33 Ways To Make A Positive Change In 2022
Illustration by Mr Simon Landrein
People who make and embrace changes in their lives are overwhelmingly more content than those who resist it, a 2020 University of Chicago study revealed. Change is good for us in both our personal and professional lives. It makes us more flexible and opens up new experiences and opportunities. It’s also beneficial to those around us when those adjustments are for the greater good, not just ourselves.
“Set a variety of short (weekly), medium (quarterly) and longer-term (yearly) goals, which will give you a sense of purpose,” says author and executive coach Mr Jim Rees. “Effective goal setting focuses your brain and activates the reticular activating system, a network of neurons located in the brain stem that mediate behaviour and programme new patterns, which can set you up for the year ahead in a positive manner.”
Give yourself a hand
“Trace around your hand and draw four lines across each finger, adding percentages: 20 per cent, 40 per cent, 60 per cent, 80 per cent and 100 per cent,” says Rees. “Write your life change in the centre and then ask yourself the five things that are critical in helping you achieve it. Write these points at the top of each finger and shade in how close you are to achieving each goal.”
Coach, don’t direct
“Bringing about positive change in your team can require a change of tack,” says performance psychologist Mr Jeremy Snape, founder of Sporting Edge. “Before issuing directions, ask your team what they see and how they could approach the challenge. You’ll then see bright-eyed enthusiasts who deliver better work with less fuss. When they are under pressure, they become direct and impatient and, in response, their team become too compliant and lose their ability to be creative and challenge the status quo.”
Don’t change alone
“When we make a commitment to change, it helps if we do it with a partner, mentor, sponsor or group,” says Mr Joe De Sena, author of 10 Rules For Resilience: Mental Toughness For Families. “Research shows this can motivate us to stick to the change plan and gain strength in whatever we’re looking to do, from running 5K to quitting addictions.”
Have that one action
“An important key with change is productivity,” says Ms Frederique Murphy, leadership mindset strategist and author of Lead Beyond The Edge: The Bold Path To Extraordinary Results. “Write down the one action that, when completed, will make you feel like your day was productive and start your day with it. Once completed, it will boost your productivity because it’ll create a powerful momentum that will support you for the rest of the day.”
“Rewards encourage small achievements on the way to your long-term goals,” says Dr Michael R Mantell, cognitive behaviour coach and author of The Link Is What You Think. Each time you reach a goal and reward yourself, a hit of dopamine pushes you to continue because your body craves that feeling of satisfaction, which helps build intrinsic motivation because of the pleasure experienced.
Go one-nil up early
For many of us, the remote working day is long and packed with back-to-back meetings. Add to this a dynamic family environment and our life can feel like an exhausting blur. “Set your alarm, but leave it in your running shoes, which you have placed outside your bedroom the night before,” says Snape. “This ensures you’ll get up and jog around the block. Exercising before the working day begins ensures you feel one-nil up against your old self and that jog will supercharge your day.”
Upgrade your workout
A change is as good as a rest in the world of exercise, so if you usually only run or cycle, start lifting some weights for huge crossover benefits. “You’ll build more powerful muscles for greater speed and drop body fat for reduced joint wear and tear,” says Mr Joe Warner, fitness trainer and creator of NewBodyPlan. “In short, you’ll get fitter and faster. Your goal should be challenging yet realistic and your training plan should have a time frame and be enjoyable. Making it fun is the only way you’ll stick with it and consistency is the most important factor is achieving your goals.”
Do an anti-bucket list
“Instead of lamenting that you should walk for an hour a day or go to the gym three times a week, what will you do?” says Mr Sid Madge, transformational change specialist with Meee Global. “Can you commit to a 20-minute walk? If you have no intention of doing either, then be honest with yourself. Use the energy you waste beating yourself up about the things you are not doing to focus on what you will do.”
Review your wrong moves
“Identify patterns of behaviour that have previously derailed your attempt to make positive changes,” says Rees. “Having sight of potential downfalls will allow you to become aware of negative patterns or blind spots and make plans to overcome them, which will make it easier to achieve the new, positive things you have set yourself.”
Leave a leafy legacy
Plant something – in your garden, in a window box, in an allotment – if not your own produce, then herbs or flowers that attract and feed pollinators such as bees, butterflies and birds. If you don’t have your own land, but do have green fingers, join a community garden project.
Make an impact at every meeting
“End meetings early,” says Mr Ray Williams, executive business coach and author of Eye Of The Storm: How Mindful Leaders Transform Chaotic Workplaces. “People will be more positive about participating as a result.” US research found that workers in meetings had limited executive or effective decision-making resources, which, when drained – by spending too much time going over the same topic – led to bad decisions being made.
“The high performers I’ve worked with have an insatiable desire to learn new skills and experiment,” says Snape. “This curiosity about how they could improve is backed up by a courage to take risks. Whether it’s a new technique, a new role or starting a new business, they don’t let mistakes hold them back and they are happiest when they are failing forwards to higher levels of performance.”
