Many years ago I decided it was time to get in shape. That's not quite true; my ex decided it was time for us to get into shape. So we went to a gym, paid our money and started working out.

drip -drop- walking
Kristina Alexanderson
via Compfight

I went every single day for over two months. Sometimes I went twice a day. I would also go to the lake and walk there. I was really giving it my best shot.

Like most everyone else, I had heard that if you started a new routine and stuck to it anywhere from 16 to 21 straight days that it would become a part of you, a habit, and that you would feel bad if you decided you wanted to skip even one day of doing that thing. I figured that if I went as often as I did that it would become a part of my life.

Of course that's not what happened. My ex and I were quite gung ho for a relatively short period of time. Then suddenly she stopped going as much because she had other things on her plate, so I started going alone. However, I'd always hated going to the gym, whether I went with her or not.

I made it to 65 straight days before I took a day off. Then I went another two weeks, but I was miserable. After that I stopped going all that often, first 5 days a week, then 3 days a week, then 2. After about a year I stopped going at all, but it took 3 years until I finally dropped our membership, thinking I'd go back eventually. I saved the $50 I was paying monthly and never looked back... though I thought about slapping myself silly for paying around $1,200 over a two year period that I could have used elsewhere.

That proved to me that it's not a time thing nor a repetition thing that changes habits. If its not that then what is it?

What changes habits and routines is the will to want to do it.

Since September 2014, I've dedicated myself to walking at least 5 miles a day, often close to 10 miles a day. I only missed two days ever, none since 2014, and both of those were days where I spent most of my time on airplanes.

The reason I had for wanting to do it was because I was having control issues as far as my glucose numbers were concerned, connected with my being diabetic. The travel was playing havoc with my body, I had difficulties acclimating myself to out of town food and weather, and I was feeling horrible. I knew I had to do something about it; I wanted to do something about it.

Because it was all about me, my health, and wanting to feel better, I've been able to stick with the walking, which in actuality is something I've always loved doing. Even before joining the gym, I loved when the weather was good so I could go to the lake and walk. Sometimes in the winter, I'd bundle myself up and walk the neighborhood for at least 30 minutes because I enjoyed walking, although these days I'm more apt to walk in the house or go to the mall.

By the way, if you think I'm kidding about walking in the house, check this video out:

Anyway, that's how one can decide to change a personal habit. Now, will that kind of thing work when it comes to applying change to work processes and getting people who don't want to change to come along willingly?

Unfortunately, no; you don't have a chance if that's your goal. Habits change when people are ready to change. Still, you have to be ready to make changes, and sometimes that's a problem.

In business, it's more about realizing when change is going to disrupt the comfort level of employees and figuring out how to deal with it. I've had to do this type of thing. I've been mostly successful, but I've also encountered difficulties here and there.

First, it depends on your authority level. If you don't have the authority to force change, don't even try because it's frustrating as all get-out. That happened once at a consulting gig in NYC (I was also fighting a union shop, which was fighting the hospital, so I had no leverage).

If you do have authority, take it as slow as possible, make sure you have your processes up to snuff as much as possible, and recognize that each employee is probably going to learn and accept it at their own speed. Acceptance has to be 100% of course, but you have to be willing to allow for a learning curve. If you've thought things out well, employees will see positive changes and be more willing to come along for the ride.

If you're lucky enough to get everyone to embrace change, great! If not, be accommodating and discretionary, yet pay attention. If people can't learn a new system, or fight it even when it's implemented, you might have to make a different kind of change. That's a habit no one ever likes.