How to Make Change Stick
As a coach, you know change is hard. That’s why people need the help of a coach when making real change stick.

Written By Robert E Logan

Christian Coaching Pioneer, Strategic Ministry Catalyst, Resource Developer, Empowering Consultant : Logan Leadership
The Apostle Paul gives us an important clue as to how to make change stick in Colossians 3:5-14: putting on and putting off. You need to identify not only behaviors to stop, but also behaviors to start. It’s the replacement approach to change management:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

For instance, when is a liar no longer a liar? When they become a truth-teller. It’s not enough to stop doing something, but that behavior needs to be replaced by something else. And it needs to be embraced as part of one’s identity. Real change is rooted in identity. When a behavior is discontinued, replaced by an opposing behavior, and then embraced as part of one’s identity—that’s when change sticks. 

Coaching to Make Change Stick

coaching change management

You can help those you coach walk through this process. Say someone you are coaching wants to write a book. The first step is looking at blockages. What is she currently doing that is preventing her from writing? She is too busy, she says. What is she busy with? She lists all of her commitments and feel overwhelmed even in saying all of it. 

So now you need to help her identify something to stop doing. She feels her most productive writing time is in the mornings. Yet she attends a Bible study two mornings a week. She’s been part of it for a long time and would feel bad about quitting, especially when she has nothing else keeping her from making that time work. Besides, a Bible study is a good thing. Yet the reality is that we can’t do everything. We need to prioritize and sometimes that means choosing between good options. She decides she can take a six-month break from the Bible study to write her book. Put off, put on. 

Next that means writing. Easier said than done, right? The key is that the new behavior needs to be linked to one’s identity. What is a writer? A writer writes. If someone says they are a writer, yet doesn’t write, they are not actually a writer. People need to think of themselves as that which they are becoming.  

We aren’t just talking about behavior modification here. We are talking about a new reality that flows out of our new identity in Christ. When we embrace that and live it out, that’s when we are actually changed. Through this process, you can help people rewire the neuropathways in their brains. That’s not just a secular concept; it’s a discovery of how God has made us. It’s a scientific understanding of the process of transformation that is laid out for us in the Bible: a renewing of our minds. We can act our way into a new way of thinking: authentic change starts with behavior. 

Steps for Coaching Change

In your coaching, this means fitting change into a bigger picture. We need to be intentional about walking our clients through this process. We help them:  

  1. Identify what they want. 
  2. Recognize the gap between where they are and where they want to be. 
  3. Pinpoint behaviors that are preventing the desired behavior. Put off that old behavior. 
  4. Identity a new desired behavior. Put on that new behavior. 
  5. Continue practicing the new behavior. 
  6. Embrace the new behavior as part of their identity. 

Along the way, you’ll of course want to discuss triggers that may reignite the old behavior and how to avoid those behaviors. You’ll also want to help them link their new behavior into something else they’re already doing to ease its incorporation into their lives. 

The point is: each change is one part of a larger process. If we try to isolate the desired change from its context, we end up coaching our clients like Bob Newhart did in his five-minute sketch Stop It. Well worth a view if you haven’t seen it. 

To Make Change Stick: Stop-Challenge-Choose

A more helpful—although slightly longer—paradigm to make change stick is one highlighted in the book I co-authored with Gary Reinecke, Christian Coaching Excellence.* The exercise below, originally used in a health book by Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen*, applies just as well to coaching. 

Stop-Challenge-Choose is a simple but powerful tool that can be used during the implementation stage to break old habits and create new ones is called Stop-Challenge-Choose. The basic three points are described below. 

  • STOP doing a certain behavior. 
  • CHALLENGE yourself to come up with new behaviors.
  • CHOOSE which new behavior you will adopt in the moment. 

Essentially, this is a tool you can use to walk clients through the following questions: 

  • What do you need to stop doing? 
  • What options do you have for a new behavior? 
  • Which one will you choose? 

This concept—as it relates to coaching—is unpacked more in Christian Coaching Excellence: Pursuing the Journey of Ongoing Growth*

*Amazon Affiliate link

Cover Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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