Change is inevitable in life. We grow up, grow old, and grow out. Most people understand that, and learn to adapt to the subtle changes in life that come upon us. And just as a river’s water is altered by the rocks, and branches, and outcroppings it encounters along the way, we too are affected by those symbolic occurrences in our lives.
Have you ever noticed a twig or leaf get caught behind a rock in a river? It’s stuck there possibly forever. The only way it will move out from behind that rock is if something changes. We often find ourselves metaphorically caught behind a rock in life – and there we sit, waiting on something to change. The problem, just like the stick, is that all the while change is still occurring. The stick will eventually rot and break apart. Can you get the picture?
Just because we refuse to change, doesn’t mean we are immune to changes. How many people do you know whose lives are rotting away because they refuse to take charge of the changes? Somehow we think avoiding change protects us from the fears or the uncomfortable experience we suppose accompanies it. Fans of the TV series Star Trek will remember this classic line; “Resistance is futile.” Really, all that resistance does is guarantee that we miss most of what life was designed to offer us. Daniel Craig wrote, “At some point life starts to pass you by and becomes about avoidance.”
Choosing change is really choosing life. While change can challenge you emotionally, it’s still better than the pain of regret looking back wishing you do it differently. But life is not a trial run. Today is today, and we’ll never get another chance to live this day again. When faced with an opportunity to change, take it. Chose change over regret. Live the kind of life that allows you to look back and say; “wow! what an adventure. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
I’ve discovered that throughout much of life most people operate from a position of submission. What that means for me is that a lot of my life I didn’t have much confidence in myself to take charge over the things I wanted to accomplish, or in my abilities in making things happen. So I spent much of my life defaulting to the power and authority of others – even if they didn’t deserve it. And when something went wrong, I let the details overwhelm me to the point that I began to believe nothing could be done to change them. I suspect in many occasions, I accepted circumstances that I didn’t need to.
In life, we have way more power than we give ourselves credit for – in part because we have a greater ability to produce better results than we think we do. When we give up our power, we’re left with defeat, powerlessness, and settling for less than we deserve. But when we approach situations, or goals, or life changes from a place of power, that attitude sets the tone and environment for change and progress. People believe you mean business when you approach circumstances as if you know you will get results.
When you operate from a position of authority you change things. Momentum is simply that. If your disposition is positive and authoritative, your results will reflect that. If it’s negative and pessimistic, then you will likely see those kinds of results. It’s a matter of perspective. And generally perspective is a choice. When we let ourselves believe that we can approach life from a position of authority, the fruit of that will be life changing. Tension levels will diminish, productivity will go up, and you will experience more peace than ever before.
Are you working alone? It’s not impossible of course, but generally it is understood that when we enlist the help and support of others our success rate improves dramatically. Consider building a support team around you with folks who know you, support you, and believe in you. You could call them your personal cheer leading squad to make it more fun.
Make a list of three to five people who you honestly believe have your best interests at heart. It could be a spouse, a brother or sister, a neighbor, a co-worker, a church friend, or even a pastor. (Engaging the services of a life coach at this point is also a good idea.) Share with them your goal/s and ask if they would be willing to be on your team.
Invite them to check with you periodically via email or phone calls with regards to your progress and share an encouraging word or two. This will also serve you as a form of accountability. Just knowing that there are others that are committed with you to help you see your changes take place will be positive motivation and encouragement.
From this list, select one individual that your really trust and ask if you can reach out to them specifically when you need more direct and personal input. (Again, a life coach serves this roll very well.) This could be your coach, a pastor, or a really close (best) friend. This person will be someone with whom you can share the deeper details; you frustrations, struggles, and road blocks. You will want this to be a person who is predominately positive minded. The last thing you need to hear is, “now, that was really stupid.” This person will allow you to vent, and then help you find a different perspective so you can continue on.
Don’t be a lone wolf. Two (or more) heads are better than one. Collaborative efforts always achieve better, faster results. Team work makes your dream work!
