Through wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; By knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches.
If you really want to change, you must develop a strategy.
Proverbs 24 tells us that with a strategy, we can build our dream house of positive change. Having a strategy is like having a roadmap. If you take a trip without a map, you can easily get off course. With a map, however, it’s easy to find the way to where you want to go.
The main reason people abort their progress toward change is they face resistance. They begin to feel bad or uncomfortable during the process of change, so they just give up. But if you take the time to develop a strategy, that strategy will become the map to help you maneuver past this resistance.
Steps to Develop a Strategy for Change
Step One: Expose Yourself to a New Environment
The first step toward developing a strategy for change is to expose yourself to a new environment. One of the best ways to jump-start change is to interrupt your normal patterns. When I was a pastor, there was a point when God wanted to change our church. We embarked on a nine-week prayer meeting we called “Pray Through.” We came to church every night for sixty-three nights! Let me tell you, that will interrupt anyone’s pattern.
After the first three weeks, one of our staff members barged into my office and said, “Pastor, I don’t know if I can make it any longer.” I had to get an oxygen tank to resurrect him from the dead! The hard part was that I felt the same way he did—I needed an oxygen tank too! But that incredibly focused time was just what we needed. It interrupted our church’s normal, confining pattern and helped us move forward into new things. If you are trying to change, you need to interrupt your daily pattern. You need exposure to something different.
Step Two: Locate and Use Available Resources
The second step toward developing a strategy for change is to locate and use the resources that are available to you. When Nehemiah wanted to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he went to get help, and Nehemiah was able to accomplish his goal.
There are many resources available to help anyone change, but most people never take the time to do a little digging and find, let alone use these resources. Books, audiobooks, social media, podcasts, blogs, vlogs, programs, groups, magazines—these are just a few of the resources out there that are easy to find and generally free to access. There is a wealth of information out there that can teach you how to improve any area of your life. There is no excuse for ignorance.
Things will snowball for you if you just get out there and look.
Step Three: Find Someone Who Will Coach You
The third step toward developing a strategy for change is to find what may be the most important resource you can have—someone who will coach you. This person will be your moral support when the going gets tough. He or she can provide you with the wisdom of their experience and give you encouragement and advice. This could be a friend or a relative, even a coworker or boss if the situation is appropriate. It could be your pastor, your small group leader, or just an acquaintance. The point is to be bold in asking for their help.
If you cannot find someone who is willing to coach you in person, all is not lost. Find someone you admire and get your hands on all the content they produce: their blog, their book, their program. As busy as I now am in my daily life, my ability to meet with an in-person mentor is not what it once was. So now, if I want to learn something, I pick a guru to follow online and devour their content. Finding people you can pattern your success after is a shortcut to change. Why reinvent the wheel? Find someone who has already invented it and borrow it!
Step Four: Imagine the Pain
This might sound strange, but it’s important to really imagine the pain you will experience by staying the same. Picture it in detail— sight, sound, and feeling. Imagine your health’s trajectory if you stay the same. Imagine the unhappiness you feel in your job every day. I know this is not a fun task, but it is a motivating one.
“Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.”
-2 Corinthians 7:10
The word sorrow means pain, and the word repentance means to change your mind. So, another translation of that passage could read, “The pain that you allow God to direct brings a changing of the mind.”
Whenever you connect your current behavior to pain, you become willing to let go of that behavior and embrace change. If you tell a small child not to touch a hot stove but they do it anyway, chances are you will never have to warn them again. They will see the stove, remember the pain they felt as a consequence of their decision to touch it and will lose the desire to repeat that behavior.
Step Five: Imagine the Gain
The fifth step is the opposite of the fourth. Instead of picturing the pain you will suffer as a result of not changing, picture the benefits you will experience if you do change. Again, imagine this in vivid detail—sight, sound, and feeling. Think about your favorite benefits of changing and hold tightly to them.
When I was a teenager, I lost more than fifty pounds using this exact technique. First, I bought a too-small pair of expensive swimming trunks. Then I pictured myself standing on the diving board of our local swimming pool—in front of all the girls. I clearly saw myself slimmed down and fitting into those trunks. I imagined myself catching the eye of the right lady. This picture became so real to me that I lost the weight in a little over two months!
Step Six: Determine How You Will Deal with Resistance
The next step you must take in developing your change strategy is determining how you will deal with emotional resistance. When you start down the road to change, you will encounter resistance, and it won’t just be internal resistance. Yes, if you decide to go on a diet, images of cheesecake will faithfully begin appearing in your mind. But you’ll also experience the outside pressure of friends saying, “Come on, just cheat this once!” Your emotions and, unfortunately, sometimes your environment will violently resist the change. Many people give up when the resistance gets tough, but that’s when you need to get tougher.
The path to dealing with resistance is not uniform because we are all different and our communities are different. So think carefully about your life and potential triggers. Plan out how you will act and what you will say when faced with resistance. Overcome your feelings of guilt brought on by past failures and focus instead on the things you have accomplished. Don’t focus on the places you have fallen short. Just get up, and re-imagine the gain.
Step Seven: Replace Harmful Thoughts and Behaviors with Beneficial Ones
A major key to assimilating a desired change into your life is to replace harmful thoughts and behaviors with those that are encouraging and beneficial. This is the substitution principle. When you substitute something positive for something negative, something good replaces something bad.
One of the reasons dieting is so difficult is that you cannot stop eating completely. You can totally eliminate abusive substances such as alcohol or drugs and be better off for it, but you cannot totally eliminate food. Because you cannot replace the familiar pattern of putting food in your mouth, dieting is a particularly difficult change. Take it from someone who has struggled with dieting on and off his entire life. It’s tough!
In my opinion, the best approach to losing weight is to replace fattening foods with healthy foods. Find foods that help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, then stock up! I enjoy eating meat, so I replaced carb-heavy foods with protein-heavy foods. I discovered that I could not drastically overeat protein-rich foods, and I began to lose my extra pounds. It was fairly easy to maintain a healthy weight eating like this because I was able to eliminate a familiar, damaging food pattern by replacing it with a beneficial one.
Step Eight: Choose Your Reward
The last step you should take to prepare yourself for personal change is to decide how you will reward yourself for your accomplishment. Rewarding yourself for change is an important motivator. In 1 Samuel 17:26, before David went out to fight Goliath, David asked, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine?” Though I’m sure David was motivated to fight Goliath to defend the honor of God Almighty against the slander of Goliath, the generous reward being offered by King Saul for the defeat of the giant surely motivated David even further. God understands the importance of rewards. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
It is healthy to reward yourself. It is important to always be moving toward a goal in your life. Knowing in advance how you will reward yourself once the goal is reached enables you to overcome any short-term discomforts of change. You know your reward is waiting!
You can change, but if you don’t have a strategy, you are likely to fail. Look at each of these steps and develop your own strategy for change.
If you are ready for change, I encourage you to come to my annual WealthBuilders Conference! It all goes down THIS WEEKEND, and tickets are almost sold out! To get more information, visit my website here. If you are ready to purchase your tickets and “Activate your Vision”, then click here! I can’t wait to see you all there.