CREATING CHANGE –
WE ALL WANT IT, BUT ARE WE WILLING TO WORK FOR IT?
There has been a lot of talk lately about change. New seasons, new phases of life, and stepping into new versions of ourselves. Yet change can be terrifying, uncomfortable and most of all unfamiliar. We love to stay comfortable and stagnant because it is EASIER than the alternative, even though change is what we are REALLY wanting. So how do we create change, if we are feeling scared, awkward, confused and helpless? Here are some tips to help you create change in your life.
DISCLAIMER: This is a more practical approach and an overview of change. Change is a complex topic that we will continue to deconstruct and explore, including elements of mindfulness, meditation, visualization, breathing, connecting to your mind/body wisdom and much more. For now, let’s take a look at the nuts and bolts of where to begin this multifaceted and crucial journey.
STEP 1 – IDENTIFY (PREFERRED CHANGE)
What is it exactly that you would like to change (in your life or about yourself)?
Is it a habit that you can’t seem to stop? Are there consequences to this habit? How is this habit affecting you, your finances and your relationships?
It is a belief or thought that continues to ruminate in your consciousness? What is this thought leading you to say/do/be?
Would you like to change the way you speak to yourself or others? Perhaps you tend to gossip, or embellish the truth. How is this showing up in your life?
Or is the change you would like to see related to your way of being? Are you hiding your true self, consumed by self-hatred, self-conscious, ridden with guilt, overcome by negativity, hostility, etc.?
I hope you are starting to see the importance of really identifying what change means to you. We are all unique individuals with inimitable histories and intricacies. Your preferred change is YOUR preferred change. Don’t settle for a generic answer to this very important question. DIG DEEPER.
Whatever it is that you want to change, get clear about who/what/where/when/why.
Who would you BE on the other side of change?
What would you be doing, saying, thinking on the other side of change?
Where would you spend your time/money/energy (both mental and physical) on the other side of change?
When would you prefer for change to occur?
Why is it important for you to have change occur?
STEP 2 – ASSESS (WHERE YOU ARE CURRENTLY) –
There are 6 general phases of change. That’s right … change can be challenging because it’s not as simple as stopping one thing and starting another. Take a deeper look as to where you are in your phase of change.
Phase 1 Pre-contemplation - In this stage, people do not intend to take action yet and are often unaware that the behavior/thought pattern/belief/etc. is problematic or that it results in negative consequences. They often underestimate the pros of changing behavior and place too much emphasis on the cons. This focus on the “Cons” can look like this: change is too hard, it will create emotional unease, it will require too much effort, time, money, etc.
Phase 2 Contemplation – People in this stage intend to introduce a healthier/new behavior in the near future, and recognize that their current behavior may be problematic. Even with this recognition, however, people may still feel ambivalent toward embarking on change.
Phase 3 Preparation (Determination) - In this stage, people are ready to take action soon (within the next 30 days). They start to take small steps toward the change they desire, and believe that changing their behavior can lead to a healthier/happier/more fulfilling life.
Phase 4 Action - In this stage, people have begun to create change and intend to keep moving in that direction. They may modify problem behavior, experiment with healthy new habits, eliminate unhealthy actions, find support/accountability and create a practice of change on a regular basis (typically daily).
Phase 5 Maintenance – People in this stage have sustained their preferred change for a while (typically a minimum of 6 months) and intend to maintain moving forward. They continue to do the work in hopes of preventing a regression into earlier stages.
Phase 6 Termination - In this stage, people have no desire to return to their unhealthy thoughts/behaviors/ways of being and are sure they will not revert... Just to put things into perspective, the termination phase is RARELY attained. Most people tend to stay in the maintenance stage, as life tends to be complex, unpredictable and fluid.
Please know that you are not alone, and that beating yourself up over what phase you are in will only make creating change a more difficult and a slower process. This is purely to identify and assess your current state, not to label you with judgment or criticism.
STEP 3 – GET SUPPORT
Support can come in many forms. It can be educating yourself on the way that others have created similar change to your ideals. It can mean hiring a coach, therapist, enrolling an accountability buddy, joining a group program, seeking inspiration on Social Media and much more. Realize that change does not happen in a vacuum. The elements around you as well as internally are constantly changing and evolving. Change is messy, unpredictable, a forward and backward motion. It changes day to day and sometimes we even hit a plateau in our performance. The level of support you need varies from time to time, so allow yourself to be honest with yourself, identify your needs, and seek the appropriate support.
STEP 5 – TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Tracking and measuring your development is vital to know where you are at all times. It is easy to get caught up in emotions, judgment, and comparison if we lose sight of our OWN process. Be sure to take inventory of how you are feeling, what is challenging for you, what is working, what isn’t working, thoughts/judgments that are arising, as well as your hopes/frustrations/doubt/etc. Keep track of it all and be sure to process it with your support system on a regular basis (recommended weekly). This is where the learning happens and where we can identify strengths, weaknesses and continue to assess what tweaks need to be made in our progression.
STEP 6 – PRACTICE PATIENCE
Change takes time. I’m going to repeat that for dramatic effect … CHANGE TAKES TIME. If you aren’t able to practice patience, you may as well save yourself all the effort of steps 1-5 and quit while you are ahead. Like we said before, change is a process, always changing, evolving, revealing new information and compounding wisdom in your personal development. Train yourself to practice patience with yourself, those around you, as well as the ebb and flow of progress. The only way to reach your goals is to continue to show up consistently and be willing to practice, explore and play with change itself.
Let me know what stood out to you from the above information, and how I can continue to support you in your emotional and personal advancement.
ILONA VARO, LMFT & Coach