An Uncommon Guide to Implementing Change in 2013
Most approaches to implementing change are ineffective.
With the beginning of 2013 in full swing, many set new goals, both in our personal and ministry lives. We want change, but often don’t realize the approach we take is the biggest obstacle.
Some common ineffective approaches to implementing change:
- Setting multiple goals in various areas of our lives.
- Focusing too much on goals and becoming inflexible with our time and energy.
- Adding more on our to-do list as a result of the new goals.
- Setting unrealistic goals.
The list goes on, that is just a few examples. Here is a personal example. I have been trying to lose 20 pounds for about 15 years and still haven’t succeeded. Why? My approach to change was flawed. I’ve also been trying to exercise regularly for about 20 years, and finally did it! For the last 8 months, I have consistently exercised 4-5 x a week. In fact, my exercise routine has gradually increased. I have also been attempting for years to slow down the pace of work & ministry life. One of my goals in 2012 was to slow down. Looking back, I have achieved that goal. As a result, I have experienced decreased stress levels and increased time for family, personal interests & God. How have I been able to regularly exercise & slow down after years of not succeeding? I set myself up for success by taking the right approach to change. Now, I plan to take the same approach to lose 20 pounds and start eating healthier.
These principles don’t just apply to personal change, but also apply to ministry. Use them as a filter as you set goals for the upcoming year.
If you really want to see change in 2013, then avoid doing what 95% of others do. Take a different approach.
An uncommon guide to implementing change in 2013:
1. Focus on one thing at a time.
The first mistake most of us make it to set too many goals. We look at our personal & ministry lives seeing so much that needs to improve. As a result, we set multiple goals in our ministries, family and personal lives. Doing this sets us up for failure. Research shows that the most effective way to form a new habit, or implement change, is to focus on ONE goal at at time. I would argue to set one goal in your personal life, and one goal in your ministry/work life. That’s it, nothing else. Focus on that one goal until you reach the tipping point. Even if it takes a long time to reach the tipping point, stay focused until you reach it.
If the goal is to launch small groups in your preteen ministry, focus on that one thing. Stay focused until everything is running smoothly. Most leaders attempt to launch small groups, develop a drama team, start doing monthly events and develop a worship team all at once. This is an example of the wrong approach. Stay focused on one thing at a time, reach the tipping point, then move on.
2. Start Small
If you want to start exercising, then start by running 5 minutes a day. If you want to launch small groups, start one. Change occurs one step at a time, in small stages. The typical approach is to start exercising 30 minutes to an hour a day. After a few days, weeks or months, the change becomes too much. You give up. If you really want to implement change in your personal and ministry lives, start small. Come up with a very tiny and doable goal. Achieve that goal, then increase the goal slightly. Continue this process and over time you will see a good amount of change.
When I first started exercising I walked for months. Walking was easy, enjoyable and doable. Then, I started to ride my bike. At fist it was painful, but over time it became routine. Recently, I have put something new in the mix – core exercises. Now, I do all three on a regular basis. Oddly enough I still haven’t loss much weight, but I am working on eating healthy in 2013. Start small, then build on your success slowly.
As a result of implementing change, most people ADD new tasks to their already full to-do list. This approach will set you up for failure. Change is set in motion only for a busy life to get in the way. We often underestimate how much mental and physical energy is required to implement change. That’s another reason steps 1 & 2 are so important. If you are going to implement change & set goals, expect to be doing more. When adding something to life, don’t expect to succeed unless you begin eliminating other things. What can you eliminate? What tasks or projects do you not enjoy? What isn’t really working in your preteen ministry and why have you not stopped doing it?
I would argue that up to 80% of your work/ministry related tasks aren’t important. If you stopped doing them right now, it would have little impact on outcome. A more effective approach would be to discover the 20% most effective, focus on them, and eliminate or automate the rest. Evaluate this on a regular basis and make changes as needed. Another benefit of elimination is that you actually accomplish more with less effort and in less time. It doesn’t make sense, but is exactly what happens when you stay focused only on what is important. Elimination leaves space to implement change and leads to a more balanced & effective life.
Elimination has been a core value of mine for awhile now. Before that, I was the king of adding tasks and projects to my life. As a result, I was stressed out, overworked, unhealthily and relationships with my kids and wife suffered. On the outside, I was super Nick, accomplishing great things in ministry. Taking on more responsibilities at church, I WOW’d my lead pastor by accomplishing so much. Until I crashed and burned at the end of 2007. Since then, I’ve adapted the core value of elimination. Recently, I’ve eliminated the amount of tasks I do in a day to 3-4. It’s been quite freeing and relaxing.
You can do the same. Eliminate before you add the goal of changing something.
Leo Babauta is a writer who has a lot of great thoughts to share on change, elimination, doing less, creating new habits, etc. I highly recommend his blog and books. In fact, his thoughts have helped me to implement a lot of changes in my life and have inspired this blog post. Leo isn’t a Christian, but I assume you are mature enough to chew the meat and spit out the bones. In a world (especially the church world) that places a high value on productivity and busyness, Leo is a voice that speaks about balance, stress reduction & peace of mind.