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SWOT for Personal Change!

Many of us have used the SWOT tool for strategic planning purposes or for the evaluation of a specific project or process. But, have you ever tried doing a SWOT analysis on a personal change goal you have in your life? If you haven’t had a chance to do this, I highly encourage it! Here are the advantages of a SWOT when it comes to making personal change:

1. It allows you to take time to reflect upon your own thoughts and behaviors in a way we rarely get to do.

2. It acknowledges that outside factors can help or hinder our change efforts. Successes or failures are rarely reached alone.

3. It can take some of the emotion out of the personal change analysis. A SWOT feels process-oriented and objective and can help you to leave out any emotions that may cloud your thoughts in this particular area of your life.

4. Once you do a SWOT a few times, it will require less effort on your part to do this type of analysis on other changes you would like to make. You can even teach your kids to do it!

5. It will result in a more specific action plan that is customized to your strengths and accounts for your individual weaknesses. This plan should direct you to capitalize on opportunities and proactively plan for and mitigate potential threats.

You can use a SWOT to address changes you would like to make in (a) dietary habits, (b) exercise routines, (c) relationships with family or friends, (d) financial habits, (e) sleep routines, or (f) any other part of your life where you would like to make a change. A SWOT can be especially helpful if you have tried to make changes before and failed.

Let me provide one example from one of my clients in which we used a SWOT analysis for a health-related change. Please note that I have shortened this example for the sake of space and reading time!

K.G. 41-year old female, manager, married with 2 kids

Personal change goal: wants to eat healthier and in smaller portions in order to lose weight and be able to do more in her life with less effort.

Strengths (internal):

  • Has eaten healthy in the past

  • Highly motivated and determined

  • Likes fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods

  • Enjoys cooking

  • Good at planning

Weaknesses (internal):

  • Has a sweet tooth and gets cravings for sugar when stressed

  • Has trouble eating small portions when eating out

  • Feels bad about the way she looks, low self-esteem

  • Does not like drinking water

  • Eats mindlessly at times (bored, watching TV)

Opportunities (external):

  • Works with someone who will be doing this with her as well

  • Her job offers healthy choices at the cafe

  • There is an app that she can use to help her track her food

  • The local farmer’s market is close to her house and has great produce she likes

  • She has pinned many healthy recipes she wants to try at home

Threats (external):

  • Her family is not supportive of eating healthy

  • Her husband enjoys going out to eat many days per week

  • Several co-workers bring in sweets on a regular basis

  • There are several stressors at both work and home that can trigger her each day

As you can see, with even a shortened list in each of the categories, you begin to notice a couple of areas which she can leverage and then a few caution areas that will need to be addressed. The SWOT helps with the creation of a more tailored plan for her. In this case, we created a phase I plan that addressed some of the easier or more urgent areas and then a phase II plan with more difficult or less pressing needs that could be addressed over time. This is not unlike what you might do in strategic planning, where you will have more immediate short-term actions and then some that will get implemented down the road.

Most people try to change everything all at once and also try incorporating everything they have ever heard on the subject into their plan. This is not just overwhelming, but it is also not specific to you and your needs. It is much more effective to start with small, but compelling actions that are perfect for you!

I hope you found this to be helpful to you! By the way, K.G. is doing very well with her plan and has lost a significant amount of weight. She has more energy and is feeling more confident. She is well into phase II of her plan and is creating a maintenance and control plan using another tool I have in my tool bag! Maybe my next post will be about that one!

Thinking about making a change in your life? SWOT first and thank me later :)

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