Almost a month into the New Year, we’re each beginning to evaluate how the year is going. How are we progressing on those New Year goals?
When working towards a goal, it’s helpful to understand a bit about the change process, so that you don’t end up feeling demotivated and damaging your chances of success.
So what is going on when we follow a new goal?
We have to accept that anything new involves ’change’, and change isn’t easy. We can’t make changes in anything we do ’on autopilot’. Change uses the prefrontal cortex part of your brain. This is the active thinking and problem solving area – it takes a lot of resource to run and so you need to use this valuable resource carefully. In his book, Your Brain at Work David Rock offers this reassuring wisdom:
“No matter how much effort you put in, you can’t sit there and make
brilliant decisions all day the way a truck driver can stay on the road.”
When we are targeting goals, we have to give ourselves the brain space to do it, and give the goals priority access to our energies. For instance, spending hours dealing with emails and processing large quantities of information when our brains are fresh in the morning may not be the best plan. This is premium brain time, so we need to decide which tasks are important enough to have access to this.
It’s also important to remember that, when trying to learn or do new things, we need to allow for the learning dip. The fact is that when you start to learn something new, or do something differently, the things that used be automatic need to be thought about quite hard. This not only needs more time, but it needs what is called ’psychological space’. Your efficiency and effectiveness drops at this point, which risks making you feel demotivated and lose confidence. This is the point where you could abandon your New Year goals as being unachievable if you don’t understand the process of change and appreciate what is going on. The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook highlights that with any change, a learning dip must be expected and planned for.
Here are some of the things that may help you get through the learning dip:
- Don’t expect to sustain normal performance levels during change
- Allow for things to take a little longer
- Remember that a drop in performance at this time is not a sign of failure
- Try and avoid frustration, as judgement may become clouded and cause mistakes
- Acknowledge and celebrate when performance begins to improve!
You can understand more about change at an individual and an organisational level by attending a 3 day or 5 day Change Management course, leading to the globally recognised Foundation or the Practitioner certification.