7 Steps to Change Non-Productive Behavior
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Posted by: Dr. Alan Zimmerman
Dr. Zimmerman's TUESDAY
When you change the way
you see things, the things you see change.
Dr. Alan Zimmerman's
A man was sitting on the edge
of the bed, watching his wife who was looking at herself in the mirror. Since
her birthday was not far off he asked what she'd like to have for her birthday.
"I'd like to be eight again,” she replied, still looking in the mirror. So on the morning of her birthday, he
arose early, made her a nice big bowl of Cocoa Pops, and then took her to the
Adventure World theme park. What a day! He put her on every ride in the park …
the Death Slide, the Wall of Fear, the Screaming Roller Coaster, everything
Five hours later they staggered
out of the theme park. Her head was reeling and her stomach felt upside down.
He then took her to a McDonald's where he ordered her a Happy Meal with extra
fries and a chocolate shake. Then it was off to a movie, popcorn, a soda pop,
and her favorite M & M candy. What a fabulous adventure!
Finally she wobbled home with
her husband and collapsed into bed exhausted. He leaned over his wife with a
big smile and lovingly asked, "Well Dear, what was it like being eight again?”
Her eyes slowly opened and her
expression suddenly changed. "I meant my dress size, not my age!”
There could be several morals
to this story. The more cynical individuals might conclude: Even when a man is
listening, he is going to get it wrong. The more thoughtful people realize that
everyone needs to change something … whether it's a different size in clothing,
an increased ability to understand others, or the removal of a non-productive
behavior or attitude at home or at work.
And in my opinion, everybody
needs to change a few things if they want to experience more success and more
happiness. As the great basketball coach John Wooden used to say, "Failure is
not fatal, but failure to change might be.”
The good news is there's a
process you can use to change or eliminate any non-productive behavior. Of
course, in my keynote and seminar on "The Human Side of Change: How To Go From
Chaos To Control,” I go into great depth on this process. (If you'd like to
discuss the possibility of bringing the program to your next meeting, give me a
call or read all about it by clicking here.)
In brief, to make effective
change, I recommend these steps.
1. Focus on changing one
You may have twenty different
things you need to change, but start with one. Trying to tackle all twenty
problems at once is like releasing twenty pinballs in a pinball machine all at
the same time. You'll see a lot of activity, score a few points, but have most
of your balls go nowhere but down the tube. You'll accomplish a great deal more
if you're focused on one area of change rather than be distracted by several
2. Focus on daily
Chances are you didn't get your
non-productive behavior overnight, and you won't overcome it overnight. So
don't get all frustrated with yourself when you don't find yourself changing as
rapidly as you would like.
Remember the old joke, "How do
you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Take heed. Break your chosen
non-productive behavior into bite-size pieces. You may not have enough strength
and skill to completely change a lifelong behavior all at once, but you can
make a step in the right direction almost every day.
There's another old saying:
"Life by the yard is hard, but by the inch, it's a cinch.” Perhaps that's why
Dear Abby publishes her version of the "Just For Today” poem each year. As she
JUST FOR TODAY, I will live
through this day only. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about
tomorrow. I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my
problems at once. I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would
overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will be
happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with
clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will accept
what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things I can correct and
accept those I cannot.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will improve
my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.
I will not be a mental loafer.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will make a
conscious effort to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who
cross my path, and I'll not speak ill of others. I will improve my appearance,
speak softly, and not interrupt when someone else is talking.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will refrain
from improving anybody but myself.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will do
something positive to improve my health. If I'm a smoker, I'll quit. If I am
overweight, I will eat healthfully – if only just for today. And not only that,
I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it's only around the
JUST FOR TODAY, I will gather
the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.
Dear Abby is right. You can
make amazing progress on any or all of your goals or non-productive behaviors
if you take it day by day. And then…
3. Tap into a "Higher
Studies show that within six
weeks of making our New Year's Resolutions, 80% of us will break them. So
obviously willpower isn't enough. If your own willpower is all you need, you
would have a lot more success in your life than you already do.
