Are working hard to make life changes only to feel defeated by those around you or yourself? It may be time to look beneath the surface of the change process and find the deeper meaning in the struggle.
Maybe it is changing location, moving away from particular people at a party, going a new way to work, having dinner at a different time, saying a particular phrase, etc. There are many ways to address and deal with your challenges – and they will come up. So plan to meet them with grace and confidence.
The Spirituality of Change
This brings an aspect of living your essence and spirituality. As you work on changing, you must face yourself – sometimes this is the hardest person to face. You must take an honest look at who you are and who you want to be. Then do the difficult work of change. Through this process we often find parts of ourselves we do not like, want around, or understand. It is in facing these aspects of our being that we become a better version of ourselves. If you find yourself lost in the struggle, it may be worth finding a support system for your change process – a group, class, or therapist to help you navigate the steps and set you up for the best possible results.
Finding your voice
Sometimes explaining your desire to change to others is hard. Sometimes they work against you – like crabs in a bucket, pulling you back into old patterns and behaviors. Remember, you do not have to explain your changes to anyone else. You do not have to justify your new behaviors or work to get the to understand your reasons, purpose, or dreams. Your change is all about you and you can chose who to share it with and when.
A few simple statements go a long way, like:
I’m the DD tonight
I am working on a new fitness plan
I am trying a new meal plan out
I am working on shifting my sleeping pattern
I’ve been reading about _____, and I want to try some of the suggestions
I have a friend who did ____, I am hoping to have similar results
I noticed I feel better when I do _____
You can create all sorts of simple statements that give enough information but do not require you explain or rationalize your new behaviors. Just make sure you are creating statements you can back up if they ask later – i.e. if you are telling people you are working on training for a race, you might want to make sure you are planning to run a race. When people ask how’s the racing going you don’t want to be “aaaaaahhhh …” and stumble trying to make something up on the spot.
In the end, relax into the change process, enjoy the ride, find yourself, and become a better version of you. It is here you find your spirit and strengthen your soul.
So many people bite off more than can chew when it comes to habit changes. They know the big goal they want to accomplish but it is too big, too overwhelming and they never start or stop too soon to see the change happen. Don’t be that person. Just start small and keep going.
Are you one of those that thinks – why does this keep happening to me?!??!? And how to make it stop …
Feeling like it’s the same shit different day? That’s a common theme for a lot of us. We feel like were in the same places over and over, meeting the same types of people, doing the same sorts of things – getting ourselves in the same sorts of trouble.
In reality we have to look at what our themes are. the story may change day to day but it often feels very similar.
We have to look at what the themes are before we will ever be able to shift our worldview and change our behavior to become the people we know we can be. To make ourselves great we have to be ready to look at what keeps happening repeatedly over and over in our lives. Then decide “who do I want to become”, “what am I willing to give up”, and “what am I willing to do differently”? Start with the slow small steps of change. Change one step at a time using those smart goals we talked about on Monday (missed it? Read it here). Tackle just the next step.
So today look at all of the different ways that you see the same sorts of patterns playing out your life. The same sorts of people, the same sorts of arguments, the same sorts of problems, the same sorts of disappointments, … even the same sorts of joys. Where do you find your greatest joy, your greatest strength, your greatest excitement? These are great places to help focus the direction you want to go while looking at all those negative aspects of self to change
If you find yourself in the same situations over and over, it may be time to drop the cultural lenses you were handed and take over authoring your life. Do not settle for the life you were handed, you can create the life you want in a few small steps. The hardest is always the first.
If you missed yesterday’s article on understanding why we find ourselves in repetitive patterns and how to break free from them. Read it here.
Have you ever thought “I’ve been here before. This thing keeps happening to me. Why am I destined to repeat this experience”? Many people looking to change how they behave in the world experience this. It is the impetus for change. That feeling of being stuck and repetitive. The uncomfortable feeling of doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results is often what drives us to change. Ever heard the saying “the pain of staying the same, must be greater than the pain of change”? That is part of why we find ourselves in repetitive situations we do not like. We are getting ready to change.
