Successful Change and "The Sigh"

There it was again. I had experienced it multiple times that day, and it just surfaced again. I was having dinner with a group of consultants, one of whom had moved to the US from Europe a few years ago. In our conversation I asked him if he was surprised by the larger food portions here than in Europe. He said, "Yes, but I've learned to adapt to prevent overeating." At that moment we were each served a very large piece of red velvet cake. Continuing in conversation, I noticed my new friend ate about half of his piece and then pushed it toward the middle of the table. I looked down at my piece, and then did what I too often do... I sighed and then ate the rest of my cake.

When our status quo is challenged or we are introduced with a potential positive change to our work routine or lifestyle, the sigh is the defining moment. From that point we can either begin making choices to improve our situation, or in my case with the piece of cake, return to what we have done in the past. What we do after those 1-2 seconds of exhaling can make all the difference in whether we achieve success with a change or continue to accept the status quo.

To more positively leverage the moment of the "sigh," I made a list of some things I should do even as I feel my lungs filling with air the next time I am challenged to change. They include:

  • Doing something differently THAT moment. I had a perfect opportunity to push away the piece of cake and get a psychological head start on my desire to eat more healthy. Any small step you take in the right direction now gives you momentum to take the next one later.
  • Immediately talking to someone about my desired change. I should have thanked my new friend for their positive example, and shared how I needed to do that more often. No doubt they would have affirmed me for my decision.
  • When I feel the sigh coming on, ask myself, "What is the most immediate action I can take to make progress on this desired change?"
  • Make a list of the pros and cons. When I sigh about a potential change, I am usually focusing on all the negative consequences of making a change. Forcing myself to focus on the positive outcomes might give me the motivation to take the right action.

Make no mistake. The sigh is real, and before this day is over, you will be challenged to change something to improve your professional or personal outcomes. As your lungs expand and the part of your brain known as the prefrontal cortex starts gearing up to resist change, the sigh will come. What you do after it makes all the difference.

How will you handle the "sighs" in your day?