Many goals are “replacement” goals. These goals are replacing something that is already in our lives with something else. Throwing the baby out with the bath water is a common trend in these sorts of goals. By looking out for the “ecology” we maintain how we currently benefit and carry it through the goal setting process.
In the goal setting process many people get so focused on the new thing that they want that they never notice the benefits of what they have at the moment. Every behavior we developed had a positive benefit at some time and in some place. Over time the benefits are often buried under all the things we no longer want and get lost in the goal setting process. In this case we are using “ecology” to refer to a similar concept as in the naturalist sense: being sure to look at the big picture impact of seemingly small choices.
A classic example of being aware of the ecology of a change is that of individuals who choose to change to a smoke-less lifestyle. Quite often their smoking had been a social activity and their friends are unlikely to have committed to the same smoke-less lifestyle. The bars and restaurants you used to frequent are likely to be filled with a haze that you are no longer contributing to. Many people are able to keep all of the positive relationships in their life by coming up with healthier choices for interacting.
Take for instance the couple having difficulties in their relationship after the husband chose a smoke-less lifestyle. The wife was supportive even though she had not chosen to be smoke-less. The trouble was that they were now having arguments over “nothing.” (And it wasn’t that the husband was irritable!) With a little help they were able to recognize that their conversational style revolved around cigarettes.
The old signals no longer worked when one side had no way of sending them. By developing new signals and a new style of conversing the couple were able to transition to smoke-less while still maintaining their marriage.
Whether you choose to be smoke-less or not the principle is the same: be aware of the current benefits and make sure they are fulfilled in the process of and after reaching goals. Maintaining ecology is an important part of making changes that last.