Leadership Lessons: Make your change... and maintain!

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Markiesha Crawford
  • 319th Medical Support Squadron Superintendent

"Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes." - Johann von Goethe

It's a new year and that normally lends itself to people making changes in their lives. These changes can be any form of self-improvement, health, habits, focus, and career. Although these are all important parts of being productive individuals, the key to getting the most out of these new year changes is the follow through. However, the question that presents is how can we get to the point where we can successfully implement that change in our lives?

Change is hard. A person can be easily discouraged when the results seem to take longer than initially planned on to take effect. But the token behind this age-old struggle is if we are working at achieving our desired change outcome, little by little we are making progress. Each step we make towards self-improvement is a small step in the direction of achieving our ultimate goal. Change is a process, and even if there are minor setbacks the ultimate journey is not forsaken because the end point is still where we desire to be and we just need to readjust to continue on our path to our desired change.

I recently read an article in Healthy Living by Emily Segal that talked about a change process. The article mentioned five stages:
1.  Pre-Contemplation - no intention to change
2.  Contemplation - aware that change needs to happen however there is no commitment to action
3.  Preparation - intent on taking action
4.  Action - active modification of behavior
5.  Maintenance - sustained change, new behavior replaces the old one

Most of us don't even realize we are in the cycle of change until we hit stage three, Preparation. Then we start to make all the preparations in order to have a successful change, like I did when I purchased all the fancy workout outfits which was a sign to me that I was on a path to a healthier lifestyle. Once we have done all of the prep work we jump into stage four which can be fun and challenging at the same time, but somewhere in the process of action, real life kicks in. Between stages four and five, most people have the hardest time. In the Action stage we have to do the work that will give us the desired change outcome, but maintaining the action is what's hard.

With everything we face on a daily basis as military members it can be difficult sometimes to fit in something that was not originally a part of our daily routines. Depending on what type of change we are looking to see take effect in our lives, we have to dig deep to strive in that fifth stage of change, Maintenance. Maintenance is the difference of making a temporary change or a permanent change and if your desire was to change for the better in your personal development, you would want to continue on that path.

Once you make that decision to change, the hard part will be maintaining the path to your overall goal. With anything worth having it will require your full efforts. This whole cycle can be applied to your Air Force career as well. For those that made the decision to join the Air Force, the initial change from civilian life to military may have been hard, but once the appropriate customs, courtesies and core values of the military were learned, it becomes your way of life.

Now that you have adopted a military lifestyle, you must strive to be the best at what you do. As you go along on this path, you will be asked to be flexible to change for the needs of the Air Force. The key to being successful at any change is to maintain the hard work put in to get you there and improve upon whatever is required to reach your goals. So don't stop doing all the great things that make you that exceptional person. Continue to strive to maintain all the hard work you've put in. Remember to embrace the change as it comes your way for it is only a cycle of your personal and professional growth. Do what it takes to make your positive change....and maintain!