One of the more difficult emotions to work through while bring about change in your life is that of irrelevance; the idea that your success (or failure) doesn’t really matter. The trap is that if it doesn’t really matter, then why try? We live in a world where our influences, especially the media (news, Hollywood, reality TV) throw a wet blanket over anything that’s outside a dictated mind set. It’s predominately negative, doom and gloom material. But deep inside all of us there is this subconscious desire for good in spite of what we are consciously led think. That is what drives us to reach for change; a desire to make a difference. And the reality is that when we change, the world around us changes too.
Your efforts do matter, all of them. There are even those that suggest people around you are dependent on your efforts of change. You set examples by your actions, big or small. There are movements like Pay It Forward, and Be The Change that promote this idea that world change is initiated by individual change. When you take a risk and begin to alter your existence, you open the gates around you for others to try it too. In a way, you give others permission to mimic your efforts.
General Erick Shineki said, “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.” Accepting feelings irrelevance might seem easier in the short term, but in the end, is much more painful. And the payoff for change is so much better. You win, and others around you get the benefit. Believe in the power of your influence – even if you don’t directly see it. Your efforts are not irrelevant. They are vital.
The big “D” … Derailed. It happens. Life is full of distractions. (dis – i.e. opposite of) Don’t get down when you get off track. We all encounter detours, which, if we’re not careful will discourage and disappoint us. It’s all part of the journey. Goals are necessary, yes. But a goal is like a golf hole flag. It’s a pin that marks the hole – but there are a lot of missed putts. Sure, you want the best score possible, but if you miss the hole you line it up and putt again; period. Golfers miss putts all the time and still win matches.
If you miss a goal (marker), realign your target and play on through. If you let falling a little short of the target goal get to you you’ll miss the reality of just how close you got – especially compared to where you where when you started. So your goal was losing ten pounds, and you lost eight – congratulations. That’s eight less than when you started. Celebrated the ground covered and continue on. Remember, while we do hope to achieve our goals on time, the bigger picture is really about creating new disciplines that will continue on way past the end of our current goal.
I have this belief that life is really about our own personal evolution. And out of that evolution come the fruits of our core self. As we grow and mature emotionally and spiritually, our contribution to the world around us grows along with it. Unfortunately, when we get caught up in the distractions, disappointments, detours, and derailments our personal evolution is stifled. I like what author Bob Gass said; “Even if you miss the right path from time to time, you can still enjoy the scenery along the detour.”
Stay focused on the bigger picture; you becoming more you. What happens along the way happens. If you miss a target, line it up and putt again.
Are you in touch with your personal values? Whether you realize it our not, your life is governed by your value base. Some people might place a higher value on family than anything else; others money, fame, religion, or even self. Often we have several core values that form the foundation from which much of our life flows. When you operate from your value base you find you have more energy and zest for life. And when you feel forced to function out of a set of values that aren’t high on your list, you feel a sense of low energy, frustration, or possibly even anxiety. This happens a lot if we work in a job we don’t particularly like. Or we may have conflicting values with the employer, or another person we are in a relationship with.
Your values make up the structure of your personality. Someone who values a particular political party will have different values than someone from the other side. The same goes with religious affiliations. Look at your own political and religious affiliation and ponder for a moment the causes that stir you. Those are part of your value base.
So, when you are considering changes you wish to make in your life, it’s also important to factor in your personal values. If you are trying to find a new job it would serve you well to investigate the value base of a potential new employer to see if you are closely aligned. If you have a heart for the green earth movement, going to work for a big factory with emission issues will challenge you – even if it’s the only job available. Do you compromise your values, or hold out for a different situation?
If you’ve never considered what your values are, make a list. Just start writing down everything that’s important to you. (As an example, rather than saying my car you would say efficient/quality transportation.) Then survey your list and pick the top five. This is a pretty fair representation of your core values. And from here you can begin to better understand the things that motivate you in life.
Change requires risk. It will likely require you to step into unknowns, and it will challenge your perceived sense of safety. Helen Keller wrote, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
We think we’ve settled into a place of comfort and security, all the while our inner being is longing for more, better, different … our heart and soul cry out for more of life, and our mind keeps telling us don’t do that; you can’t, think about what could happen …
But here’s the reality – everywhere in history, it’s the people who chose to risk that are the ones who really succeeded at life. And it doesn’t have to be about fame and fortune. Your longing might be to serve a third world country as a missionary. That requires risk. But the rewards, albeit spiritual and emotional, are tremendous.
