There’s this meme that’s running around the Internet…I see it on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. Essentially it says, “One day I woke up and decided to change – so I did!”
Well, I’m glad it was so fucking easy for you! Just go right fucking on with your bad ass self!
For me, this meme reminds me of every time I have tried to change and failed – miserably, utterly failed. And I have tried so many times.
But the fact is – change isn’t easy. Change is hard. You can’t just snap your fingers and change. You don’t just wake up one day and decide to be a completely different person. The meme lies!
Okay – I suppose you can wake up one morning and decide that you never want to feel the way you feel again. I have certainly promised myself (swore to myself) that I would never feel the pounding, sick headache of a hangover again. And for a while it stuck. I managed not to drink for almost nine months.
But the past few months have been a real struggle for me. I’ve been drinking on and off since February. What happened to the change I swore I wanted?
What about the rest of us? The ones who struggle to change? The ones pray every morning not to drink and somehow wind up drinking anyway? How do the rest of us fight through the change and hold on to the new person we want to be? And don’t feed me a line about fucking willpower.
It takes change management.
Change management is a business term, but I believe it can be applied to every day life. Essentially, change management is the umbrella term applied to the approaches used to prepare, support, and help individuals, teams, and organizations make organizational change.
There are several different approaches to (and reasons for) managing and encouraging change in an organization. Ultimately, if an organization does not embrace change in this day and age, it falls behind its competitors and eventually will go out of business.
Similarly, if an individual does not accept change in his or her personal life, they experience suffering. Change, after all, is the only constant in life. It happens all around us all the time. But what about the changes we want to make to ourselves?
Let’s say you see a need to make a sweeping change to the way you live your life. Let’s say, like me, you’ve decided you need to stop drinking alcohol. And for fun, let’s say you’ve tried to do this, a lot, and it’s just not clicking. Okay – stage is set. Here’s how a business would go about changing.
Step 1: Define your change
You won’t get anywhere until you sit down and categorically define what you want to change and why. What is your primary objective (or objectives) for making this change? Write out the problem (or problems) you are attempting to solve and how you are going to solve it. List the benefits you expect to see after implementing the change. Don’t forget to list possible negative outcomes and how you will handle them if they arise.
You’re not ready to move on to the next step of the change management process until you have answers to all of these questions.
Step 2: Create a change management team
For a business, it’s critical to support change with employees from every team that will be affected by the change. For you, it’s critical to build a supportive network of friends and family who will encourage you in your efforts to change.
You want to surround yourself with positive energy. You want to know that there are people you can call when you’re having a bad day or when you’re struggling with a particularly brutal craving. Talk to family and friends. Tell them you’re thinking about making a major change in your life, and you would love to have their support.
Step 3: Plan for change
In step 1 you identified the problem and the solution. In step 2 you built a team to support your change. Now it’s time to write out a plan. Your support team can help with this part! Here are some things to consider as you put together your plan:
- Family culture
- Success criteria
- Communication plan
For example, does your budget allow for an extended stay in rehab? What about an online rehab? How will you communicate your success to your support team? What’s your timeline for this change?
Don’t move on from this step until you feel completely confident in your plan and you have the support of your team.
Step 4: Conduct a trial run
Don’t set yourself up for failure by doing a full-scale launch right off the bat. Give yourself permission to do a trial run first. Stop drinking for at least two weeks. At the end of the trial run, meet with your team to discuss what went well and what needs improvement.
Feedback from your team is very important. You’ll want to get their observations, concerns, and praises. Listen to what they have to say so you can make adjustments to your change plan.
Step 5: Communicate the purpose of change and conduct training
At this point, a business makes its change effort known company-wide and begins mass training efforts. For you, it’s time to do the same thing. This is a scary step for me – I don’t like being transparent about my alcoholism/addiction. It’s easier for me to write about it anonymously here on my blog than it is for me to talk about it with my family.
This step is also about communicating with and training yourself. Remind yourself why you started this change management program. Learn everything you can about alcoholism/addiction. Learn about your disease so that you can be better equipped to handle cravings and bad days.
Step 6: Launch!
You’ve done a lot of work to get to this point – and today is the day you’re committing to major change. Treat yourself! A business might throw a launch party. You can take yourself out to lunch or a movie. Reward yourself, and get excited about all the good things that are going to come from making this change!
Step 7: Review and continue to communicate
Don’t stop after the launch! Change management needs consistency. Whether that means going to AA meetings for continued positive reinforcement of your new lifestyle or getting back into church, change only truly takes hold when it is carefully nurtured and guided.
Make sure you check in with your change management team regularly for feedback.
Step 8: Ongoing reinforcement
As the change takes hold, there won’t be a need for quite so many meetings. The rush of excitement you felt at first will slowly die down, and life will find a new balance of boring normal. This is where an alcoholic like me needs ongoing reinforcement to make sure the change sticks.
This is where all the work you’ve done in the previous steps comes back into play. You’ve given yourself a strong foundation for change. You can go back to your team for support. You can go back to step 1 to review why you wanted and needed to change in the first place. And you can always remember that you have to take it one day at a time.
Change happens every day whether we like it or not. None of us are stagnant. We either change for the better or for the worse. But some of us struggle to change, even though we want to. For those who are struggling, I want you to know – you’re not alone. I’m struggling too.
There is a way to beat the demons. It takes patience, commitment, and yes, a little bit of willpower. And it’s worth it. The glimpse I have seen of a life without alcohol tells me that it is worth it.