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There are five steps that are universal in sustaining change.

Whether it is an organizational change or a personal change, if you want it to be sustained, or permanent, you must follow every step.

Step 1: Awareness

If you want to make a change, you must first become aware of the change you want to make. This is the aha moment, the one in which you realize that something you are doing is getting in the way of the results you want to achieve. If you have ever told yourself anything like, “Gee, I had no idea I was such a lousy listener,” or “I never realized I put you down in public like that and how it must make you feel.”

These moments are all awareness data points. Now, once you have got that you have to ask yourself a question:

If I don’t want to do anything with the awareness or the new data then there will be no change.

When you do want change, and most of the time when you have an awareness that something needs to change – you are going to want to make that change, Then move onto step two.

Step Two: A desire to do something with this new awareness.

The “aha” moment you had cares. It is something that matters to you. Like when you get short of breath and you think to yourself, “I had no idea that smoking is doing this to me.” (That 1964 Surgeon General’s report about the harmful effects of tobacco – that was some awareness!) So, if you don’t care, you can just say to yourself, “Nah! I am going to die anyway.”

If you do care though, if you think, “Gee, wow. I really care. I don’t want that outcome,” and you want to keep going, then keep moving to step three.

Step 3: New skills or resources

Why do you need new skills or resources? To avoid Einstein’s definition of insanity. If you don’t make space for step three here, you will be bound to repeat the same thing over and over again, and find out from your spouse, your partner, an employee, or a customer that you are still doing the same stinking behavior that has irritated people for years.

Want to keep going?

Step 4: Action:

Where the rubber meets the road. So you have the new data, step one), you care about it (step 2), you have some new information, new skills, and new resources (step 3). Now, you put them to work. You create a plan, and work the plan.

And there you have it. The 4 Steps to Sustained Change.

Did you scroll up to check the title?

You’re right. I am messing with you a little bit, but I am doing it to drive the point home. There are five steps, but we usually skip the fifth step.

This is why change becomes a mockery, and we treat is with such cynicism that there might as well be a physical barrier after the first four steps because, honestly, that is usually where it stops.

And that is why, when we hear about a new change from senior management along the lines of, “this is our new and improved way of doing things around here,” we sort of laugh to ourselves.

“Yeah right,” you think. Although you have your poker face on because you are a professional, right? You are on a stage. In reality we think, “yep, we’ll just see… we’ll wait it out until the next thing comes along.

You have to break through that barrier. The barrier is real. Again, this applies to stopping smoking, getting into shape, losing weight, improving our relationships at work and at home, or with a customer, or doing something differently. Doing something differently like halfway into that contract – or preferably the day after you win it – you prepare that relationship with the customer in terms of finding feedback. You start asking, “what is it like to work with us and how can we do better?” You start anticipating your customer’s concerns, understand who they have to report to, what the political, monetary or whatever pressures they are under.

So number five is the key.

Step 5: Support

When you add in the fifth step, you are much more likely to have sustained personal change. It makes all the difference in the world. You want to do something different? Don’t just say to yourself in the mirror, “this is what I am going to do from now on.”

If you really want to make the change, ask someone on your team, a trusted advisor, your coach, confidant, your spouse, your best friend – ask someone who knows you, and can see the behavior, and who will support you in making the change by giving you feedback, encouragement, and who will remind you of your desire to change when you start sliding.

Sustained change isn’t easy. It’s why most change doesn’t last. Follow these five steps to beat the odds.