In my years spent coaching clients toward reaching their goals, I’ve noticed one thing. There is no change without disruption.
Most of us have something in our lives we’d like to change, whether it’s career, health or relationship-related. In fact, we probably know we should make this change, it would ultimately make us happier. But without the pattern-interrupt known as disruption, change seldom happens.
I recently attended an event where best-selling Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert walked the audience through her breakthrough moment, the one that transported her from dabbler to writer. It came in the form of a high-stakes ultimatum posed by her trusted mentor, who asked Elizabeth point blank; “What are you willing to give up in order to live the life you’re pretending you want?”
After years of complaining to this mentor about the life circumstances that stood between Gilbert and her goals, the question was a make or break move. The mentor made it clear that unless Gilbert began taking herself and her work seriously, there was no point in continuing the conversation. As much as she’d claimed to crave the outcome, this powerful pattern interrupt was the catalyst Gilbert needed to stop talking and make it happen.
Blame it on the human condition. So much of our behavior is tied up in habit; subconscious patterns that our brains rely upon to keep us on track without having to remake decisions throughout every step of the day. Science shows us we’re hard-wired to conserve our energy for novel situations, while we coast along on autopilot for the rest of the ride.
So simply telling ourselves we “should” do what it takes to change our lives for the better is both ineffective and ultimately demotivating. After any number of false starts, we now feel incapable of getting what we want, stuck in a situation beyond our control standing between us and our potential.
Dire as this sounds, there is another option. The path to success requires understanding the challenges and using effective strategies to overcome them in order to keep moving forward. This is where the disruption comes in; we need to disrupt old patterns that we’ve become so accustomed to returning to they start to feel like home. And as most of us know firsthand, home is hard to leave, even when it’s no longer working for you.
The big question is, are you ready to commit to change; create disruption and embark upon the journey toward reaching your goal? If so, begin here:
Pattern Interrupt 1; Clarify and Commit. As with any other kind of lasting, meaningful change, commitment is the gateway to success. Whether you’re committing to spend the next 4 weeks researching career options and choosing a target position from there, or updating your resume with plans to return to work within the next 3 months, get clear and specific. Now write it down as a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goal using timelines and measurable outcomes.
SMART Example: I commit to researching career options over the next 4 weeks in order to identify 1-3 prospective roles that meet my salary, commute and interest requirements which I can use to launch my search process. My goal is choose a direction within 8 weeks and to return to work within a 4 month timeframe.
Pattern Interrupt 2; Reorganize to Prioritize. Reorganize your schedule to prioritize this new commitment. According to Dan Pink, bestselling author of When, The Science of Timing, each of us have what I refer to as a sweetspot; the 2-3 hours of the day when we’re at our peak performance and productivity. For most people it’s in the morning, from 9-11, but this isn’t true for everyone. The point is to match your priority items to fall within your sweetspot and organize your to-do list around that.
Time management expert Peter Bregman suggests creating a list of your top 5 Priorities, those that align most closely with your long term goals and values. Elizabeth Gilbert advises choosing 4. Consider health, happiness, family, home, friends, professional goals, volunteer goals and anything else worthy of adding to your list.
5 Priorities List Example (in no particular order):
1. Family health and well-being
2. Personal health and well-being·
3. Friends and community
4. Professional excellence in helping others
5. Completing my online course
Now it’s your turn to complete and review your own list of the 5 things you’ll focus 95% of your time on.
The next step is to create a to-do list you’ll use to organize your days. Anything that doesn’t fall into one of your Priority categories moves into a separate category on the list.
Calendar your priority items to complete during your sweet spot hours. Those tasks requiring your full attention and creativity get top billing, where more rote Priority tasks can be done during your off peak time, which for most people is the afternoon hours.
Finally there are the low priority items, those that didn’t fall into one of your top 5 categories. Give these takes the 4D treatment on your to-do list: either Do in under 2 (minutes), Delegate, Defer or Dismiss them.
This pattern interrupt my required tough choices, like skipping a favorite morning yoga class, even though you’ve paid for the year and advance so you can use your sweetspot to focus on launching your program.
Did this reorg force me to quit my favorite activity altogether? Of course not, I now either substitute a home practice or attend a class later in the day. I have the additional incentive of knowing that when I’ve finished developing my online course I’ll relish every morning yoga class that much more.
Pattern Interrupt 3; Develop your process. Once you’ve committed to your goal and identified the best time to work on it, you need to know you’re working within a process that will yield the best results.
There are numerous means to an end, so optimizing your process to make the most impact is critical to success. One example I come across regularly is the process most job seekers start out with; finding a position that matches their skillset on a job board, writing a relevant cover letter, and submitting it online. Then the waiting begins. When they’ve completed this process dozens of times over the course of a month with disappointing results, they make an assumption that’s based on their eligibility, when the real problem is a faulty process.
Learning the process from a credible source beforehand will save you both time and emotional duress. When I realized I could help more clients to achieve better outcomes by developing an online course, I also knew I had no idea how to proceed. I worked with a coach who specializes in this very subject and learned the most effective methodology for reaching my goals.
To be clear, the process you’re accustomed to using can be hard to break free from, even though it has never and my never work. I would much rather spend my time writing articles like this one than developing the assets needed to make my online programs as effective as possible. Writing keeps me within my comfort zone, while these new processes can be challenging as I climb the learning curve. But I’ve interrupted my pattern by committing to my goal, working within my sweetspot and using the most effective process to get it done.
You will undoubtedly face obstacles during this process, both internal and external. You may doubt your abilities. You’ll face the series of second-guesses, naysayers and flat out resentment that always comes with change.
Yet when you’re clear on what willing to give up in order to live the life you truly want, you’ll find the courage, strength and commitment to spark the disruption, stay the course and make your dreams a reality. Yes, you can!
About the author
Elizabeth Borelli is a professionally trained career coach, curriculum developer and workshop facilitator. Frustrated by a lack of resources for candidates ready to return to work after a career break, she created CareerBuilder Bootcamps; a set of interactive, online courses to accelerate job search success.
Engaging, online courses combined with one-to-one coaching calls prepare job seekers to find the right new career opportunities, helping them to stay positive and engaged throughout the process.
Are you considering returning to work after a career break in 2019, but not sure you’re ready? Take the quiz!