A Fresh Approach To Making Change
Resolutions fail because the commitment to them is not complete or we give up too soon. Follow these five steps in the process of making change and you will have a much better chance to make the change last.
Step 1 Forgiveness
Gandhi said "The weak can never forgive, forgiveness is an attribute of the strong."
Forgiveness is a gift to yourself - it's not given to whomever has betrayed or wronged you. Harboring those angry feelings is just poison to our mind, body, and spirit. It holds us back from finding peace in our lives.
Being able to forgive is freedom. Challenge yourself to find forgiveness in the New Year and you have to start by forgiving yourself.
Forgive yourself for not being healthy; for not taking care of your body; for not saving money; for being a procrastinator; for being addicted to something; for not loving enough; or whatever it is you need to forgive yourself for, do it. Forgiveness is the first step in creating change in our lives. You can't move forward without first letting go. You can't give something up without forgiving yourself for holding on to or being addicted to it.
Next, move on to finding forgiveness for others. It's not an easy thing to do, but it's worth the effort. Remember, this forgiveness does not need to be stated out loud and the person you are forgiving doesn't necessarily have to know you've forgiven them. Forgiveness is about your desire to find peace with any situation or person. Others need to be involved. This is an exercise in YOU! Like any exercise it takes work to be good at it.
Along your journey of forgiveness you need to reflect on the people and the things blame on for what happened in your life this past year. This goes deeper in step 2 of the Revolution, but starting here, you need to forgive yourself for blaming other people, places, or things for whatever negative effect they had on your life.
This journey of forgiveness, for yourself, and for others, should be a part of your daily practice in living a peaceful, happy life in the coming year. You will see, once you have settled on forgiveness, your burden is lighter, you have more freedom to be at peace.
Make it happen, do it in meditation, in reflection, or in a journal. Whatever practice works best for you, take this first step and start the year off right. Start the resolution with forgiveness.
Step 2: Take Responsibility
"The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life." -Hal Elrod
I read so many posts about what a horrible year 2016 was. People say "I tried to make the best of it but something always came up to make me miserable.", or "This year treated me so badly, I didn't deserve this.", or "I wanted 2016 to be a great year but too many bad things happened."
I get it, there are so many things going on in this world that can pull you out of balance and mess with your happiness. The world is a crazy place, but listen, here's the truth, You have the power to be happy right in your hands. It's such a cop-out to blame your unhappiness on politics, or something that happened hundreds of miles from where you are. We don't give ourselves enough credit for the power we have to be happy. We blame others; other people, other things, other events...everything and everyone else, but ourselves. People today are not likely to take responsibility for their lives and that sets us up for failure.
The cause of unhappiness is that we surrender control to other people or things. The reason we feel bad is because ww have given up the power to be happy, on our own. We don't feel good, so we blame someone else. We don't feel safe, so we blame something else. We don't feel healthy so we blame the world. It's the blame game and it can be very satisfying not to take be responsible. It's easier to point fingers and take satisfaction in thinking "it's not my fault."
You want a clue on how to be happy?
JUST BE HAPPY!!!
If you really want to be happy, you can be happy. That long list of things that have made you unhappy, get rid of them, stop with the long list of blame. For real change and happiness to take place, you have to stop making excuses. I guarantee you, there are people who have less money, smaller houses, no car, and have so much less than you have who are happy. It's time to stop making excuses for our misery and start taking responsibility.
I've spent the better part of this past month feeling unhappy about the direction we may be heading in, blaming everyone for their political views, their naivete, their disregard for people's rights, etc. Blaming everyone and everything for a future which may or may not come to pass. I've been focused on fear and worry. That's not living in reality. That's definitely not being mindful.
Ready for another clue? That worry and fear will get you NOWHERE!!!
Whether or not we have a good life, a mediocre life, or a terrible life is not so much contingent on the actual circumstances of our lives, but in our thoughts pertaining to the circumstances.
We can waste all of our time and energy complaining and focusing on finding something or someone to blame, but we are just wasting time and surrendering our control. Using precious energy that should be better spent in living in the moment, living the life that is really happening, and taking control of our world. We have to let go of the what ifs and the what might happens, and focus on what is happening in our lifestyle this moment.
No one else is responsible for your happiness. Whatever happens in our world, we choose how to react. We choose how it is going to affect our life. We choose our level of fear and misery. We can choose to be happy.
The next HUGE step in moving forward in the New Year and being happier is to stop being the victim. No one can make you feel unhappy, it is your choice. Bad things happen but you have to take responsibility for what you do with those bad things.
It's time to take responsibility and take your power back. The world around us keeps trying to convince us we are not in control. We are bombarded with messages that we need this thing, or that thing, to make us happy...we don't! Happiness can only come from inside. There is nothing you can buy or be given that can give you lifelong happiness, unless you decide to be happy.
