Have you ever wanted to change something about yourself?
I mean really change?
Become a different person.
A better person.
It’s been almost a year since I listed something I knew I needed to change in the personal section of the MAP (Ministry Action Plan) I was completing at work. What did I write down?
I want to become a nicer person.
When people describe me, “nice” has never really been one of the words in the list. It’s usually words like “determined”, “wise”, “assertive”, and even “thoughtful”. It isn’t that I feel people see me as a mean person. They just don’t see me as “nice”.
That took me down a path toward behavioral change. I purposely scheduled time with people that top the “nice” list in my book. I became more self-aware of how my body language and tone come across. I worked on smiling more and becoming more approachable.
Then I hit a plateau, and honestly kind of forgot about becoming nicer for a season. That is, until I received a copy of Marshall Goldsmith’s book Triggers. Whoo-boy. I had to choose whether I was going to continue making excuses for not seeing this through in myself, or I had to buckle down and commit to change.
I decided I still want to change.
As I began the book, I was confronted with the question, Why don’t we become the person we want to be? The bottom line? Change is hard, and no one else can really make us change – we have to truly want it for ourselves. Add to that – change isn’t only about me – it’s about how I affect other people, and there are triggers that quickly get me off course in the process. My internal triggers include believing that if I understand the need for change, I will just do it, and that my change would be permanent – something I will never have to work on again. Ha! Add to those the external triggers of other people and situations around me, and I realized quickly that becoming a nicer person was going to be harder than I thought.
When it comes to behavior, Goldsmith uses the wheel of change to illustrate the options we have – to change or keep the positive things, and to change or keep the negative.
- Creating represents the positive elements that we want to create in our future.
- Preserving represents the positive elements that we want to keep in the future.
- Eliminating represents the negative elements that we want to eliminate in the future.
- Accepting represents the negative elements that we need to accept in the future.
(Triggers, pg. 86)
In order to make progress toward becoming nicer in the way I act, speak, and treat others, I sat down and made a list of the things I need to create, preserve, eliminate and accept in my life. As I narrowed down what really matters to me, I developed clarity on how to focus on those things.
I was ready for the second section of Triggers – taking action! This focuses on asking active questions of ourselves daily. Too often we ask ourselves passive questions – like “How nice was I today?”. Instead, Goldsmith encourages us to focus on the effort that we put forward. The above question would be rephrased to “Did I do my best to be nice today”. Do you see the difference? The effort is up to me. I can change. I’m not asking how I performed – I’m asking how I tried. By asking myself four questions at the end of every day, I am constantly forcing myself to acknowledge the effort, or lack of effort, I am putting into becoming a nicer person.
Sometimes we need to ask someone to keep us accountable to these questions. Goldsmith suggests finding a trusted person that will call you every single day to ask you your daily questions. They record your responses, and can help you stay on track with the progress you want to make. I haven’t done this step yet – but I know that if I get stuck again, this will be necessary for me.
Toward the end of the book was a chapter on the trouble with ‘good enough’. Good enough is where I had landed, partway through my quest to become a nicer person. I had made some improvements, so I felt it was “good enough.” But I was challenged to ask myself – have I done the best I can?
And the answer was no.
So I am on my journey again.
And hopefully, in the end, one of the words you will use to describe me is “nice”.