search determination in spite of them. None of the setbacks are failures.  All setbacks are likely to pass with time.  Failure is when you don’t learn from your mistakes.

Let others help you.

Making sustainable change, whatever the goal, is easier if you let other people do what most people like doing ie helping people they like.  Decide who the people are that you are willing to share your vision (or your pain) with. How vulnerable, courageous and authentic are you being?  Let your values guide you.  Seek support, advice and/or mentoring for different aspects of your goal from family, friends, subject matter experts or colleagues. You might be surprised by how many people are interested in helping you achieve your vision.  Chances are you might inspire them!

Making positive change means you will cycle through starts and stops and hiccups along the way and probably before you feel you are making any real progress. The way you think about what you do to improve your world of work (and life) greatly impacts how you feel about yourself and these experiences.  Don’t beat yourself up over it.  Nurture your ‘can-do’ attitude. Give yourself permission to be content, to simply be you, very step along the way.  Accept the flaws, shortcomings and all. One step, small or large, is one more than you made yesterday, or last week or last month.  So that is progress.


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