Outside the comfort zone: How personal change benefits you and the community

From losing weight to being more assertive at work to visiting relatives more often – when it comes to making personal change, you probably have a long list of things you’d like to do. For many of us, the obstacle of changing and actually making a difference is not a lack of desire, or even motivation, but total confusion on just how to get started and stick with it.

Sparking a wave of activity and dialogue nationwide about the importance of personal, professional and community-based change and growth, Kaplan University has recently unveiled its 21-Day Change Challenge to encourage individuals to start a change by committing to one small action step each day.

“The 21-Day Change Challenge is the new ‘Pay It Forward.’ Instead of just helping others, we are creating a chain reaction of self-improvement, career development and community awareness that can transform the world around us,” explains Kaplan University Dean Sara Sander.

Is fear of time commitment preventing you from making a change? It’s a common misconception that adopting change takes too long. Research shows that it takes as little as three weeks to adopt a behavioral change, so starting something right now means that in a month, you may have a new, healthy habit and positive outlook on life.

“It's been said, if you do something for 21 days in a row, you can make it a habit,” says Sander. “The human ability to change and adapt is essential to success. At Kaplan, we have created a new approach to higher education that embraces and promotes this philosophy, having always lived by this approach ourselves. ”

The university is encouraging everyone to challenge themselves to be better in their personal and professional lives, as well as in their communities, by trying something new each day for three weeks.

“For most people, change is challenging,” says Sander. “Yet when you adopt a personal change, it not only benefits you personally and professionally, it also can benefit your community and others around you.”

Rather than sticking to what you are comfortable with, challenge yourself to see what you are truly capable of doing. Here are four simple steps to help you stick to your goals of personal development and commit to change for a full three weeks or longer.

Step 1: Write down your motivators

Getting healthy, expanding cultural awareness, helping others in need, starting a new career – we all have reasons for making positive change. Be sure to record each reason why you want to achieve a particular goal. If at any time you feel unmotivated or hit a plateau, review these reasons for an extra boost of encouragement.

Step 2: Come up with ideas for change

Taking baby steps can be a good way to set yourself up for success. Try a new food at a local restaurant, volunteer to spearhead a new project at work, or give back by donating canned goods to a local food drive. Get more ideas and inspiration for change by visiting Kaplan University’s 21-Day Change Challenge website at http://change.kaplan.edu.

Step 3: Create a support network

Sharing your journey for change with loved ones can help provide you with the necessary support to achieve your goals and make a change in your life. Talking with a trusted friend or family member helps keep you focused and motivated. By joining the 21-Day Change Challenge, you can share what you do each day with friends and family on social media using the hashtag #StartAChange, and watch the positive replies roll in. You’ll make a positive change for yourself and you might even encourage others to do the same.

Step 4: Don’t sweat the small stuff

When making a change, you’re bound to have a few setbacks. If you miss a day or slip up, don’t get down on yourself. Setbacks are not a reason to give up on your goals completely. Simply remind yourself of why you want to make the change and start again fresh tomorrow. Your career, your personal life and your community will benefit because of it.