Everyday I deal with people who want their lives to be different, but cannot figure out necessary steps to get where they want to go. We are all like that, and we all have those experiences. Those times when we want our lives to be different and do not know how to make it happen. It can be one of the most maddening feelings – to know we need to do something different and not know what to do next. It can be hard to ask for help or even find the people we need to guide us well. Many of us do not know who to ask or how. Today take a look at your life and note if you want to change. Below outlines some common experiences and then steps for making change happen in your life.
It can be helpful to understand why we find ourselves in the same sorts of situations over and over. It starts with our culture and our communities. We only know what we are taught and those items come from where we come from (this generation and those past). Everybody’s culture is different. I have road-tripped through most of the lower 48 and although we share the label of being from the United States of America we are so different. We might look alike, but our cultures are different. Within each family system our cultures are different. You might find the family next door does things very different from your family just a house away. Each of us is also influenced by our communities.
Each of us is also influenced by our communities:
Who is in our peer group?
What do they focus on?
What activities do they do?
What do they value?
Once we have the lenses of personal culture, it is really hard to take them off.
Think about having colored glasses on. When you are wearing yellow lenses it is hard to see yellow things. When you wear red glasses, red items are difficult. This is what it is like to wear the lenses of your culture. You do not know what you are missing because you cannot see what your lenses cover up. It is just the way you have always done things. The way your family is, and this translates into the way the world is … even when it is not. The global leap to “this is the way everybody is, … should be, … does it” gets in our way of relating. We think we know what it is like for other people only to find out it is not the same which is hard for our personal identities.
For example, I like peanuts. I have eaten them many ways throughout my lifetime. Being from the upper midwest I had never encountered boiled peanuts until I was taken to a boiled peanut stand in the backwoods of South Carolina. Everyone raved about how great they were going to be and I had no idea what I was in for. I had no lens to understand boiled peanuts or why you would cook them that way. I had never been exposed to boiling peanuts in the shells and then eating them as though they were a special item. I did not have a lens to understand the reasons, what to expect, or even how to find them – I never would’ve found that shack on my own, even if I did I wouldn’t know why to stop there. I had never tasted boiled peanuts before.
This is why it is so hard to break free from repetitive situations. You have lenses that shape what you know and what you see, therefore you keep finding the same things over and over with no way of knowing what you do not know. I did not know boiled peanuts existed or what they would taste like because I had never been exposed to them before. I never thought of having boiled peanuts, therefore did not even know to look for them.
Lets broaden this out to relationships. Ever wonder why you or someone else continues to pick partners that are similar, even when you have sworn off that type of person forever? It is because the lens you are wearing shapes the people you find. Our exposure to relationships begins with our earliest ones, our primary caregivers. The cultural lenses we were handed are the role models we saw in our first years. How they treated each other, how they treated us, ways they communicated, words they chose to express their connection, what they gave value to and what they ignored all create the foundation for our intimate relationships. We often do not know we wear these lenses, it is just “how marriages are”, “how lovers treat each other”, “what men / women are like”, etc. We speak as though it is always the same, because it is all we know. When we encounter a partner opportunity different than our personal lens we think they are weird or we do not even notice them. Their personal style of dress, hair, stature, way of communicating, interacting, or being does not match our lens so we do not see them as options for us, thus we cannot shift our picks.
Another common area where people struggle is money and work. For many we work in similar jobs and live at a similar social-economic level as our family of origin. We may break out a bit ahead but often we stay stuck at the same levels. This is because the lenses we were shown about work, money, material comforts, location of living, etc. were handed to us by our earliest experiences. Often we are not aware of what those paradigms were or why they existed. We may remember messages about “value of hard work”, “money is the root of all evil”, “poor equals dirty/stupid/lazy/___”, “money equals love” or “nothing easy is worth anything”. We may have been present to arguments or worried conversations our caregivers had about finances and taken information in without awareness. As a result we continue to repeat the patterns with work and money we know. If we felt included in the culture we often find value in being “blue collar”, “redneck”, “high class”, or “well off”and as a result we are likely to repeat them. If we felt discomfort at the lenses we were handed as children we become determined to do it differently, often with gusto. This is the pain of staying the same and it drives us to initiate change.
