The tools for making any behavioral change aren’t complicated, but they do have to include a system for follow-up if you want to make change last.
The simplest way to follow-up is to answer a list of daily questions with a friend or a coach. This allows you to track progress and see what’s working and what’s not. Marshall Goldsmith has written previously about his system of Daily Questions.
The Daily Question system of follow-up asks that you check in daily with a partner or coach and report your list of habit changes. For example:
- Did I do “x” number of sit ups today?
- Did I eat healthy?
- Was I a good listener?
- Was I nice to my spouse?
- Did I spend time reading?
Now, in his book Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be (Crown Business, May 2015), Goldsmith suggests that instead of tracking whether you’ve taken an action or not, ask yourself if you did your best to make it happen. This tracks your efforts, not your results.
“Did I do my best today to…?”
If you want to make lasting changes, you’ll need a system of follow-up with another person like this:
- Make a spread sheet listing your desired behavioral changes. At the end of each day, answer: “Did I do my best today to…?” (exercise, eat healthy, listen to others, etc.)
- Use a 5-point scale from no (1), somewhat (2), average (3), good (4), to excellent (5). Alternatively, you can color code each answer using red, yellow, and green marks, or use an A-B-C grading system.
The key here is to record your progress and effort rather than results. This helps:
- You avoid getting discouraged when outcomes are slow to materialize.
- It puts the appreciation where it belongs: on your efforts to take action.
- It gives you a progress record so you can see where your efforts are being made and where you need to try harder.
Success comes from getting back on the horse after a fall and taking more steps forward than back. Most people underestimate the time and effort required to make changes last. They don’t include a follow-up system.
After a while, many people revert to old habits and previous ineffective actions. Follow-up with another person has been shown to be essential if you want to make lasting changes. Nothing is permanent. And some changes are worth persevering.