By Eleasa Mullavey
“Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become”
As another year comes to a close, many of us start to reflect on the year that was…. Did I finally quit my dead end job in pursuit of a more meaningful vocation? Quit smoking? Change my diet for the better? Join and regularly attend the gym? Invest in a personal trainer or coach? We all seem to start the year with such clarity and good intentions, yet on reflection realise that life got in the way… AGAIN!!
Well if this sounds like you, don’t worry because change isn’t that easy. In fact humans are inherently resistant to change. To survive we have evolved with inbuilt mechanisms to maintain stability, keeping physical and mental systems in balance. I’m sure you all have experienced this at some point. Perhaps you’ve struggled to deal with organisational change, fighting to have things returned to “the old way”? Or when your relationship is coming to an end you decide to give it “one more chance” over and over again? We all do it! We feel secure within our comfort zone. The only problem with this is that despite our best efforts, everything keeps changing. This is the universal reality of our inner and outer experience.
Is resistance futile?
Obviously, we need a certain amount of resistance to maintain some level of stability and balance in our lives. However it is not always useful, in fact it can be quite detrimental, preventing us from noticing key signs that it is well and truly time for a scene change. So to use a metaphor to illustrate, they say that if a frog is dropped into a pot of boiling water, it’s reflexes kick in, it reacts and propels itself away from certain death. When the same frog is dropped into a pot of lukewarm water, which is slowly on the boil, the little guy will just lay there happy and contented oblivious to the rising water temperature until he dies.
Ok ok, so not the most uplifting metaphor, but it certainly illustrates my point. How often have you found yourself slowly boiling, yet oblivious to the signs? Perhaps noticing that twinge of anxiety telling you things aren’t quite right before you start to rationalise all the reasons why everything is just fine. With change comes fear and self-doubt. It requires motivation and commitment. It’s much easier to avoid thoughts of change and rationalise why we don’t need it. Before we know it we have excuses for why our jean size keeps going up each year. We become accustomed to the protruding muffin top and lack of energy. It’s a normal part of getting older right? Until all of a sudden you don’t have enough energy to climb the stairs and the Doctor tells you that “you’re obese and headed for a heart attack”. How did that happen you ask?
As the old saying goes, CHANGE REALLY IS AS GOOD AS A HOLIDAY. It helps breaks old habits and limiting beliefs that no longer serve us. It allows us to stretch and grow, find new directions, take risks and achieve things we only ever dreamed of…. The challenge is to notice the signs early. Listen to your intuition, that inner voice that points you in the right direction. Quit that job! End that destructive relationship! Take control of your health! You have all the power to take control of your life and make positive changes…
5 Tips For Creating Change
1) Know where the goal posts are. Where is it that you want to be? What do you want to have achieved? Before asking these questions, be aware that negative thoughts will be rear their ugly head. So put them aside, they will only limit you. Then ask yourself, if I was to wake up tomorrow and the solution to my problem (i.e. being overweight; hating your job; unhappy in your relationship) is present, what would be different? What would I be thinking, doing and feeling?
2) Break down the main areas for change. For example, in question 1, if you decided that the goal posts are to feel fit, healthy and have energy to play with your kids, one of the main areas for change may be to make more healthy food choices.
3) Raise your anxiety levels in the direction of change. Think of change as a colonial set of measuring scales. One side of the scales represents no change. The other change. So our aim is to tip the scales in the direction of change and a key driver in this process is anxiety. By raising anxiety, I mean increasing that uncomfortable feeling about our current situation compared to where we want to be. Ask yourself, what are the disadvantages of remaining the same? What are the benefits of change? What will my life look like in 5 years if I keep everything the same?
4) Remain motivated. It is completely normal to become stuck and lose drive when making changes. From experience, I find this usually results from a lack of confidence in being able to successfully make or sustain the change; or because the client has lost sense of the importance of the change. If you lack confidence, revisit your strengths and personal resources. When have you successfully changed something? Remember how you did it and apply the principles. Perhaps enlist the support of friends and family who have achieved similar changes or speak with a trained professional. If you feel that the change is no longer important, perhaps do some research into the area, or revisit step 3.
5) Finally, you need to plan a relapse strategy. Relapse is to be expected. In fact we generally relapse over 7 times before sustaining any permanent change. Anyone who has given up smoking will vouch on this one. So when relapse occurs, rather than giving up, apply your relapse strategy. Accept your relapse for what it is, reward yourself for how far you came and then propel yourself back into action. Perhaps re-visiting stages 3 and 4.
So it all sounds like hard work. Right?
Well that much is true. But I put it to you that change is well and truly worth the effort. As we design the life we want and then consciously start to take steps on the path, a sense of purpose, commitment and accomplishment soon follows. Even if our desired change does not turn out as planned, we can choose to learn from the experience and grow in wisdom. I often say to clients’ “the definition of madness is to keep doing everything the same yet expect a different outcome”.
So are you on the path to madness?
Just remember that every accomplishment starts with a decision to try.
What have you got to lose compared to what you stand to gain?