It can happen externally, like the above example, or this pain can be driven from internal strife. Take the concept of weight management. If you feel uncomfortable enough in your physical body, you will make necessary lifestyle choices to change your current predicament. You go through the process of shifting your lenses for what your weight should be – this may have come from pictures, physical health issues, family or friends who have made a change – and you find people to help you. You might check out a magazine, buy a book, hire a personal trainer, join a gym, enlist a friend, the list goes on for ways we drop our old lenses. Once we drop them we learn how big the world really is. We begin to see how much the world has to offer us in the particular area of interest. We finally begin to see the possibilities and we go after our goals. This is the pain of change. It takes time and often numerous failures before we get it right, but we are learning and expanding our lenses all the way.
So if you are looking around your life and saying it’s like ground hog day – happening again and again and I do not like it – it is time to takes steps to make the change. Here’s how to begin:
Determine what you want to be different
Decide what you want it to be like – get specific in your vision of what could be, see it clearly in your head
Create a goal statement & post it where you can see it everyday, multiple times a day. Make a vision board of pictures and sayings that represent your goal. Hang it where you will see it often.
Break your goal into smaller chunks using SMART goals
Timed (when will you complete, how long will you work at it). Change is best done in 10% increments. So just make a SMART goal on the 1st 10% change step. When we complete that we’ll make the next and then the next until you reach the big goal.
Find a helper. Enlist family, friends, trainers, therapists, coaches to help you get to the next level. Find a couple new friends who are mastering what you want to accomplish, watch videos of people succeeding like you would like to, read about them. Get exposed to what they are doing to have what you want as much as you possibly can.
Decide how you will reward yourself. Is it praise, a new item, an experience? What is it you want for accomplishing your goal? Find pictures and post them where you will see them often
Finally, make it social. Tell your family, friends, join a group, hire a coach, see a therapist. Get someone on your side and find support to help you stay on track.
Want your life to be different? then you have to do the work of making small shifts in your daily habits to form new routines that get you where you want to go.
Now that Friday is almost done, how did your 1st week of the new year go? Many of us want to accomplish so much, but forget to take time to review what we’ve done to see how we got where we are.
Not to blame, shame, or feel bad, but to take a true honest inventory of ourselves – thoughts, behaviors, interactions/connections, and projects we’ve worked through – so we can better prepare for next week.
Tonight take a moment to review and rate yourself how’d you do last week? Did you meet your goals? Where could you do better, where did you soar?
Jot down some notes about what worked and what didn’t so you know what to improve on for next week.
Change happens in small increments, small 10% increments. When we take the time to review and make the corrections necessary to remain focused on our goals we increase our chances of success. It also helps us shift our lifestyle and find the joy in the experience of change rather than stay stuck and overwhelmed by the doing of it.
Tonight, take a moment to examine your last 7 days, make note of at least 1 thing you did well and 1 thing you want to shift. Then determine a small shift you can make in the direction you want to go. Remember, all you have to focus on is doing the action that makes the most sense in this moment, it doesn’t have to be anything big or bold, just 1 small step in the direction you want to go.
Want 2019 to be the best ever? Then you have to self-regulate and take responsibility for your experiences. So many of us want to have wonderful times, yet are not proactive in our daily routines. As a result, we are not ready for whatever life has in store for us. We are tired, feel “heavy” and lethargic, put ourselves and others down with negative comments/thoughts, and feel bored in our life. We call it stress or overwhelm, because we can not seem to check everything off our to do list or accomplish all we are dreaming of after getting lost in the daily grind of getting through the day. Instead just floating from event to event as though we have no control in the process of creating our life.
