Category Archives: Personal Change Day

Personal Change Day: Outsource One Thing

The 2012 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey shows that for the first time in a while, nonprofits are planning on doing some hiring. 43% of respondents say that they are going to hire new positions in the following year.

Generally, organizations hire new employees because their current employees are stretched to the max. I personally work with program and executive directors who work 50 hours in a slow week. During grant reporting periods, that may be 60 or 70 hours.

If that sounds like your life, it may be time to consider why you’re still:

  • Mowing your lawn
  • Shopping for your own groceries
  • Ironing your own shirts

Sure, most people in the nonprofit sector are under paid compared to their for-profit colleagues, but it may be time to look at personal outsourcing. For $10 to $20 per week, you may be able to free up 2 or 3 hours of time, decrease your stress level, and have more energy to give to your family or even your job.

Here are a few possible action steps for you to take this weekend:

  1. Look around the neighborhood to find a teenager who will mow your lawn. Unless you have a huge yard, $10 or $20 a week will cover this.
  2. Consider more efficient ways to purchase groceries or cook. Many grocery stores now offer online ordering with curbside pickup for a small fee. Cooking meals in large batches can save a lot of time over the course of a week.
  3. Find a laundry service in your area that does laundry by the pound. You may be able to have your work clothes washed, dryed, ironed and folded for under $20 a week.

These are just a few suggestions for places to start. As a busy world saver, you can definitely use some outside help to manage the more mundane tasks in your life. You can probably get that help for less money than you imagined.

Are you using these strategies or any of your own? Please share them with all of us in the comments below.

photo by: Tobyotter

A Complaint Free Long Weekend: Mission Possible?

Memorial Day weekend is upon us. For most of us, this means a three day weekend, time with family, and trying to get the propane for your barbeque grill filled on a Sunday.

In other words, it’s the perfect recipe for a LOT of complaining.

As much as I usually always love my family time, I do notice that I can drift into unhelpful negativity when I’m around them for extended periods. This weekend, I’m going to do my best to avoid complaining and I hope you’ll join me. As a good evaluator, I would love to have a good sized data set for analysis!

So what should we try to eliminate? I humbly suggest the following:

  • Most swearing. Especially in reaction to burning the hair off your knuckles because your dad hasn’t fixed the ignition on his gas grill.
  • Criticism, mostly directed at my brother in law.
  • Negative feedback when not followed by a positive suggestion. Example: “Plaid shorts and a stripped t-shirt? That’s horrible.” Possible correction: “Those shorts are very bold. Perhaps a solid colored shirt would work better.”
  • Gossip. Everyone knows your cousin is gaining weight. No need to speak of it.

Does this sound possible? If you give it a try, please tell everyone how it went in the comments.

photo by: sylvar

How to Cross the Gap From Knowing to Doing

Do you have parts of your life that you want to change? Do you know exactly what you need to do to change them? Do you go to bed every night knowing you did nada to make that change happen?

I’ve been there. I’ve watched others get there. I even developed a model to explain what happens and why. And the best part is, this model can help you go from a good idea to a lasting life change.

From Data to Knowledge to Action

Most of the mental “stuff” of the world starts out as raw data. These are things like our personal observations, scientific research, financial reports, political speeches and lots of other collections of “bits.” Most of it is meaningless noise that our brains naturally filter out. For example, if you live in an urban area, you probably see thousands of advertisements every day . Yet, at the end of the day you may remember one or two.

For data to become knowledge (What I Know) it has to go through some processing and contextualization. The good news is that there are many sources that do this for us automatically. The nightly news, doctors, the Federal Reserve and even this blog are all examples. The bad news is that you have to decide if you trust what those sources have to say. Even so, let’s assume that most data aggregation and reporting sources are 75% reliable. That means that the majority of your data to knowledge transformation work is already done for you.

For knowledge to become action (What I Do) well, YOU actually have to DO something. This could mean performing an action once, or it could mean establishing a life long habit. No one can do this for you.

Inertia is the Enemy

So why is it so hard to act on our knowledge? I like to place the blame firmly on the shoulders of inertia. For those who never took physics, Merriam-Webster defines inertia as:

  1. a property of matter by which it remains at rest or in uniform motion in the same straight line unless acted upon by some external force
  2. indisposition to motion, exertion, or change

Sound familiar?

What this means (see, I’m processing data for you and helping you transform it into knowledge) is that our very being is resistant to change. In order to get it moving, we need to apply external force. Here are a few ways to do that.

