Know-how is no use at all when your heart chooses a different direction to your head. It has nothing to do with falling in love and everything to do with unconscious programming and neural chemical response.

Stop reading now if you are one of the mythical people who have never found self-discipline difficult. Raising your standards is easy to contemplate but, more often than not, plans seem to get stuck at the birthing stage.

Can people upgrade themselves? I don't mean just their performance, although that will follow increased discipline and expanded abilities. Changes in behavioural response to what happens depend on changes to the way we think; our beliefs and attitudes; even our personality and character. It follows that changing our natural behaviour means changing who we are.

Perhaps you began reading this article because there is some aspect of your behaviour that you want to improve, change or eliminate. The very first step is being clear about what you want to change and how you want to change it.

While this seems obvious, closely examining your motives, and how you will recognise and measure your success, will have a huge impact on progress.

Anthony Robins devotes several chapters to this in his book ‘Awaken the Giant Within’. Read the book, it is worth the effort. My completely inadequate one sentence version is – Deliberately and, almost literally, scratch the memory of what you want to move away from then, create a vividly imagined experience of what you want to move towards.

The mechanics of personal change is not the central theme for this article. Here I want to focus on the value of getting help from others.

Knowing that you want to change is rarely enough motivation. I have written about keeping self-promises before and left out the greatest resource for effecting personal change - other people.

Perhaps we have a shared experience. Imagine or remember being persuaded to enter your first half marathon. I was keen. I planned to put in regular training. I had plenty of time. The 1982 High Wycombe event was three months in the future.

If you don’t run imagine how lonely it can be, pounding the pavement for mile after mile, on your own. I didn’t do the training. I entered the race, exhausted myself in the first three miles, then hobbled around the remaining ten.

Not being one to give up easily (because of an obstinate streak), I entered two more half marathons with similarly appalling results. It wasn’t until 1986 in Southampton that I managed to put in sufficient training to run a respectable race.

The difference was support. At Southampton two neighbours were interested in participating. We prepared together. Some days I did not want to run. A long or stressful day at work would put me off. Then there would be a knock at the door and my neighbours would be waiting expectantly, already in their running gear. That is what made the difference. Either they would drag me out or I would call on them. Sometimes I would be fired with enthusiasm but just as often it would be obligation that drove me.

As we persevered with our training, all through the wet and windy winter of 1985/6, a key aspect of the training kept us going. It wasn’t so much the race we had entered but striving to beat the time it took to run our various courses. We had two main routes, one about seven miles and another about three miles. On Sundays we would run five miles to a pub. Wives and children would meet us there. Each route would have a target time that acted on us, spurring us on to try and better it.

In a business environment, having support to help with personal change makes a huge difference. For some this principle is well established. Managers run one to one meetings to evaluate progress and agree short-term business goals and objectives. By augmenting this process with coaching and mentoring they help team members develop and increase productivity.

Some companies set up coaching and mentoring as a separate function. Regular review meetings are part of the culture and integrate with a carefully designed formal appraisal system. Communication across, up and down the organisation is positively facilitated. At the risk of choking you on an overused cliché, some companies live the nirvana of a ‘Learning Organisation’.

Sadly reality is somewhat different for most people. Asking a manager for objective feedback may not yield any useful insights. Some managers will refrain from saying what they really think for fear of damaging rapport or causing antagonism. Others will deliver superficial observations and find it difficult to explain what they mean.

Seeking honest feedback demands courage and patience. It makes one feel vulnerable and opens the possibility of others taking advantage. If a manger is reluctant to speak his thoughts you will need to reassure him or her that any criticism will be listened to without protest or argument.

The most vital element in making personal behavioural changes is honest, non-judgmental feedback. We need to know how others perceive us to establish a baseline and to assess our progress.

In training for the half marathon, the stopwatch was completely impersonal and factual. People are often very sensitive about giving and receiving criticism. Getting the feedback you want and need may first involve convincing the giver that you won’t react emotionally.

A supportive environment and objective, non-judgmental feedback are powerful allies in effecting positive personal change. There is no easy escape from the need to rely on other people for these things, so take Emerson’s advice, "Hitch your wagon to a star."

Author's Bio: 

Clive Miller is the author of of over twenty training courses covering a range of communication, management, and leadership topics as well as specialist sales skills and methods. He has written hundreds of articles and guides for sales leaders and designed templates and tools that are widely used to increase sales productivity, consistency, and results. More than 100,000 words addressing a panoply of leadership, communication, and sales challenges are freely accessible at

Following a sales and sales management career in the IT industry spanning two decades, he founded SalesSense in 1996 to build a new career helping individuals, companies, and organisations increase performance through the development of better methods and practices and by helping people improve skills and habits.

For more from Clive Miller about public speaking, writing, and leadership visit