To be successful in life we have to stop playing the victim of our circumstances and instead play the master. We have to become self regulated, taking full responsibility for the activities that help us maintain that balance. People who learn to self regulate are more successful in many areas of their lives – from work to relationships to feeling more happy everyday.
Self regulation is the ability to stay connected to your experience giving just what is needed in each moment while meeting the moment accurately. We do this by practicing activities that help us stay focused on healthy relationships and interactions.
“Self–regulation can be defined in various ways. In the most basic sense, it involves controlling one’s behavior, emotions, and thoughts in the pursuit of long-term goals. More specifically, emotional self–regulation refers to the ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses”.
In order to create the best interactions possible in any given situation you have to be able to think. This means your brain (notably the pre-frontal cortex) has to stay fully online. You need the centers of the brain known as executive functioning to help you plan, predict, and respond appropriately. However they will go offline if your emotions are too strong. Emotions are just information and intelligence telling you about your environment and how to respond to it. They are quicker than cognitions and therefore the brain uses them to inform your thinking. When your emotions are overwhelming your brain cannot regulate well and you’ll react rather than respond to what is going on around you. Often the responses are based on old patterns of learning and may not be appropriate in the current relationship, be it with your partner or the customer service rep on the phone. When we do not handle situations well in the moment we often feel shame and guilt, which contribute to a cycle of self destructive behaviors and actions that blow up the very relationships we want/need to be supportive. We have to keep ourselves in check if we are going to have healthy relationships.
When you think about creating healthy relationships it starts with a healthy relationship with yourself. Taking care of others includes taking care of yourself first. I cannot engage well with you if I cannot engage well with me. To do this begin by determining what you need to feel you best.
How much sleep do you need?
What foods give you the most energy?
How much and what kinds of exercise leave you feeling blissed out and ready for anything?
As you determine what you need to be your best self, you begin to meet the needs of others too. You become better at noticing where they are and what they truly want and need in the present moment. You become better at reflecting those needs back to them and this helps you create stronger more authentic connections.
These deeper connections are something we all crave. They actually help us build our brain structures, increase our immune response, and live longer. These brain structures help us engage more thoroughly in everything from learning to experiences to rest thus creating a more vibrant and full life. As we create a more rich daily experience we create more authentic interaction with any given experience.
I know this video looks at teaching children in the classroom … but it’s good for all of us
As we deepen our practices of what keeps us well, we meet the challenges of our life with grace. For example if I have taken care of myself and I am feeling grounded – no physical illness, I am not hungry, I am well rested, I have energy, and feel physically strong – I will be able to handle more of life’s little stressors. As I competently deal with the little stressors I am “clearing my plate” so things do not pile up and become “big fucking deals”.
At this level of engagement, things flow and relationships grow deeper. I am taking care of me so my health is better and I am stronger for everything I need and want. Everyday.
To be effective with ourselves and our teams we must recognize that motivation comes from within, but is first inspired. So rather than chase motivation we must find inspiration. If we are leading a team of people we must look to inspire rather than motivate. If we are working with ourselves we have to figure out what inspires us today. Inspiration is more powerful because once inspired the motivation wells up inside and spills out in joy as we complete the goal, even when the task is difficult.
It was years ago that I learned this distinction. I had a client who was motivated to let go of heroine, however that is a difficult task. He was intelligent, energetic, and had supportive resources available to him, and he still could not let the drug go. One day he looked at me exasperated and said “I need to be inspired. I need to feel inspiration about living this life and I don’t. I am motivated to quit using, but without inspiration I cannot find the missing piece”. We started discussing motivation and inspiration differently that day. I have carried that discussion with me since. I started looking at inspiration in my own life and noticing when motivation felt easy and when it felt forced. When it was easy, it was always inspired.
