Changing our behavior to achieve better results is the most important challenge we face in trying to compete in this chaotic world. Maybe you're in a slump or know deep down that you've accepted an average performance when a great one is possible. When you're ready to change--to increase your sales, to take some calculated risks, to improve any and all aspects of your life--you may not know how to begin. What can you do differently to create more positive results in your work and personal life?

First, accept the fact that if you're not getting the results you want in any aspect of your life, it just might be you! It's not somebody else's fault. To achieve real change in your results, decide that this is your year. You must believe in yourself and your ability to make change happen. When you do, you'll find that your belief naturally leads you to take action, and action is the only thing that brings results.

How to Begin
True change requires you to develop clear reasons why you won't fail yourself and your family. So when you know what drives you, write it down. This process requires introspection, which you may not be used to, but in order for it to work, you need to take the time to quietly consider every aspect of your life (past, present and future) and commit it to paper.

To embark on this process, consider the following:

Step 1: Where have you been? If you feel as if disappointing results are your destiny, they will be until you're able to see the behaviors that lead to those results. So take 10 minutes to reflect on your accomplishments and your disappointments, big and small, and then write everything down. Consider and answer these questions for your career, family, health, faith, self-education, finances and recreation/fun.

  • What accomplishments am I most proud of?
  • What specific results have I achieved?
  • Have I been willing to do what I know it takes to do better?
  • What have been my biggest disappointments?
  • What did I learn from my disappointments?

Step 2: Where are you now? To change, you need to know where you are in the present moment, as well as where you've been. Make an honest written assessment of where you are in your life right now in the areas listed above. Where have you lowered the bar and accepted it? Think in terms of keeping score and getting clear on the actual numbers you have right now. Look at the truth! Getting disgusted with your current situation is a heck of a motivator.

Another area to be honest about is your personal health. Health and energy level is the Achilles heel for most people. The number-one killer in the nation is heart disease, and almost half those who have a heart attack die from their first one. So you can see the necessity of getting honest with yourself right now about your heath, as well as other aspects of your life. To draw a detailed health picture, go to a professional and find out:

  • What's my current weight compared to where I want to be?
  • What are my blood pressure, cholesterol level, triglyceride level, and EKG readings?
  • What's my standing heart rate? Can I run a mile? How quickly do I recover after exercise?
  • How often do I work out a month? Am I too tired at the end of the day to enjoy myself?

Step 3: Where do you want to go? Allow yourself to fantasize about what specifically you want most in your life. First consider what you'd like to do immediately, then in the near future. What are the top specific, measurable outcomes you'd like to achieve within those time frames? Look to clarify and raise your personal standards of conduct. Make sure you have each of the key areas represented. It's not the quantity, but the quality of the goals you set!

To give you an idea of the types of quality questions you should be asking yourself, take a look at the following examples of questions a person in sales should be asking themself to establish short- and long-term goals:

  • What am I committed to earning this year?
  • What percentage of my sales are from referrals?
  • How many new prospects will I contact a day? How many current clients will I contact?
  • How can I better document my successes with testimonial letters, quotes, and pictures?
  • What company award and/or incentive trip am I committed to winning?
  • What will I do each day to enhance my expert status and give more value to my clients?
  • Have I been doing what it takes to be great or have I been making excuses and fighting to be average?

Step 4: What's my action plan and tracking method? Break your bigger goals into monthly and even weekly achievable steps. But keep in mind that the time-worn old advice to take gradual "baby steps" is seldom effective; you'll get frustrated and discouraged if your new results don't come quickly enough. Be bold! Making more radical changes will simply yield quicker results and establish forward momentum.

Next, create a goal sheet and action plan in any format that suits you: a time line; a monthly calendar with target dates and notes; pictures of the outcome you want with a simple list of the steps it'll take to get there; or any other creative format that works for you. Make it easy to review your goals and higher personal standards daily by laminating your action plan and putting it in your shower, on your bathroom mirror or in your briefcase for easy daily review.

Radical changes you can make for better results include:

  • Get up 30 minutes earlier at least four days a week for aerobic exercise.
  • Make 10 prospecting calls for new business every day by noon.
  • Contact three past customers every day and ask questions to uncover new opportunities.
  • Send one hand-written card a day to keep in touch with clients or praise an employee.
  • Limit fast-food intake to once a week. Bring a small cooler of healthy food to work/in your car.
  • Eliminate soda from your diet. Eat seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Focus only on the positive things your family's doing or has done the first 30 minutes at home.
  • Write a written outcome before you make every sales presentation. Tape it and review.

Take the time to write down why you're committed to sticking with these radical changes. Focus on the joy of when you make the change, not the fear of failing. Write at least a paragraph to yourself. What kind of person do you want to be? How will you behave to become that person?

The Rewards of Change
Whether you make change happen or not, it's going to happen; that's the way life is. And the results of passively waiting to see what happens next--of letting life decide for you--can be completely opposite from what you'd choose for yourself. Don't wait for a crisis!

While making a radical change can be an intimidating prospect at first, the rewards are many and will come quicker than you might imagine. When you're in control of your destiny, you'll look back on your decision to change and realize it was the moment everything began to change. Mastering the ability to confront reality and make a change isn't just a key strategy for business; it's a necessity for life and perhaps the one skill most worth learning.

Chip Eichelberger is a motivational speaker and author whose clients include Ernst & Young, Tommy Hilfiger, Century 21 and Bank of America. His latest book, Think: Applying the Success Principles of 1918 Today, is available at www.getswitchedon.com