How does change occur? It certainly isn’t simple. Why do we repeat behavior that doesn’t work—those actions that lead to stifling debt, disappointing careers, or stuck relationships? and then do it harder, yet expect a different result?

Why is it not obvious that trying to exit an old story by simply writing a “better ending” only recreates the same story, and ensures that we remain in it? That a thousand better endings to an old story don’t create a new story? That the past cannot be changed and is a settled matter?

Why do we tend to see ourselves as the victims of our life stories, while overlooking the fact that we author them in the first place and create the feelings with our thoughts?

On the other hand, to simply stop doing something is not complete change. Abstaining from an old story of “stuckness” or compromising repetitions—just like abstaining from excessive drinking or eating—is a beginning. In order for lasting change to take place, a new lived experience is required, one that you repeat until it creates new circuits and neuronal networks in your brain.

The good news is that we are not hard-wired for life. To have new experiences changes neuronal pathways and networks in the brain, transforms neurotransmitters, and even alters gene expression. New choreography in the ballet at the synaptic cleft alters brain structure along with function: when we change our minds, we change our brains. Neuroscience validates how powerful creating a new story can be.

How Can We Facilitate Change?
We can foster change through conscious practice and the use of effective tools. An infinite array of new patterns and possibilities can be created to further our goals. The caveat: we need to take action to diminish preprogrammed responses and write new scripts for new experiences—a new story has to replace the old one. There are no shortcuts, since long-term change requires consistent practice in order to groove new neural pathways and establish new neuronal networks. Here are some effective and efficient methods to accelerate optimal change and insure transformation.

Identify The Signposts on Your Road to Success

1. Precisely specify your goal and agenda.
Be very specific about a goal—e.g., “getting fit” is not a goal but an outcome. If your goal is not clear, the agenda and strategy cannot be precise. Clarify your agenda so that it is clear, specific and simple. Maintain your focus on a specific issue until you have clarity. Without focusing on an agenda, there can be no effectiveness or success.

2. Determine what needs to happen.
Get clear on what you need to do to further the goal of your agenda today. This will catalyze an approach to the next steps you need to take. For example, if you feel overwhelmed at work by the amount of tasks, clarify one issue that can be dealt with effectively within the next day. This focus on a specific action exercises effectiveness and initiates a model of mastery for the next step.

3. Convert obstacles into intentions.
Internal obstacles such as fear or doubt that may seem to “stop” you are personal creations. Convert a fear or obstacle into an intention, with a commitment to a next best action. For example, if you are afraid of public speaking, an intention might be to join Toastmasters.

4. Highlight the solutions.
When you form a plan and immerse yourself in the process, problems tend to dissolve into the possibilities.

5. Facilitate internal and external change.
When writing a new story, expect to experience some anxiety and trepidation. You are in new territory, without familiar landmarks. When you fully immerse yourself in this new experience, feeling anxious or uncertain is a signpost of progress, as opposed to a signal of danger as in the old story.

6. Follow up.
Remember: the usual problem is not setting goals but completing them. Continue to focus on your goals and strategies. What works and what doesn’t are both important. Writing your next chapter is about looking at what happens next, and considering what happens after what happens next.

Continue to Assess Your Progress
An ongoing assessment of progress—of evaluating each of the major storylines in your personal and business life—involves asking these basic four questions:

1. What do you want to change?
If there is a problem, barrier or obstacle, it is not simply a matter of getting over it, countering it or adapting to it. Change does not happen until you create something else in its place. For example, convert a fear of public speaking into an intention and commit to taking a specific action.

2. What do you need to let go of?
Emotionally, it is not always easy to let go of a hope without it being fulfilled—such as trying to get someone to respond in just the right way. No matter how entrenched we are in a process or how strong our hope is for a certain outcome, the bottom-line question we need to ask is “Does it work?” If the answer is “No,” let it go.

3. What do you want to avoid?
In the midst of change, there is always the pull of the old and the fear of the new. Yet we know there is no future in repeating what doesn’t work. Stop doing what doesn’t serve you. For example, avoid engaging with someone who is draining your energy in order to protect your reserves for a more productive choice.

4. What do you want to keep and enhance?
Finally, keep in mind what it is you want. Whatever you focus on will increase. Your life is the manifestation of your beliefs.

DAVID KRUEGER, M.D. is CEO of MentorPath, an executive
coaching practice tailored to the needs of executives, entrepreneurs
and healing professionals. Dr. Krueger is author of
eleven books on success, money, work and self-development.