9 Steps to Starting Something New: Making Change Happen

Ready for spring and something new? It’s time to change! Let go of old habits no longer serving you and create new habits to move your life toward the goals you want today.

As spring equinox takes us by storm this week and ushers in the season of new beginnings, I thought it fitting to talk about creating new beginnings for ourselves. In many spiritual traditions, this is the season where rituals focus on creating something new in one’s life. In many practices this is the time of renewal, rebirth, and new growth following a time of reflection and rest. 

As we move toward the culmination of the reflection period we emerge from a period of challenge to slingshot into something new and better. We have faced our demons and recommitted to our journey to become the best version of ourselves. These concepts are observed in religious traditions (lent, fasting, giving up), fairy tales (the quest), philosophy (the hero’s journey), and nature (winter). This week, where will you be challenging yourself and what will you be giving up in effort to spring forward into something new and better for yourself?

Change is hard. If it was not we’d be making a lot more changes in our lives on a more regular basis. However to build new habits we must be conscious that we want to change. We must reflect accurately on our lives and determine what is working and what is not working for us. We must be willing to observe our own patterns and challenge our own beliefs. This is not easy. It is hard to consider what I may be doing that is not helping me and it is hard to change a habit. According to Lally and Gardner (2013) “when designing behaviour change interventions, it is important to focus both on disrupting existing undesirable habits and developing new desirable habits” (p. 16). This means it is important to determine what you want to let go of and then figure out a way to disrupt it in your daily life. Then you must figure out what you do want and figure out a way to anchor it into your routine. 

Disrupting Old Habits

Let’s start with disrupting an old habit. Habits are different than goal directed behaviors. Whereas goal directed behavior happens with consciousness and effort, habits are behaviors that have become somewhat automatic in your life. You often do not think about them, they are just the way you go about doing things. 

For example, you come home from work and have a glass of wine everyday. For some they do not pay much attention to this habit it is just something they have been doing for a long time. The glass of wine is anchored to coming home from work. Another example is overeating. Often the person is not paying attention to how much they are actually eating. They overfill a plate or grab the full bag of chips and eat it while distracted by the TV. They reach for a soda or candy bar to give a quick burst of energy but do not notice that they did not really need the whole thing, they just finish it because it is there sitting on the desk or as a familiar option in the vending machine. Again, examination of the environment in which the behavior is done will reveal anchors and help disrupt the process of habit completion. 

As you disrupt the anchor part of the habit, what you are really doing is disrupting the environment. This is a key factor in changing behaviors. By disrupting the environment you change the way your anchors are engaging you in routine behaviors. This is a very effective way to break a habit. To start, track your habit. Behavior research shows us the power of tracking. Just the act of tracking a behavior can change it. Tracking brings awareness and opportunities to reflect upon what is working and what is not from an objective point of view. 

Ask yourself these questions as you track:

  • What is happening right before you do it? 
  • What happens right after? 
  • How do you feel when you want to do it? 
  • How do you feel when you are in process of doing it? 
  • What does it feel like when you have completed it? 
  • Who were you with? 
  • Who did you want to be with? 
  • Where were you? 

The answer to these questions offer examples of places you can make a change in your internal and external environments. For some, disruptions of the environment may look like taking another way home so you do not pass the liquor store or bar you like to hang with your friends. It could be finding new places to eat so you are not habitually ordering the same thing off the menu. Or it could look like changing communities or homes. 

Creating New Habits

On the other hand once we take away an old habit we need to replace it with something else. We call this a redirection or attention shift. It helps us maneuver change by giving us something else to focus on. As you consider the answers to the questions above you begin to see places you can change your environment, now look at them to see what else would work in those instances. For example, you might find that coming home from work to a glass of wine is about connecting to your partner and slowing down. Can you create a ritual that helps you meet those two needs without the wine involved? Of course you can, it just takes time and repetition. 