To make true change and move forward with resolve, we need to take responsibility for change and for our happiness. Spend some time reflecting on your attitude towards happiness and let go of the feeling that we must depend on someone or something else to be happy.
Always remember, hostile people see a hostile world, while loving people see a loving one. The more often we choose to focus on loving thoughts we will notice our outer reality begins to shift in order to reflect our happiness.
Take control, use your power, and be happy!
Step 3: Embrace Change
"You have two choices: either accept conditions as they are or take responsibility for changing them". -Denis Waitley
Accepting and embracing change is an important step in following through with a resolution. Most of the time, people give up because they aren't willing to fully embrace the change.
Change is difficult.
For some, change is more difficult than for others, but everyone at some point in their life, has struggled with change. Change can create fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Many of us approach change with a negative view, ignoring the positive growth that may come.
Change happens every day, all around us. Rules change, technology changes, the weather changes – our world is all about change and to survive, we must adapt and accept changes. It can be scary, but more often than not, once the mindset is adjusted to accept the change, we wonder why it took so long and forget we were ever resistant in the first place.
Perhaps the fear of change is really a fear of loss – because even "good" changes bring about loss – the loss of something familiar, the loss of autonomy, the loss of our comfort zone, the loss of a relationship.
Working on change with clients in my practice, the first step I take is convincing them that they are ready for change. I do it subtly, asking leading questions and steering them in the right direction. More often than not, I don't ever say the word change when we are in a session, because talking about change puts people on the defensive.
In our sessions, I help them to discover there are other ways of doing things, new insights to be gained, new habits to replace old, and personal growth to be experienced. We start to view change as an opportunity, to let go of things – a chance to evolve and grow – and that lessens the discomfort.
If you sit and think about all the change that has occurred in your lifetime, it's mind boggling, and you've survived all of it.
Without change growth is not possible. Unless you embrace change you can never move on. We are changing, whether we like it or not. So, this year, instead of fighting it or hiding from it, why not mindfully embrace it?
When we accept change in a mindful way, living in the present, we accept that change is just another part of our humanity. Mindfully we cherish the fact that NOTHING lasts forever. This knowing brings about a deeper appreciation for what we have and for what is still to come.
When we embrace change this way, we love harder because we know that losing is part of this life; we speak kinder, because we know words effect feelings and have consequences; and we breathe better because we know the difference between embracing the present and fearing the future. When we accept that change is inevitable and decide to control as much if it as we can, we become peaceful with the changes in life.
Change is synonymous with growth, with second chances, with new beginnings, with do-overs and exciting starts. Change means something new, unfamiliar, and vastly different is possible. Change adds adventure to our life.
It's true, sometimes change is awful. But mostly change is awful only in the beginning because you’re just not used to it. Once you settle in and embrace it, you usually discover it’s not so bad after all. Change leads you to places, to people, to opportunities, and to a life of new possibilities. It shows you ways that your life can be different from the one you had before. It shows you what kind of person you are, it builds strength and endurance, it builds character and confidence.
Change is a gift of new beginnings, of letting go. It's a way of allowing you to open your wings to fly. You may not soar at first, you might stumble and crash to the ground a few times as you learn how to flap your wings and be carried by the wind. But once you embrace it, you will take flight. Then you’ll see the world on the ground mirroring those fears back to you, tiny and insignificant, like ants.
Don't let change control you, embrace it, guide it, and take control. That's how you conquer change! That's how you make resolutions work long term.
Remember, if nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.
Step 4: Make the Commitment
"Most people fail not because they lack the desire, but because they lack the commitment." -Vince Lombardi
When I first start working with a client one of the first questions I am asked is, "How long is it going to take me to change?". Of course, there is no simple answer, but I will usually ask in return, "How committed are you to make it happen?". The best answer is, "It will take as long as it takes, it all depend on how committed you are."
Making real, lasting change means reworking patterns and behaviors that have evolved over time. When done correctly, change is slow, steady, and deliberate. If we were to draw out the process of change on a board, it would look like a slinky. Progress keeps looping back on itself. But like a slinky going down the stairs, you will keep moving toward the goal, if you have the commitment.
Anything worth doing takes time and energy. In this day and age of instant gratification, that is not something we are used to. You can't undo years of a habit in just a few days.
Commitment requires a vision, energy, a promise to yourself, and hard work. Remember, if it was easy you would have done it a long time ago.
In my practice, we focus heavily on the vision. I think it's important to picture yourself being successful at whatever goal you are setting out on. We work to envision how that success will look in your life. That's a very important part of the process, seeing where your commitment will lead. Imagining your life after you succeed. A colleague of mine even calls her practice "Envision to Achieve." If you can envision being successful, it's easier to commit to the process.
When making this commitment must include a promise. Not a promise to your partner, to your boss, or to someone else, you have to make a promise to yourself. You can bring others in for support, but this must be about you. If you're doing it solely because someone asked you to, it probably won't stick. It's about you and that's important to remember.
