“It takes 12 weeks to establish a habit.”
That was a statement from my twin brother last weekend. He made the comment in light of his own changes to exercise and fitness in his life.
Twelve weeks are a specific time period for a number of things. Top of mind are:
- 12 weeks is the duration of the Michelle Bridge’s 12 week body transformation (12WBT) program
- 12 weeks is a common period for many 10k, half marathon and marathon training programs (NB – I do not necessarily endorse these programs, but they illustrate that there are a lot out there)
- 12 weeks is length of the first trimester of pregnancy.
All three are formative periods of change and development. All three need the right nurturing environment to establish a positive outcome. All three require us as individuals to face the aspects of change that will be sacrifices or trade-offs that always face transformational change.
I thought about this a bit over the weekend, and again while I was out running this morning. This weekend was a very humbling one for me. I met a few people ITRW (in the real world) who have been following this blog. Their different stories and moments of personal inspiration touched me. It reminded me of the external context of what surrounds and sometimes influences moments of personal change. In the end it I think it often comes down to something almost spiritual.
In David Shaner’s book on organisational change, The Seven Arts of Change (2010), he highlights that there are six (6) key questions that need to be addressed before an organisation can most effectively prepare for change. They translate very easily to personal change.
- Where is the organisation’s culture? It is in the hearts and minds of the people – something intangible, but creating the collective culture of an organisation. When I think about this in respect to my own personal change, this relates to the things I think and feel that determine my actual behaviour. So I can’t change my behaviour until I change what I think and feel. For example, I know I feel better about myself if I go for a run, or do some sort of exercise for at least 30-60 minutes. So if I tap into that feeling, it might help push me out of bed when it is still dark and cold! And eventually it becomes a pattern.
- What starts the process? Knowledge. I can’t make changes to my behaviour unless I can see the environment around me. And I can’t see change unless I am measuring it. The 12WBT program is clued into this – there is a reason why participants are required to weigh in every Wednesday and take body measurements once every 4 weeks – progress markers keep you on track and keep the motivation for change strong. Know thyself.
- Whose culture is it? Everyone’s. Organisational change won’t happen until every person owns the change. Translating that to individual transformational change, this is all about needing to want it yourself. I think about my father and how as a little girl I would break his cigarettes or hide his packets in the hope that he would give up. He never did of course – he needed to want to stop smoking under his own volition (or more to the point, enjoy life without cigarettes).
- How do you know if you are making progress? This is not a repeat of question two. This is a metric that looks at behaviour change as opposed to signposts. I now fit into a smaller pair of jeans. Bully for me. More to the point – what about the behaviours that sit behind that? I now don’t reach for a snack when I sit down to start a long piece of work or start studying.
- When can you change the culture? Right now. The only thing that we can affect is this present moment. So it doesn’t really pay to delay starting something. It is only in a moment that I can take one path or another. The key is recognising that you have a decision. Last night I made a decision when a friend said she wasn’t drinking as she was going for a run in the morning. Not long afterwards I put down my glass of wine, unfinished.
- Why do people change? In organisational transformation is it because the company or the leader has given them a clear reason to. I think this harks back to the knowledge aspect. The more I understand myself, the more I can see the aspects that would benefit from personal change. Sometimes others inspire us to. However, as a species, human beings are innately lazy and will go with the easiest and most efficient way of obtaining the desired outcome, so I really need to see why I need to do some things differently. I used to drink 2-3 double shot coffees before lunchtime. Just over a year ago I discovered I had a medical condition that was exacerbated by anything that effected my circulation. Caffeine effects the circulation. Drink coffee – suffer a bit; don’t drink coffee – suffer less. I haven’t drunk coffee for over a year now.
I guess in summary we all have the capacity to create the change we want in our own lives – it is just about knowing ourselves and wanting it enough.