Now the trick is to find inspiration … and then stay inspired. I can be inspired by lots of things, but they will not sustain me because inspiration moves. Thus, I must work to build inspiration everyday. I must cultivate the practices that build inspiration and I must practice them regularly. This is where people get tripped up. They get inspired in short bursts, do not have a plan or practices to sustain, then get discouraged. So what are the practices that sustain and cultivate inspiration? Well, that depends.
We are each unique and individual. Stop right now and look around your environment. What do your senses land on that draws your attention? Is is a sound, color, breeze, smell, taste, something you are touching? Our senses lead the way and draw us to what we find interesting.
As we begin the practice of cultivating our awareness we become more sensitive to what we enjoy. So many are too busy to notice. We are distracted. We rush from point A to point B and do not notice the way the sun glints off the roof of our neighbor’s house in the frosted morning. We spend time in our own head, with our to do list running fast and furious, and do not hear the new indie music in the back ground at the coffee shop with the unique sound. We sit down to rest, but use substances to finish the relaxation piece we can’t seem to figure out on our own. Instead of finding peace in the quiet we listen to the judgmental commentary lashing out in our heads. To find inspiration we can act on, we must slow down and notice. Follow the practice below to begin the process of noticing, slowing down, and engaging with your environment to find what inspires you.
Take a deep breath
Take another one
Notice the feeling of your feet on the ground …
The other points of contact your body has …
Take another deep breath
Close your eyes and listen …
Keep them closed and feel – what does your skin pick up? …
Open your eyes and notice what draws your attention …
Refrain from judgment, just notice
See if you can find something beautiful in your surroundings …
Then get curious about it, look, listen, feel deeper into the experience of noticing it …
Breathe and repeat
When you feel complete, breathe and wiggle your fingers and your toes. Begin to bring your awareness to your outer body and allow information to come to you, just being aware of your surroundings. Determine if you need to journal about what you found, what inspired you, where your attention was drawn. Maybe you need to draw, move, make a sound. Do whatever feels right to solidify your learning. When you feel ready move on, do the next step of your day.
Do this everyday, more than a few times. Take 2 minutes and notice what is around you. You’ll start to see patterns in what you like, what inspires you, and what brings peace to your moment. Notice why that item draws your attention, is it brighter, more colorful, more lyrical? What does your body feel like when you notice it? Breathe and pay deep attention to it.
From here, you can fill your surroundings with music, art, tactile items, that you find beautiful. Find Pinterest boards and blogs to check in with when you need a little inspiration. Then begin to build items, spaces, places that fit your goals. For example, if I need early morning motivation to workout, I am going to look at my Pinterest workout board to find inspiration. Suddenly my 5:45am spin class seems like a gift, not an interruption to my sleep, for I found inspiration and it created authentic motivation. Now I want to do the things I know help me be my best self. String enough of these moments together and your life becomes embodied inspiration.
And as always, if you are struggling you can schedule a 15 min Q&A appointment to see if it’s time to give yourself the gift of therapy. When else can you talk about yourself for an hour with someone trained to deeply listen to your core, not just the story you tell yourself.
Last time we discussed how getting out and being alone can help us “hear” ourselves talk. As we spend more time with ourselves we build a strong sense of self and deeper connection to the type of person we want to be.
As great as this sounds. It can be really, really, really, hard to develop your best self. Especially if you have trouble hearing your own voice over the loud, sometimes very loud voice of society. Last post, we looked at values and how to determine your value set. Now we’ll look at how to put the values you identified into action and create your next best self.
First, determine which values are your top priorities. These might be overarching themes that help guide you in a variety of places (i.e. be kind to all people) or they may be specific and help set you up for successful decision-making (i.e. family is important to me). Once you have the themes and/or specifics, making daily decisions to live your most authentic self gets easier. If your top value is be kind, you know you need to work on being kind to every person you encounter regardless of differences. If you view family as most important, any decision that takes you away from a family connection should be evaluated to determine if it moves you closer to your goal of deepening your connection to family members or moves you away from those connections. If it moves you away, you say no.
