WOW | Life Inspiration
To change or not to change… HOW is the question.
In my work as a therapist and counselor, I encounter people who are seeking to change or shift something in their lives. Whatever it is – a relationship, their physical health, their mental and/or emotional wellbeing – is in a state of imbalance or distress. They come to seek support and tools to create something better for themselves and, as a result, something better for those around them.
There are an infinite number of tools to assist us in creating positive change and wellbeing. Yoga, cross fit, zumba, meditation, prayer, chanting, journaling, therapy…the selection is varied and vast. The debate about which is the “best” way is endless and, to be honest, pointless. Each one of us is different. Each one of us is unique. And so are our paths.
From where I stand now, after more than 20 years of spiritual practice, and 10 years working with others on their paths, I have come to understand certain things about how change comes about.
I have never yet met someone along their path of transformation who has not gone through hardship, and more often than not a huge amount of suffering. Because the truth of the matter is that only discomfort, something “wrong” or suffering force us to reconsider what we are doing and how we are behaving; only these hiccups on our path, or not “getting our way” will invite us to question ourselves, our situation, and encourage us to take action. New action. Different action.
Albert Einstein has been quoted to have said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I could not agree more. And yet, so much of the time we are doing exactly that. We want the other to change or the circumstance to shift. When actually what it takes, more often than not, is becoming the master of our own ship, and changing course.
So, how do we go about inviting change and creating new habits?
Following are a few pointers to take us in the direction of developing new positive habits and long term change:
Take your time.
Here’s the deal folks: change does not (in 99% of cases) happen overnight. You cannot go from 72kgs to 52kgs in a day, or a week, nor a month. It’s not healthy. Get clear with what you want to reach. Know where you want to be, how you want to feel, and keep that as your focus. The journey to that goal brings so many gifts with it. You’ll be surprised.
Do what you love.
Choose the tool that inspires you. One of the most powerful ingredients of creating change is choosing to spend your time doing something that you love or that inspires you. Almost more than the tool itself, it is the inspiration that you have for it that is going to fuel the shift. Without that inspiration – to do yoga, to run a marathon – you are not even going to sit on the mat nor get a pair of running shoes.
Do not break a habit; create a new one.
In therapeutic work people often talk about what is “wrong” in their lives, or what is “not working”. As much as it is important to identify toxic patterns, it is even more important to replace poor habits with good ones. For one, the attitude to wage war on a pattern we have is downright violent and can fuel our self disgust. This is a dead end scenario. Second of all, getting rid of a habit leaves a gaping hole. What are we going to do when we no longer go out of for a cigarette break? If we do not have another action to do in its place, we are almost guaranteed to go back to the old pattern. G-u-a-r-a-n-t-e-e-d.
Take your time to choose a new, little habit. It might be taking five deep breaths before you have your next cigarette, or calling a good friend before you eat the whole box of chocolates. Keep it simple. Make sure it is doable. And follow the next step…
Take teeny, tiny steps.
Rather than trying to meditate for 30 minutes, start by choosing your meditation spot. Put your cushion down. Do not sit on it. Do not meditate.
Rather than going jogging for the first time in 10 years (because you decided you were going to relive your youth), put your running shoes on. That’s it. Do not go run.
You read correctly, do not meditate and do not go run. Break your new habit down into micro-steps. Get the cushion you want to sit on. Put it in place. Then let it be. Do this for a few days. Then the next week, sit on that cushion for a minute. That’s it. Just a minute. Repeat this for a week. Then take the next step. Build the muscle of the new habit.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Whatever new habit micro-step you have chosen, repeat it. Not just once or twice, but several times. Practice it. This literally creates new pathways in the brain. It is akin to building a new trail way: it only becomes walkable if we tread on it over and over.
Some research shows that performing your new teeny tiny step right after a strong habit anchors it into daily life. So, for example, if you love making coffee in the morning do your little new habit right after that. Prepare your coffee and put your meditation cushion down. And then go have your coffee!
This builds on the previous point. Take your micro step, couple it with an anchored simple daily habit, and do this for an extended period of time. Once is not enough to create a habit. Do it for a week, 10 days, one month. Give yourself the time to practice it.
This, to me, is the key factor. You have to believe that what you are doing is actually going to serve you. If we believe it is better for us and will bring us more joy, we will do it. If not, nothing – I repeat, nothing – will happen, or if it does, it will not last.
Stop taking yourself so seriously.
I am of the belief that we were not born to give ourselves a hard time. We came forth to discover the beauty and magic of life. Life is an incredible experiment; and it’s messy. Give yourself a break. You are not here to be perfect. You are here to be YOU.
Believe you are worth it.
Understand and know in your deepest sense that you are worthy of all the goodness and joy that you want. It’s your birthright.
Take these points for a “test drive” and see how they work for you. Enjoy the ride!