[Exercise] Driving Sustainable Change - A Personal Practice

4 min read

A personal exercise to drive higher levels of motivation around the future change you desire and being able to sustain it. 

This practice is inspired by Jordan B. Peterson's Future Authoring Program


70% of all change initiatives fail. (John Kotter, Leading Change, HBR)


We as individuals and organizations are often really good at designing and dreaming up the change we wish to see within ourselves and within our cultures yet sustaining the change we desire is often the most difficult thing to do. We are met with personal and collective barriers that are extremely difficult to overcome, causing our cultural change initiatives to stop right in their tracks. 

The number one reason why change is not sustained is because of the personal narratives around the transformation itself.

We are mentally programmed to resist change.


Fear & Anxiety


To facilitate organizational change, you must first change what is possible in the individual mindsets of the organization. We must provide insight and practices that allow our members to reframe narratives and create new beliefs that inspire and influence change. 

To do that, we have a modified practice that anyone can do to drive sustainable change within their own lives or within a collective team/organization. 


Personal Change Exercise


Step 1 - Future State Journaling Practice

Start outlining the place you would like to end up - Your desired future state of being. This is all about defining your future and imagining the possibilities. There are some general "life" questions you could be asking yourself, but if you are targeting a specific area in your life or organization, generate a variety of questions around that space that allows you to deeply describe what this future state could look like. 

Let yourself daydream or fantasize. You are trying to put yourself into a form of dream-like thinking that relies heavily on internal imagery. This kind of thinking will allow different parts of your brain to be activated in a way that allows motivation and emotion to find their voice. 

This practice can revolve around many areas of your life and/or organization. In your personal life, you might ask yourself about ways you can do better, things you want to learn about, improving your habits, your social life, leisure activities, family life, and so on.

Whatever it is you are focusing on changing, imagine your ideal future in this space as detailed as possible and journal these thoughts down. Dont be concerned about spelling or grammar, just write. Dream while you write and don't stop. Be ambitious and imagine a life that would be honorable, exciting, productive, creative, and fulfilling. 

Take-Aways: Clearly defining your future can help reduce the uncertainty in your life, and reduce the amount of negative emotion that you chronically experience. This is good for your confidence and for your health. Having these future states clearly designed will increase your chances of experiencing positive emotion, be more joyful, more curious, and engaged in life! 


Step 2 - Journal a Future State to Avoid

You probably know people that have made horrible life decisions and have ended up with a life that you would never desire or want. You also most likely have some fears, insecurities, and weaknesses yourself. If you let this sit and get out of control, you also might end up with a painful future. 

Most people know how their life could go downhill if they let it. So this part of the practice is to clearly imagine the future of your life as if you failed to pursue your goals. What would your life be like if you let your bad habits get out of control? What would your life be like if you never faced your fears or insecurities? 

Look a few years down the road. Use your imagination. This should make you uncomfortable but that's the point! Draw on your understanding of the anxiety and pain you have experienced in this path. Where do you not want to be? 


Step 3 - Continued Reflection

Think about what these two places look like. How are they different? 

Ultimately, this type of reflection drives an internal narrative and motivation that allows your fears (Worst case scenario) to push you forward while your goals (Best case scenario) pull you forward. But it is important that your anxieties and fears are behind you and you are more afraid of not reaching your goals vs your anxiety pulling you and keeping you from reaching your goals. It should be PUSHING you forward. 

This exercise will also reinforce why we should face our fears and challenges right away versus letting them remain, unfaced and unchallenged.

A classic story to represent this situation is the knight and the dragon in the dungeon. As a knight, you would rather face the dragon in the dungeon before it breaks out and eats everyone. You don't want to let it sit there and wait, and someday it gets big enough to break out. You want to face that dragon (your fears) right away so you might at least catch it when it's a baby. 


Step 4 - Develop Your 5 Core Arguments

A large future barrier you will face when taking action is the rejections and objections from other people. 

In general, when someone is doing something new, people will object just to object. Sometimes because that is their personality. Sometimes because they are testing how serious you really are about this future change. Objecting something is almost a testing or measurement tool to see how serious something is. If someone folds after one objection, it's a good sign that you really didnt want to do it. 

That's why it's really important to know why this is something you really want to do and being able to respond to the objections that will come your way. 

You need to create at least 5 arguments about why you want it.  

Why 5 arguments?

Because the possibility of the person objecting to you why you shouldn't do something with 5 different arguments is extremely low. Mainly because they haven't thought through it as much as you have. 

Journal out 5 arguments around why you should pursue this change. Why would it be good for you? Why is it good for your family? Why is it good for society? (That's three arguments right there!)


Closing Thoughts: 

We recommend that you complete the process over a few separate days to truly reflect and work through these details. Do not rush it. Be as detailed as possible and think deeply within and dream. 

Your people and specifically your mid-level leaders will be your greatest resisters of change or your most influential change agents. 

How well your people are engaged, equipped, and committed will impact your ability to drive collective action to achieve future state goals. Try utilizing this practice with a change you are looking to make in your life or around a team initiative and collectively work through this. 

My last note is there is much more that you will need to sustain the change you are looking for in your life. Such as setting specific goals, strategizing about your goals, considering the detailed actions to reach those goals, monitoring progress, and much more. But that isn't what this practice is about. This practice is around creating the motivation and narrative within your mind on WHY this change needs to happen.

Have some fun with it and dive deep within to develop a narrative that empowers you to grow into the future. 

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