We shrink from change; yet is there anything that can come into being without it?” – Marcus AureliusSo you say you want to make a change or two or three this year. One at a time is the first thing. When you are thinking it’s time to change something, you have already made it past the first big hurdle – acknowledging and accepting that a change is in order. Now I’m talking conscious changes here. Like the title says, life is change. You can’t stop it. Resisting wastes tons of energy, not to mention the bad mood you’re going to be in most of the time.
Now on to the next step; thinking about it. I call this “psyching-up.” It takes me awhile to adjust to the idea. I have to let it roll around in the back of my brain, or heart, before I am ready to start actually planning and preparing. These are important steps that many think of as stalling. It can be, but jumping into something cold turkey is more often going to end in long term failure. According to Changing For Good by Prochaska, Norcorss and DiClemente, people who cut the planning step short more often end up in failure.
This is a good time to ask yourself what purpose this change will serve. Why do you want to make it? If you think you should make the change, but don’t really want to, it is not likely to stick. You know that, right? So rather than set yourself up for failure, wait to take action until you want it, or the underlying benefit it will bring you.
When you make a big change in your life you are letting go of something. That is a loss, chosen or not. When someone has had a loss we often do not know what to say. We want them to get over it so things can get back to normal, for us. Sheesh.
So you’ve made your decision, a drum roll please – ready, set, go. The action step. This is the place where you step off the cliff and everyone thinks you are doing so well. A time for celebration! Definitely you deserve some kudos just to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Yet I always feel like a fraud when this happens. Because I know that I have a long way to go to fully integrate the change and make it permanent. This is where I feel I get abandoned. Doesn’t anyone know what I am going through to keep from falling back into old habit patterns? Does anyone know how much I miss what I lost?
Making change is like grieving. Once we’ve managed the obvious outer actions most people forget about us. Okay, they don’t necessarily forget about us altogether but they certainly don’t seem to remember what we are going through. It is hard to acknowledge another’s struggles, because we are often too caught up in our own.
The next step: maintenance. Yes this is the biggie. How do we maintain all that we have worked for to this point? First that support, or lack thereof that I mentioned earlier, ask for it. Find a “change buddy;” someone who you can talk to without worry of their judgment, and someone who you don’t mind listening to even when they are going through rough times.
Develop structures to support your change. You may need to avoid certain people, places, things, or situations. Or you may benefit from hanging out with people who inspire you, place and situations that contribute to your new way of being in the world. You may want to set up a self-monitoring situation so you don’t go unconscious around it. One day at a time as they say.
R. Buckminster Fuller said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
I once had a client who wanted to quit being self-deprecating. Took her a long time to admit that it was a problem. Then she really had to “psyche-up.” She was giving up something that had caused great damage to her psyche. What she had come to believe about herself was less than who she was. Our minds and hearts do hear our words. When she was ready she began preparing and practicing new ways of referring to herself. She planned structures to help her in the maintenance stage.
When she finally took action there was no fanfare because it was a slow gradual change. Her life changed in many expected and unexpected ways. In the long run she was happier, more creative, and more comfortably authentic. Yet, she lost friends who expected her to be a certain way all the time. She noticed how some people listed “self-deprecating” as one of her qualities. Yikes! If we don’t respect ourselves, then who is going to, and how can we truly respect anyone else I ask you!
Her maintenance structures were all about staying conscious and present. None of us can do it all the time, but this really was a great thing for her. The last step was completion. Unlike some changes that need life long maintenance, she was never going back on this one once the change was complete. Yippee!
What do you want to change? What do you need to do to create it? Get clear, journal, talk to a respectful supportive buddy or coach, meditate on it, commune with the natural world about it. Choose it. Life is change and life is full of wonderful surprises because we do not know all that change will bring us.
So I ask you, are you really ready for change? It is part of life, so let go and flow – on one level. And on the more intentional creative level, are you ready for conscious change? What will it be? Part of the readiness is the attitude you choose to take toward all that comes with the change, expected and unexpected. Start psyching-up!
I’d love to hear some of your stories of change.