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Anyone who has ever tried to change something about themselves or about a situation likely knows that change isn't always easy. Old ways of thinking and old ways of behaving tend to creep up and sabotage the change we're trying to make. This is a time of new year's resolutions so it's likely a good time to think about this. Most resolutions are made with a lot of gusto, a lot of determination - and that lasts for a few days and possibly weeks. But then, the chocolate cake in the fridge looks way better than the exercise leotards, and the badly paying job we were going to say good-bye to looks a lot a lot better as the excitement of change meets with the reality of having to spend time looking for new work.

I just read something which made me feel somewhat excited (OK, so I am easy to please. In certain areas, anyway.) According to Kurt Lewin, when 51% of a system's variables change, the rest reorganizes itself. What does that mean? It means that, at first, change does feel weird (often VERY weird) but, as we persevere through the weirdness, there is a point (sort of the proverbial top of the hill) when everything clicks and everything reorganizes itself according to our new way of being. Yay! Less work to do!

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I have to believe that one of the cruelest acts of nature is that, the better we are at something, the more we tend to discount our abilities. That may not actually seem like a big deal but, for anyone wanting to get well-recognized financially and otherwise for their contributions, this is a curse.

Many situations I encounter with my clients, especially those wanting to market their services better, involve some form of answering a simple question. Simple to ask, often not easy to answer. The question is "what is so special about you and your products/services?", "Why would someone to do business with YOU rather with anyone else?" "What do YOU give to your clients that nobody else gives?"

More often than not, this "unique" way is something that is obvious to everyone but you. When told of their unique ways, the person often says "well, no, that isn't unique. That's EASY. Everyone can do that." Bingo. The theory of relativity wasn't as hard to Einstein as to others, either!

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Just before Christmas, I saw a brilliant way to advertise and I had to write about it because it was both funny and simple, yet an excellent example of thinking like a customer.

The circumstances of this discovery were not exactly glamorous. A client and I went for a walk at the beach, my dog came along and, along with the dog came the distasteful task of picking up - well, you know. That is a normal part of a walk so I carried my somewhat warm plastic bag to the nearest garbage can. As I was about to throw the bag inside the can, I started to laugh.

On the lid of this garbage can was a carefully pasted poster for a doggie item Christmas sale! How brilliant. Whoever did this didn't do the same as everyone by pasting the poster on telephone polls. Nobody would read them. But here? Hey, the general public may not notice but that's OK. The right, targeted customers were sure to look at that lid. The lesson? Go where YOUR customers are likely to be!

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We are all creatures of habit. There is very little doubt about that. If we get a choice of doing what we know versus something we have to learn (especially if it includes any level of discomfort), we're likely to get back to our old habits very quickly. Anyone who has ever tried quitting smoking (or watched someone trying to do so) can see that the nicotine withdrawal can be the "easier" part. The tough part can be to find a replacement for "holding onto the cigarette".

The process of learning and changing is said to go through four distinct stages: 1) Unconscious Incompetence, 2) Conscious Incompetence (we know that we don't know, 3) Conscious Competence, and 4) Unconscious Competence.

At first, we start out with not knowing that we need to change something. This is when others may be aware of our need to change but we are blissfully ignorant. People may be laughing at us but we're happily unaware.

The next two stages are the tricky ones. Conscious Incompetence is when we realize that something isn't right, that something needs to change, but we feel totally unable to effect the change. Say, someone realizes that their shyness is costing them potential opportunities. They are at a party and everything they say seems to get them nothing but strange looks. At this point, it is crucial to keep practicing but many people quit trying to change because they hate the clumsiness and potential embarrassment. Unfortunately, it is an unavoidable part of the process.

The next stage is when this person shows up at a party, painfully recalls all the right things to say, still feels awkward but now people are responding more positively. After a little more time of practice comes the last stage (over the top of that hill again). Now this same person is at the party, chats everyone up and can't understand why some shy person is sitting in the corner. The "basic habit" of this person has shifted completely, to the extent they don't consciously recollect that they were ever any different. The power of self-creation...

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I think that, as technology takes over more and more of our lives, we won't lose our desire to connect with other people. I believe that exactly the opposite will happen. The more we talk to machines, computers, palmtops, and cellphones, the more important it becomes for us to be really "heard".

The pace of our living is very fast and so it makes sense that many of our communications now happen over email, over a quick lunch or while we are planning the rest of our busy lives. I think that we end up living fast at the expense of living well. I think that we end up taking it for granted that people know we care about them but we don't take the time to say so.

It used to amaze me that English-speaking people would ask "hi, how are you?", as a way of greeting each other. Yet we would surprise each other by actually answering how we really are. I believe that it is important to take the time to ask "how are you?". I believe that it is important to then stay there for the answer and listen. Whether the answer is positive, negative, or a likely mixture of both, it is one of the nicest gifts we can give to each other. It is the subject of jokes that people scream "you don't love me anymore" when they are actually saying "I would love for someone to give me a few minutes and just listen". I really believe there would be a lot less strife if we all did that more. Just listen.

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"Awareness is the first important part of the process towards positive change. Without awareness, there can be no self-initiative to change. Without awareness, change can be forced but it will disappear the moment the force disappears."

Pavla Michaela Polcarova, Power Thoughts Journal






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