How to Overcome Inertia

  • Create Obstacles. Make it more difficult to engage in the old behavior. People with gambling problems can voluntarily add themselves to a list that effectively bans them from going into a casino. You can do the same by placing controls between you and your old behavior. In the quitting smoking example, don’t just get rid of all of your cigarettes, throw away your lighters and matches.
  • Create Social Pressure. Call, email or talk to EVERYONE you know and tell them the change you’re making. Tell all the cashiers at the convenience store that you’re quitting smoking and ask them not to sell cigarettes to you. If possible, get featured in the local paper so that you’re REALLY screwed if you have a relapse!
  • Burn Your Bridges. There’s something very final about a fire. When you really want to say goodbye to a part of your past, find a physical representation of it and set it on fire. Burn an empty cigarette carton or some glossy ads. Throw in your vintage NASCAR Winston Cup hat if you must.
  • Take Baby Steps. Maybe you’re not ready for a slash & burn approach. That’s okay. Rapid change isn’t the only way to go. Start your change with just 1 small action. Just 1. Then tomorrow do 1 more. And then the day after do 1 more. Rinse & repeat a few times and in a few months you’ll be a New & Improved person.
  • “Put Out.” Get your mind out of the gutter. The Navy Seals use the phrase “put out” to mean giving everything you’ve got to an activity. Just like a freight train takes a lot of energy to get rolling, but is equally difficult to stop, someone who truly puts out will soon gain momentum and will soon achieve their goal.
  • Make Sure It’s What YOU Really Want. If you don’t REALLY want to change some aspect of your life, you might be able to grit it out and get over the first gap, but more and more gaps will appear. There may be a lot of great reasons to quit smoking, but if you don’t actually desire in the bottom of your soul to quit, it will be an exercise in frustration and failure. You’d be better off to apply your energy to something else.

Now It’s Up to You

I’ve just done everything I can do to help you cross the gap from knowledge to action. If you are truly committed to changing some part of your life, pick a strategy and start to use it. Don’t let inertia keep you from creating the life you desire.

Caught in the Consumerism Trap? Here’s How to Change Your Behavior

Saturdays are Personal Change Day at In addition to my work with organizations, I am very interested in personal development and personal change management.  Once a week I will post an article or links about the fine art of making changes in our personal lives. Have a topic you’d like me to cover? Leave a comment on this post.

Have you ever gone shopping just because you’re bored? Do you have a closet full of perfectly good clothes and “nothing to wear?” You may be caught in consumerism. The good news is that there is a logical explanation – and a way to change. The best news is, it won’t cost you a dime ;)

Humans Crave Change
In the change management field there are volumes written about resistance to change. You would think that humans are hard-wired to dig our heels in and refuse all types of change in all circumstances. This is far from the truth.

The human brain actually seeks novelty. It stimulates all kinds of happy-making chemicals in our brain (things like dopamine and endorphins). We will do a lot of things to boost our levels of these chemicals. Some of them are pretty crazy (such as jumping out of perfectly good airplanes). Others seems normal on the surface, like buying a new pair of jeans, even though you already have 4 or 5 pairs. Over the course of a human life, this translates into a lot of potentially interesting experiences and piles and piles of new stuff.

It goes almost without saying that most of the media that we consume is designed to encourage us to consume more and more products and stimulate all those brain chemicals. According to the marketing group Yankelovich, the average person (I refuse to call people “consumers”) in the United States in 2005 was exposed to 3,500 to 5000 marketing messages per day. This is up from 500 to 2000 in the 1970s. This is great news for marketers, but it may be making junkies of us all.

Focus on What You’ve Got

My point in writing about consumerism is because I believe that it induces a mindset of lack, rather than of abundance.  The entire basis of advertisements a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear and marketing is to get you to want what you don’t have. This is particularly damaging to people in developed countries because most of us have more than enough resources available to us to live a materially comfortable life. At the very least, most of us are doing okay on the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy. With sufficient food, shelter, clothing, and even safety, there isn’t a whole lot more that we have to have to free up enough psychological attention to ascend the additional levels of the pyramid such as Love and Self Esteem.

Now, I’m just as guilty of focusing on getting stuff as most people. I have a long list of vacations I want to take, restaurants I want to try, wine I want to drink, and shiny gadgets I want to own. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to realize that taking up mindspace with thoughts like that can distract me from what I really want, which is to add value to the world while growing as a person. If I pay attention to my surroundings, I realize that the obstacles preventing me from doing this have nothing to do with possessions and credit card charges. I have all the material possessions I need to create the life I want!

This is an incredibly freeing thought, and it’s the first step I’ve taken down the road to creating an abundance mindset. For those unfamiliar with this concept, the abundance mindset refers to knowing that you have every thing you need available to you in some form or another. Some of the explanations I’ve read get a little New Age-y for my liking, but it all boils down to having the inner confidence to know that through creativity, work and an expectation that your needs will be met, you can achieve whatever you desire.

It is a huge advantage in life to have an abundance mindset because it keeps you focused on finding ways to use what is available to you to solve any problems you may have. For example, I used to get a little freaked out every time something went wrong with my car. I do a LOT of driving and not having a car available is a big disruption. With an abundance mindset, I can realize all of the resources available to me to take care of anything that might go wrong. I can borrow a car from someone, telecommute until my car gets fixed, search the Internet for quick repairs to keep the car moving until I can get it properly serviced, etc. There are many solutions available, so I just don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Buy Nothing Today

So, how can you practice abundance thinking in your daily life?