So what's the answer? Tap into
some other source of power. Some people find it helpful when a "Higher Power” is in their corner, cheering them on, or redirecting their course. It makes no
sense to work on changing yourself, all by yourself, when there is a better
You might even try the prayer
used by Peter Marshall, the U. S. Senate Chaplain: "Lord when we are wrong,
make us willing to change. And when we are right, make us easy to live with.”
4. Focus on the positive,
not the negative.
You've heard about being stuck
in a rut. Well, it's literally true. Every time you think a thought, it sends
an electrical impulse across your brain and that impulse creates a path. Every
time you think the same thought, the path … or the rut… gets deeper and deeper
and reinforces that same brain pattern.
Chances are you have some
negative ruts in your mind because you've thought the same negative things over
and over. You've thought about that irritating colleague or your tendency to
shirk your responsibilities repeatedly. And guess what, the more you think
about those things, the more they will dominate your life and your behavior.
You see … what you focus on is what you move toward, and whatever has your
attention has you.
So what's the answer? You
change the mental channel of your mind. Every time that negative thought comes
into your mind, think about something positive instead. And over time, the
process works beautifully.
5. Focus on doing good, not
If you wait until you feel like
changing, you'll never change. But if you go ahead and do the right thing, your
feelings will eventually catch up with you. If you don't feel loving toward
your spouse, for example, begin to act loving, and the feelings will come. If
you wait until you feel like it, you may wait forever.
You've probably heard someone
say, "Fake it 'till you make it.” Perhaps you've read it in one of my "Tuesday
Tips.” That's because it's always easier to act your way into a feeling than to
feel your way into an action.
Do the right thing even though
you don't feel like it. Do it because it's the right thing to do. Anytime you
try to change a major part of your life, it won't feel good at the start. In
fact, it will feel awkward. It may even feel bad for a while because it doesn't
feel normal. And sometimes we are so used to feeling abnormal that abnormal
doesn't feel good.
Let's say you're a workaholic,
and you decide to do the right thing whether you feel like it or not. So you go
home at five, and you don't take any work home with you. The first time you try
this, it's going to feel weird. The first time you try to relax, you may find
that you don't know how to relax because you've worked so hard for so long.
Just keep on doing the right thing, over and over, and eventually your feelings
will catch up with your behavior.
6. Focus on people who help
you instead of block you.
The Bible says, "Do not be
fooled: Bad friends will ruin good habits.” In other words, if you know what
type of people lead you astray, stay away from them. If you're struggling with
negativity, don't go to lunch with your constantly complaining coworkers. Bad
idea. If you're struggling with assertiveness, don't hang out with a friend who
lets other people walk all over him. Don't hang out with people who mess you
On the other hand, you DO need
to hang around people who will help you make positive changes in your life.
There is power in numbers. If you fall, you'll need the kind of friends who can
help you out.
7. Focus on progress, not
Some of you have heard me
speak. Some of you have been to my two-day "Journey to the Extraordinary” program, and some of you have been reading my "Tuesday Tip” for a long time.
You may be thinking, "I've learned a lot from you Dr. Zimmerman, but I don't
seem to be changing quickly enough.” Don't worry about it. You should be
seeking progress, not perfection. And if you follow these 7 steps, you'll see
that life change is a process. It's a decision you make followed by a process
Rank order the 7 steps for
effective change in the order of your personal effectiveness. Give a #1 to the
step that you are best at, #2 to the one you are second best at, and so forth.
Once you've completed your ranking, decide on two things you are going to do to
improve your effectiveness.
About the author:
As a best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker,
Dr. Alan Zimmerman is focused on "transforming the people side of
business.” His keynotes and seminars are noted for high content, high energy,
and high involvement that transform people's lives and the companies where they
Click here to learn more about his programs and products, or
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Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman's Internet
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