Next, take a solid look at your life. Are you doing things everyday to show that these are the most important values to you? Many people talk a great game about family, relationships, health, work, etc, however when you look at their lives they are not working out or eating healthy, spending time with friends when they say family matters most, watchingA LOT of TV instead of being present to their kids – you get the picture. Are you talking the talk AND walking the walk around what’s most important to you? If not it’s time to change things up in your daily routine.
As you take a hard look at your life, what habits and beliefs can you shed to move closer to your goals? Begin by writing down your daily routine. When you wake up what’s the 1st thing you do? Then the 2nd? 3rd? And so on. As you examine your routines in detail you will find there are places you can eliminate wasteful current behaviors and replace with those that get you where you want to go. If you find this overwhelming hire a therapist or a coach to help you step back from your daily grind and create the life you want, not just the one you were handed. Once you know what you want to do differently it’s time to set up practice.
According to Magen and DeLisser (2017) experiential learning (learning by doing) is an effective way to to learn. The environment that set up practice in their program helped trainees learn skills in a safe, comfortable environment. Practice looks different for different folks. You might need to break your new behavior into small steps and practice the small steps until they become routine; only then move to the next step in the process. Other changes will require you tackle a bigger project and dedicate some time and space to trying out your new behavior in a variety of environments to find success. As you look toward behavior change, recognize it’s hard and possible. With some planning and support you can become whatever you want to be, do whatever you want to do, and grow into your best self.
Once you’ve set your new behaviors in motion you have to assess along the way. Is your new behavior working? Impacting your life the way you want it to? Adding value and authenticity to your living? Cutrer et al., (2017) state “individuals learn and innovate in response to practice challenges”, (pg 70) and report reflection and self assessment are a critical pieces to help move from those uncomfortable places of new behavior change to integrating new skills until they become second nature. Through self assessment we can acknowledge what is working and what isn’t, making micro changes to study the experience of trying new things, and adjusting until it’s just the way we want it … at least until we decide we want the next change.
Finally, you have changed to the point of being a different person in the environments you wanted to shift. You have aligned your new behaviors with the values you determined matter to you most, and have enlisted reflection and assessment to help you make small shifts until it was exactly what you wanted.
Now, some advice for along the way. Making changes can be hard. Really hard. It may impact the way friends and family relate to you and/or how you relate to them and activities you used to do together. In my work, I often work with people who are struggling to change while those in their environments aren’t helpful. In fact, they may even encounter people they love sabotaging their efforts. Often this isn’t malicious, just a response to the fact that as you change you impact those around you, and they may not want to change. They may like the patterns you’ve set and feel threatened by your personal development. Your development may require that they become more responsible for things around the house or in your relationship, or it may require they release some control. There are all sorts of ways we impact each other and ways to work with change to make the bumps easier. If you feel overwhelmed by this idea, get some support. A good friend who believes in you, a therapist, a support group, a coach, a personal trainer, a nutritionist, a health coach can all be options. Check out this previous poston behavior change and setting realistic goalsto help focus your efforts.
So as you look through your values list and contemplate your next steps, it’s important to evaluate a few things. What makes them so important to you? Are these values yours? Not initiated by an outside source (i.e. person, group, etc), but really yours? This step is important as you begin to determine life changes. You’ll need to understand why these values matter to you. Your why keeps you motivated and buoys the hard times during the change process you’ll inevitably face. Once you have your why and know the changes needed to align your life with your values list, you’ll be able to put into place daily practices and rituals that help you meet your authentic self right where she belongs… with you at all times.
Cutrer, W. B., Miller, B., Pusic, M. V., Mejicano, G., Mangrulkar, R. S., Gruppen, L. D., … Moore, D. E. (2017). Fostering the development of master adaptive learners: A conceptual model to guide skill acquisition in medical education. Academic Medicine, 92(1), 70-75.
Magen, E., DeLisser, H. M. (2017). Best practices in relational skills training for medical trainees and providers: An essential element of addressing adverse childhood experiences and promoting resilience. Academic Pediatrics, 17(7S), S102-S107.