Just… don’t… buy… it

Try to go 24 hours straight without buying anything – no groceries, no coffee, no gasoline. Nothing. If this sounds like an insurmountable challenge, here are a few tips to getting through the day.

  • Practice creative meal combinations. Unless you literally have no food in your home, you can get through a day without buying groceries. Even if you have to eat pancakes and green beans for dinner, you’ll be okay.
  • Entertain yourself with things you’ve already got. How many unread books, unbeaten video games, and unwatched DVD’s do you have floating around? Dig in the drawers and closets to see what you can turn up.
  • Invite friends over. Finish up the odds and ends of your beverage cabinet instead of stocking up on more mixers.
  • If your gas tank is on “E” think of other ways to get through the day without filling up or paying bus fare. Can you put off errands? Could you trade a ride for another service? Is your old bicycle still working?

The common theme running through all of these suggestions is to focus on what you have, rather than what you lack. If you practice this skill enough, you will become more creative and probably more aware of everything that is available to you. You may even end up with more money in your bank account AND a happier and more fulfilled life!

Saturday is Personal Change Day: How to Change When You’re Over 30

During the month of May, I am participating in the 2012 WordCount Blogathon. I will be posting every day (I hope!) this month. However, in the future I plan on Saturdays being Personal Change Day. In addition to my work with organizations, I am very interested in personal development and personal change management.  Once a week I will post an article or links about the fine art of making changes in our personal lives. Have a topic you’d like me to cover? Leave a comment on this post.

According to some top scientists, human beings over the age of 30 hardly ever change their lives successfully. In fact, they go on to argue, that it is almost biologically impossible for us to change after we pass our 20′s.

Do you agree with that? Are you willing to accept it – especially if you’ve passed the Big 3-0?

I passed 30 quite some time ago. I say they’re wrong, and I’m going to use their own arguments to explain why, and show you how you can successfully make major changes in your life.

Why is it So Hard to Change?

A recent article in Scientific American (Set in Our Ways: Why Change is So Hard) made the argument that very few people over the age of 30 successfully make changes in their lives. In the research that this article reports on, scientists found that all people become less interested in change as we age. This happens in all cultures, so they believe that there is a biological reason for at least part of this behavior. They also include a few other reasons:

  • Life gets complicated as you get older. Most people over the age of 30 have some large barriers to change such as a spouse, children, a mortgage, a career. Change can threaten some or all of these commitments.
  • Novelty becomes less attractive over time. People get pretty comfortable in their ruts. You know how it is. You come home after a long day at work, flip on the TV like always, eat the same dinner you ate last Tuesday, and go to bed at the same time every night. Even if a behavior isn’t making us happy, we often continue it out of sheer inertia. It takes a lot of energy to change habits, and not many people are willing to put in the effort.
  • Unrealistic expectations for the ripple effects of change. In the article, the author uses the example of a woman wanting to lose 20 pounds so she can meet the perfect partner and live happily ever after. That may be a bit much to expect from a diet!

These are some pretty large barriers to change, but we know that many people make successful changes – no matter how old they are. How do they do it?

What is the Secret to Making Lasting Changes?

This article has a very negative tone to it, but it does sneak in a few helpful suggestions that can help you plan a successful change.

  • Figure out your tolerance for change. Everyone has a different set point for openness to change. If you’re naturally change resistant, you will need to start very small and gradually build up your tolerance. It’s a bit like exercise. Pick the tiniest change you can make, just like you’d pick the lightest dumbbell on the rack.
  • Take it 1 change at a time. In the example above, the woman who wanted to loose weight actually wanted 3 or 4 other things as well – and none of them were related! If you’re just getting started with change, pick one thing to work on. Our example woman could be successful if she decided to loose weight OR started dating to find a partner OR worked on her own internal happiness. She probably won’t succeed if she tries to do all 3 at once.
  • Figure out the real cause and effect relationship. Again picking on our weight loss woman, she is seeing a cause and effect relationship that doesn’t really exist. There is no rule that says you can’t get a partner if you’re 20 pounds overweight. There is also no rule that says you’ll be happy if you find a partner. Unpack your issues and think about why you want to make a particular change. If you don’t have a real desire to do it, or you’re only doing it because you think it will get you what you really want, rethink your strategies and work on the core issue.
  • Start sooner, because later never comes. If it’s inevitable that we become more resistant to change with time, it’s always better to start a change quickly. This gives you more time, and helps you take advantage of all the mental flexibility you have right now, no matter what your age.

I hope this article gives you some idea for starting to improve your life in small, manageable ways. If you have other suggestions, or further questions, leave a comment after this post.

Photo by Nate Brelsford.