Change is inevitable. Whether anticipated or unforeseen, that six letter word seems to be always lurking around the corner. Sometimes it is for the best – our best health, our best financial situation, our best relationship, our best lives. Then there are times when we have to use a magnifying glass to find even the smallest silver lining. Regardless of your situation, there are five small steps you can take to tackle any change – impromptu or planned.

1. Identify the end goal

Get real specific about the change happening. Narrow down one result you will see once the change is accomplished and ensure it is tangible and measurable. By establishing a definitive end goal you can focus your energy, thoughts, and actions on a still target. This focal point can help decrease the negative distractions often associated with change, aid in the increase of motivation to move from one action step to the next, and will serve as the building block for the next four steps.

While a self-imposed change naturally lends itself to identifying an end goal, this can still be accomplished when the change is pushed onto you. For example, your department division experiences a shift in staffing which results in more work being piled onto your plate. In this scenario, you probably have some idea of the major impacts of this change before it goes into full effect. Write those major impacts down and narrow the list to the one that will have the most positive implication for you.

2. Break it down

Use backwards planning to connect tangible action steps from your end goal to the first small step. When you arrive at your first small step, check the linear progression of the smaller goals back up to your ultimate goal for fidelity.

Read each item in the plan and circle the action words, for example “organize” or “adopt”, to ensure that you have a directive in each step along the way. If you come across a step that does not contain an action word, re-write the small goal to contain an item you can act upon. Once you have your steps outlined with directives, shift your focus toward the timeline and level of challenge.

Hammering out the timeline of the end goal and journey along the way can be difficult. If the change originates from within, one pitfall to avoid is scheduling the small steps and end goal far into the future because of the comfort that comes with slow change. If the change is external in nature, the timeliness of scheduling your steps along the way may seem out of your control, and as such pretty discouraging. Remain consistent and reasonable when developing your time frame.

With the action steps in place and a timeline for completion, read each step to assess the level of difficulty. You want to ensure the smaller steps are challenging, but not discouraging to build motivation and enthusiasm along the way.

3. Get behind a ‘Why?’

Identify the driving force behind the change. When the change is internally imposed you can ask yourself why the change is important, what benefits you will gain, and the reason driving the change in the first place. When the change is externally imposed you can start by identifying why the change is happening, what impacts you will experience, and rationalize behind why you should plan for your reaction to the change.

Once you have your list of whys you can use them as positive influences along the way. Write yourself notes containing the various reasons behind the change, the benefits, and the impacts. You can then place these notes strategically around your daily environments from your work space to your car to your home and everywhere in between. Prioritize placement where you get easily discouraged or where you get most often distracted.

4. Get an accountability team

Now that you have your plan of action and some pleasant reminders for your journey along the way, get yourself a team of cheerleaders on the sideline to encourage you through to the finish line. Establish a network of co-workers, close friends, loved ones, and family members to hold you accountable to your plan of action.

Fill your accountability team in on your identified change, the rationale behind it, and the timeline for completion. Once the know those big details, you can establish a method of communicating progress with them. Select what works best for you and each individual on the team. This could range from phone calls to emails to Instagram posts to weekly coffee dates, there are no limits to how you can interact.

Bonus points if you can find accountability team members who are working through a change themselves. Is there any bigger motivation to push you than someone you care about setting small goals and achieving them?

5. Incentivize and celebrate

Nothing is more satisfying than marking a goal off a list or seeing a tracker begin to fill up. Create a visual reminder for each small action step and the final goal. Include elements of dates, data tracking, results, and comparisons of beginning skills to current capabilities.

Make your tracker as interactive as possible and put incentives and celebrations within the tracker at key moments along the way. Rewarding yourself as you reach identified milestones will help build motivation and momentum throughout the change implementation. This can be a pivotal factor that determines whether you quit or finish strong.

Bring it all together

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Change.

Yes, change is dressed up in a suit, hiding behind your front door bushes waiting for an opportunity to knock on your life’s door. Maybe you invite it in willingly or maybe it just kicks down your door like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Twins. Either way, prepare yourself with those five small and manageable steps.

Set a target by identifying the one end goal you want to see accomplished as a result of the change. Take the end goal and break it down into smaller action steps with deliverables and due dates. Write a list of reasons for the change and use them as reminders when you feel unmotivated, distracted, or discouraged. Get a team of accountability buddies on board to keep your action steps in check along the way. Finally, set up a tracker with incentives and specific points in the journey to celebrate.

Now that you have some direction, go show that change who’s the boss!

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