Sitting with a couple this afternoon, I listened as the wife, in tears, talked about the repeated negative cycles she and her husband experience – and re-experience. It seems that her husband works to make changes, but after a couple of weeks, defaults to old patterns. Why? Many times it has to do with a needless intense bearing down on an issue, only to experience setbacks. Isn’t there a better approach to changing and growing?

I have two suggestions that might help us dial the intensity back and enable us to make genuine progress.

First, it is helpful when we realize that we learn better in little chunks than trying to master the subject all at once. Think for a minute about how you eat a cow. Now of course you are probably thinking that you have never eaten a cow – at least not in one sitting. But you probably have – one burger at a time. We learn similarly.

Second, focus on what you want to do, not on what you don’t want to do. Legendary NFL coach Jimmy Johnson once talked about how he encouraged running back Emmitt Smith following a fumble. He said that he never told him, “When you go back in, don’t fumble the ball.” Instead he would say, “Be sure to hang on to the ball.” Likewise, we benefit from focusing on what we want to accomplish.

Change is not as easy as just two suggestions. I wish it were. But I do know that integrating these tips into your thinking can increase the odds of success as you work to make desired changes in your job, relationships or in any other area of your life. Try it and see what happens.