We were created for life. We were created with a purpose. We were made to count. But I’ve learned in life that we always have a choice. In today’s world we can take the easy road; settle into an existence that doesn’t require much from us and coast through without much discomfort. We have been taught that there is a life that doesn’t require much risk. And sadly, many choose that life. But you are different. You can feel the pull of a greater life available. The key is; are you willing to risk what it takes to have that life?
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin
Faith is a key element in life; period. Without it, I’m not sure how anyone really makes it. Without making it religious, or political, here a few key thoughts about faith.
Just as, what you think becomes a driving force in your life, so does what you believe. If I believe (have faith in) that my car is going to start in the morning when I head out to work, then it’s not on my mind all morning as I get ready for work. I know it’s going to happen. Because I have faith that it’s going to work properly, I don’t worry about it. [I used to have an older vehicle that instilled in me less faith, so I know how that feels.]
From a larger perspective, faith in a superior being that somehow is the driving force behind life is comforting. Regardless of your religious or denominational background, it’s generally accepted that roughly 88% of the world’s population believes in God. It’s a fairly safe bet that you fall somewhere in that 88%. So why do we not look more to that source for divine guidance when we attempt a life change of some sort.
As far as I can tell, nearly all religions have the central message of God as being love. And if you love someone, you want the best for them. Therefore my conclusion is that God wants the best for us. So our faith can start there. And when we attempt to change something about our life, the next natural conclusion is to ask for help from our divine creator, and trust that he will. From a practical perspective, faith is a positive. And positive faith, trusting the loving desire from God for us, alters our outlook on the journey to change. The mere act of believing changes the physiological makeup of our brain. And a positive faith (thought life) is the key to producing productive action steps.
Fear. Just looking at the word can make you uneasy. Much of our lives is dictated by fear of some kind. Sure, there’s healthy fear; like fear of a Grizzly Bear when you’re alone in the woods, or fear of being burned by a hot stove burner if your hand gets too close. But that’s different than the kind of fear that grips you if you have to speak in front of a crowded room, or prepare to receive some potentially bad news. That’s a crippling kind of fear.
But consider this. Here’s an acronym for the word fear; Future Events Appearing Real. We often imagine the worst thing happening. And what it boils down to, in many cases, is fear of someone else’s reaction, or worse, judgment. We think thoughts like, “what if I make a mistake,” “what if they laugh at me,” or “what if I don’t do it right?” As long as you let questions like these dominate your thought process you can forget about change. It won’t happen. When you ask those questions, you’ve perceived the answer already, and it’s not good.
Coach Tess Marshall says this about fear, “Fear is a habit, so is self-pity, defeat, anxiety, despair, hopelessness and resignation. You can eliminate all of these negative habits with two simple resolves, I can! and I will.” Tom Hopkins said, “Do what you fear most and you control fear.”
Fear is an emotion. Emotions originate in the brain. When you begin to teach your mind a new way of perceiving circumstances, you can realize that fears don’t dominating your thoughts anymore. When a fearful emotion begins to surface, don’t give into it. Ask yourself; “what is really the worst thing that can happen?” What is the likelihood that it will? When you realize that rarely do you experience your worst case scenario, you can begin to relax and focus on reality. And that is, you can do it. And you can trust yourself.
A lot of what makes change possible is your attitude. How are you handling the ups and downs of this process? There’s an ancient proverb that shows up all over history; it goes something like this – as you think, so you become. On any given day I can fall into adverse thinking about myself, my life circumstances, or my ability to succeed. It’s a slippery slope from there. Sound familiar? Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
What you choose to think/believe/agree within yourself will generally drive the momentum, or lack thereof, in your life. Dale Carnegie said, “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” I like what Mahatma Gandhi said about attitude; “Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”
I don’t think we realize just how much power we have over our circumstances. Yes, there’s always the human element – the unknown – the other person – but in general, you are the captain of your fate. And what you have planted in your mind about a particular situation will become the fruit of your labor. Your ability to change rests in the cradle of your skull. What’s your attitude about you current ability to change? Might you be in need of an attitude adjustment?