The final part of your commitment is agreeing to do the work, for as long as it takes. If you're not willing to do the work, then don't waste your time. Work means putting your energy into something you believe in, and you've promised to believe in yourself. It takes work to succeed at anything worth achieving.
Commitment is a big word, it comes with a lot of pressure. When you decide you are willing to make the promise to yourself, to put the energy into your vision, and decide it's worth the work, you have a commitment.
When confronted with a challenge, the committed heart will do whatever it takes to succeed, the undecided heart will do whatever it takes to escape.
Commit, because you're worth it!
Step 5: Keep it All in Perspective
"The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time" -Abraham Lincoln
Step five of completing your resolution is the best one. It's all about being mindful. It's putting it all in perspective and bringing it all into the present. When we look at the four previous steps; Forgiveness, Responsibility, Change, and Commitment, we must remember to keep the whole process in present perspective. Taking these things individually is challenging, we must be sure to keep a good perspective on the process. We tend to overthink, over analyze, and get caught up in the drama of making change. This is where the perspective of taking things one day at a time, comes in to play.
It's just our nature to focus too much on the future or on the past. Most of the things we worry about happening in the future will never happen. Spending time rethinking the past is a waste because what's done is done, take the lessons you've learned and let it go. It just makes more sense to approach change one day at a time, than to let yourself get overwhelmed with the process. One of the dangers in making change is we expect perfection and we expect it NOW. This is why so many programs focused around addiction use the mantra "one day at a time". It works! It's about living in the present, being in the moment, and moving forward!
Living in the moment allows us to focus on what we need to do in this time to succeed. It eliminates the danger of trying to take on too much at one time. All you have to do is get through today. It's the sensible approach to change. It works perfectly with the previous four steps.
Because you're living in this moment, you can let go of the blame you have for whatever brought you to this point. Tackling your resolution in the moment allows you to take responsibility for what is happening now, not what might happen later or what brought you here. When you look at embracing change, it is easier to think about it in small steps. Just change for today. Then you are able to commit to succeeding today, and that's a lot less worrisome than worrying about doing it long term.
Here's the best part about taking it one day at a time. If you mess up, you start over. So many people give up on their resolutions because they had a bad day and didn't succeed in their plan for change. Maybe you ate something you shouldn't, or drank something you shouldn't have, or smoked, or whatever it is that "set you back", it really didn't. It was just a mistake, give yourself a break and move forward. Maybe you didn't do it yesterday but today is a new day.
We all have bad days, we all make mistakes. By taking a mindful approach, you are able to look at it from the perspective of a lesson learned. You can evaluate what got in your way, learn from it, and start again. One bad day or a couple days of messing up shouldn't derail the process completely. By forgiving yourself for the bad day; by taking responsibility for the mistake, deciding if there is something you need to do differently, and then recommitting to start again, you can move forward. One day at a time, one moment at a time. Hold yourself accountable for the mistake but move on rather than give up.
Remember, you are in this for the long haul. Changing long-term patterns is a long-term goal. Don't let a short-term setback take you from your commitment to change. Shake it off and start the next day committed to your goal again. This is how you succeed with change, you recommit.
The way we show up in our lives each day effects our chances of success. Just because you didn't show up 100% one day doesn't mean you can't the next. The good thing about the commitment you give to yourself is you can give yourself another chance, you deserve it. In fact, you deserve as many chances to succeed as it takes.
When you live a life that is focused on the present, you will find a calm confidence in knowing you just have to get through this day. Taking this change one step at a time, not always focusing on the big picture, makes this endeavor much more manageable. When we can focus on the moment, we can be more in tune to what we need to do right now.
Every day we get a new beginning, a new start. The morning comes bearing gifts of renewal, redemption, and a fresh start. Just as the sun rises each morning in all its glory, we have an opportunity for a new beginning, a glorious new start. The best part is, we can let go of the mistakes we made yesterday, they don't matter when we start fresh in the present day.
Finally, on this journey of change, never once did I mention the word perfection. Achieving your goals and improving your life doesn't mean everything has to be perfect. We are not striving for perfection, only progress. When you stop trying to be perfect and embrace progress, you free yourself up to live life on your terms. Putting things in the perspective of making progress, you can approach each day with the mindset of improving just a bit more. Make some progress!
The promise of the morning means we have a chance to progress more. Even if it just a fraction, it's still progress. Even if you don't feel it was much progress at all, you can learn from it, and that's progress.
Day by day, step by step, living in this moment, you can make incremental changes towards your goal. Don't strive to be perfect, don't set unrealistic deadlines. Take it slow and steady. These incremental changes over long periods of time will add up to massive change. Even if there's a setback, you can move forward the next day! Do it long enough and you succeed!
Embrace each day. Be present.
One day at a time. One moment at a time.
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