Making Changes Stick

In this blog, I will tackle how to sustain making changes you want to, so you can make rapid progression on your career goals.

My hypothesis, which I elaborate on in this writeup, is that we are all product managers. You are the product. Your organization is the customer and the organizational needs are the “jobs to be done”. Your job description can be based on what your manager overtly states as your job, and you can strengthen your role by discovering additional unmet customer needs (e.g. you might discover that the organization could do a better job at inclusion, and you start a task force to help with this).

A successful product is not built with one magical launch. Most products get to success iteratively. You pick a market and hypothesis (e.g. budget-conscious users will prefer user experience over more features) and then iterate over multiple product launches, using customer feedback to make the product better.

Similarly, we as career professionals are work in progress, iterating over feedback (e.g. performance reviews) and becoming better (work) versions of ourselves. Performance reviews are not the only source of feedback of course. Strive to understand how the organization perceives you, even if you disagree. Master the right way to receive and process feedback.

Vision without execution is hallucination. Figuring out what to do is usually the easier part. What we more commonly struggle with is how to keep those changes going on a sustained basis. Will power and determination are not enough, you only have so much of that and we all need more than willpower to bring about sustainable change.

Nailing the changes you need to make is critical for continued career progression. Here are a few things that worked for me.

Permanent Change = Planning + Making Changes + Sustaining Changes

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Planning and Execution

James Clear’s excellent book, Atomic Habits, has a ton of pragmatic, useful ideas that you can put into practice right away. I loved it so much that I bought copies of the book for my entire team as my Christmas/Holiday gift in 2020.

Here are a few that I have used:

Let’s get to the harder part, sustaining those changes. Especially when you mess up.

Let’s say you had a goal (e.g. be a charismatic speaker) and you worked hard on a big presentation. And for some reason, the presentation did not land well. This was an important step for your career. Should you stop practicing to be a better speaker?

It is easy to say, keep going. Don’t give up, Yeah, we all know that. But how?

There are three things in play here — your thoughts, feelings, and actions. This is a critical moment. At this moment, we are mostly overtaken by emotions. We are feeling down and frustrated. Our thoughts may be drowned in self-doubt. Inspirational messages feel flat. What we do next will entirely determine who we are as a person and the progress we will make in our lives. A fork in the road. Are you going to get back on track or give up? The key to changing our mindset, and seizing the moment, lies in actions. The way we start feeling better again, start thinking positive thoughts again is through action. Have a go-to routine that you definitely enjoy doing. Take a walk. Listen to music. Clean up your desk or room. Phone a friend and check in on their day. Exercise. I know people that lift weights, and with every rep, shout out “I can do this” as a way to pump themselves up. Help a stranger with their groceries. Do something. Anything. You will automatically start both feeling better as well as get back to positive thoughts. I thought thinking positive thoughts was the way forward. I was wrong. It is action. Action leads to changes in your thoughts and feelings. Try it. It is cathartic.

Do more of what you just failed at. Confidence and belief come from results. We struggle at something because that muscle is still being developed. And the way we get better at something, develop a new muscle, is only by actually doing more of it.

At key decision making moments, the best action is to do the right thing. The next best action is to do the wrong thing. The worst action is to do nothing.

I hope you find this helpful. Do you have a tip on how to stay on track and sustain changes you want to make?



Product Executive, focused on turning great products into great businesses. Current: Google. Previous: VMware, AppSense and Microsoft. All views are my own.

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Karthik Lakshminarayanan

Product Executive, focused on turning great products into great businesses. Current: Google. Previous: VMware, AppSense and Microsoft. All views are my own.