How Do You Create Lasting Changes?

As you try to bring to life many of the approaches we’ve been exploring to improve your wellbeing, you might have found that despite your very best intentions, the changes you’re trying to create never seem to last. Let’s be honest, getting changes to stick is often hard work.

We get busy and run out of time to ever really get started. We get disrupted by – illness, holidays, children – and wave our new wellbeing habits goodbye. We lose heart because we’re not seeing enough progress in the changes we’re making.  And sometimes, even when the changes have started to work we simply become bored after a while and give up.

Any of these challenges sound familiar at all?

So is there an easier way to create wellbeing changes that truly last?

Can You Make Your Changes Stick?

My PhD supervisor Professor David Cooperrider of Case Western Reserve University taught me that every action we take is preceded by a question.

Think about that for a moment: every action you take is preceded by a question.

For example, how did you come to be reading this blog post? You might have found it in your email or on the internet and wondered if this post could help you make lasting changes in your life? You might have checked – did you have time to read it now? And even asked yourself what link did you need to click to read the actual post?

Yet most of us are so focused on the actions we want to be taking, we’re completely unaware of the questions that are driving them.

So what are the questions we should be asking to make creating lasting changes in our happiness and wellbeing easier? In this episode of Chelle McQuaid TV, I’ll share with you the secret I discovered to asking the right questions that made all the changes I’ve created in the last few years possible.

Which Questions Help Create Lasting Changes?

If you’re like most of us, you’ll notice a lot of these questions are focused on things you want to “stop” or “fix”. But if you want to make change easier, more effective and more enjoyable however, David recommends we ask questions that look for the true, the good and the possible so we can discover the strengths we have to build on.

For example, instead of asking how do I stop feeling so stressed, you might ask how can I start feeling happier and more relaxed? Or instead of how do I fix my relationships, you might ask how can I value and appreciate people better?

Change begins with the first question we ask so try to be really clear about what you want to see more of because where your attention goes, your energy flows.

David also found that using a simple framework to help us inquire appreciatively ensures we ask questions that can create lasting changes. He suggests we follow these four simple steps:

  1. Discover the best of your past – Think about your best moments in relation to the kind of changes you’re wanting to create. When this has worked for you on any level – even if it feels quite humble to begin with – what does it look like. This will help you find the strengths you have to build upon.
  2. Dream vividly of what success looks like over your ideal time period – If everything went as well as possible in relation to the change you want to create, what would you be doing, feeling, saying and hearing in the future? Be as specific as possible as these positive images will help pull you forward.
  3. Design pathways to move you from where you are right now to where you want to be  What can you start doing? What can you do more of? Who can help you or support you? How will you navigate your way through potential obstacles?
  4. Deliver change by taking the first steps  If there was one thing you’d do in the next 48 hours to bring your dream and pathways to life where would you start?

Originally used to create lasting changes in organizations or large systems, David calls this framework “Appreciative Inquiry”. But over time we’ve found this framework just as effective for individual change. David has used this approach to improve his health and fitness and was last seen completing triathlons. I’ve used it to apply my strengths – those things I like doing and am good at – more consistently at work and helped hundreds of other people do the same.

You can hear David talk about how to use these appreciative questions and why these help create individual and organizational change by clicking here. If you’re curious about how to use this approach to change in your own life, in your workplace or your community there are lots of wonderful research papers and free presentations here.

What change could you create with these four simple questions crafted to find the true, the good and the possible about the changes you want to make in your life?

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