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Change with kindness
“People who engage in kind acts become happier over time,” says Prof Sonja Lyubomirsky, research psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of California. “When you’re kind to others, you feel good as a person, more optimistic and positive.”
“If the past 20 months have taught us anything, it is that we should be taking more care of ourselves,” says Prof Sir Cary Cooper, advisory board member at addiction specialist Delamere. “But we’re still working harder, longer hours than ever before. Use this time of resolutions to disconnect from corporate life and find ways to ensure you’re not thinking about work when you should be relaxing.”
Help others to help yourself
“Simply try to help one random person each day,” suggests Beresford. “It could mean helping someone lift a pushchair up a flight of stairs on your commute, or buying a homeless person a hot drink.”
Keep your chin up…
“The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser – in case you thought optimism was dead,” says Mr Robert Brault, author of Short Thoughts For The Long Haul.
…and your hand
“Holding oneself to account is important when making any sort of life changes,” says Rees. “Telling your family and friends about your goals may give you the responsibility you need and help you gather the support system to give you a push. If you remain accountable in your everyday life, you will also surround yourself with constant encouragement from those who are following your progress.”
“When your career or business feels stuck on a path like a supertanker, set off some speedboat projects with 10 per cent of your time that can explore new opportunities,” says Snape. “Invest time, people and resources in these experimental projects proactively to trial new skills or products. Whether it’s learning a new language or developing a killer app, some may fail, but one will ignite and help you to change the course of your life or business for ever.”
Turn the thermostat down by just one degree, switch old lightbulbs for LED ones, which use 85 per cent less energy, and insulate your home to make a positive change for the planet.
“While working with the South African cricket team, I discovered the ancient philosophy of ubuntu,” says Snape. “This states that you can’t justify your success in life by your title, your house or your car, but instead by the impact you have on others. So, if you are living in a zero-sum world where smash and grab feels right, think about how you can help your colleagues to be a success and you’ll rise more rapidly than you can imagine.”
Change the way you think
Research from the University of Stockholm shows that speaking two or more languages has a positive cognitive impact on behaviour. People who are bilingual are more open-minded, sensitive and able to entertain different perspectives more easily. Get more creative by spending 15 minutes a day on French, German or Mandarin instead of social media.
Focus on a WIN-win
“As soon as we think about winning, be that securing a new account or even just completing a task we’ve been putting off, we start to catastrophise about what happens if we lose,” says Snape. “Rather than fixate on the emotionally charged outcome, we need to go back to the process and break a win down into its component letters and ask: what’s important now? This helps refocus on the things you need to deliver success**.”**
Hold your bank to account
According to BankTrack, many of the world’s largest banking institutions invest more than £1.4 trillion into fossil fuel financing while Ethical Consumer says others use your earnings to support weapons manufacturing, exploitative labour conditions and environmentally unfriendly practices. Make a resolution to audit your bank’s ethical books and possibly move your money elsewhere.
Use positive language at work…
Accomplish, believe, encouraging, energised, generous, kind, optimistic, progress, rewarding. Fill the air with these words to create a positive environment.
…and in relationships
“Make a resolution to change the language you use in your personal interactions,” says relationship expert Mr James Thomas. “When resolving conflict, try using ‘I’ statements because ‘you’ can result in blame-giving, hostility and defensiveness. And make forgiveness a default going forward. It can be found with or without the person who hurt you. It’s important talk to a professional who can guide you through this process.”
Make your words effect change
“Practise being the last to speak,” says Mr Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat Last. It’s a key skill to master if you want to get the most out of any work or social situation. “It lets you hold back your own thoughts until you’ve heard everyone else’s, which allows you to form a more complete, better-formulated opinion.”
Have a change with heart
“Einstein famously said, ‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them,’” says author Mr John Siddique. “Yet if we observe ourselves, we find that we tend to keep chipping away at the same old ways hoping for different outcomes. The secret here is to engage your heart in your process of change and growth. Without heart involvement, a good idea will fall at the first hurdle.”
“Your brain registers 20,000 moments in one waking day,” says Murphy. “As your day unfolds, your brain categorises these moments into two different buckets: positive and negative. It disregards the neutral ones. You are in a high-performing positive change state when you have a three positive to one negative ratio. It is never about having one of those days, but always about controlling one of these moments.”
“Take everything said to you at face value, listen, then manage what you consume from other people and media sources,” says Ms Stephanie Taylor, health and wellbeing expert at StressNoMore. Filter out negative comments and focus on the constructive ones that will allow you to be happier.
Find upbeat alternatives
“In my case, it was about making a positive change on a bad habit – booze,” says Mr Ruari Fairbairns, founder of the One Year No Beer support group. “When I realised my pub nights were just me craving social interaction with the lads, I knew I needed to find another way. I got a group of them together and we took up cycling. We shared activities and supported each other.”
Diarise your successes
“One way to stay positive at work is to find three positive aspects of a challenging situation,” says De Sena. “If you have a time-consuming project, write down three parts of the project you enjoy. Seeing the achievements within your challenges can help you maintain a positive attitude.”