Building new habits is about consciously changing our behaviors and then repeating them so we build the neuro-pathways for the new behavior. This can be difficult as we often have habits paired with anchors as noted above. When the anchor behavior happens we automatically do the routine habit. We might forget to do the new habit and feel defeated as a result so we give up easily. However the more we go through the process of deciding to change and working to change, even when we fail, we are shifting our neural structures toward our goals. There are two ways we can help ourselves remember to complete the new habit: 1) create an action plan and 2) create a coping plan. 

In the action plan walk yourself through the new habit, the corresponding behavior anchors, the feelings you will have as a result of successfully implementing the new habit, and visualize yourself completing it. It is as simple as writing out your new habit step by step. This creates a play by play plan to create the new habit in your life and obtain its automatic status in your routine. As part of the action plan create implementation intention. Research points to using if – then implementation intentions (Lally & Gardner, 2013) as a way to help guide you through the steps needed to complete the new habit in your routines. If X happens I will do Y. This gives you planning and options for dealing with real life situations. In the end, by creating an action plan you are helping yourself visualize and mentally walk through necessary steps to make your new habit a success. 

Coping plans offer a little more flexibility. They ask you to create a plan to deal with obstacles that are going to arise on your path to creating a new habit and breaking the old one. They offer the opportunity to think through difficult steps on the journey to creating new habits by reflecting on what could derail you. In the coping plan we often list all the obstacles we can think of and create options to get around them. Say you want to quit drinking but are not sure how to handle social situations. We would review possible scenarios and come up with ideas and ways you can manage your behavior in them with success toward your goal. 

As in disrupting a habit by changing or redirecting the anchor behavior, you can use anchors to help you create new habits. A example is working out. The alarm goes off in the morning and the person gets up, changes into workout clothing, and puts on running shoes. They head out to run. Changing of clothing and putting on running shoes is anchored to the alarm going off and getting out of bed. When creating a new habit it is best to anchor the new habit to follow one that is solid in your routine. You do not want to be crafting 2 new habits. Using something you do everyday – like get out of bed, go to bed, go to the bathroom, eat meals, etc can be very helpful making the new one successful. 

Finally, you have to consider motivation. Motivation comes from inspiration. In the beginning we are all motivated for new habit formation. We get excited and make plans, offer ourselves rewards, and share our success and struggle, but a month in, 2 months in, a year into a long habit change and we often struggle to maintain motivation, which will kill a new habit faster than you can blink. The trick is to manage your inspiration. Everyday, look at your vision board, find interesting photos on Pinterest, youtube videos, or discuss your goals with friends. It is important to socialize your changes for accountability and to find intrinsic motivation to help you stay connected to the reasons you are working so hard to change. External rewards – prizes, new stuff, accolades – work for a bit, but if you do not find the internal pride, pleasure, and strength to stay on the path, your motivation will wane. Once it is gone so is the hard work of getting the change to happen. 

The down and dirty on change:

To disrupt a habit you want to break:

  1. Track and figure out your patterns and anchors
  2. Change your environment
  3. Find new ways to focus and shift your attention
  4. Replace the old habit with something new

To create a new habit:

  1. Create an action plan
  2. Create a coping plan
  3. Determine your why – why is this so important to you now
  4. Find daily inspiration to maintain motivation
  5. Anchor new behavior to an activity you are already doing regularly

References:

Lally, P., & Gardner, B. (2013). Promoting habit formation. Health Psychology Review, 7:sup1, S137-S158. DOI: 10.1080/17437199.2011.603640

Crazy … Reclaim It

The word crazy gets thrown around as a derogatory word to put people down. To distinguish the differences between us, to keep people in their place. Reclaim it and let your greatness shine.

In my work the word crazy does not appear in the DSM 5, nor any other versions. It is not a clinical term and it is not about mental illness.

It is a word people have used to keep people from stepping outside the box and challenging the status quo. It is about keeping people down and maintaining power dynamics that hurt many and support a few. It is a word often used to describe women when they do not fit the norms society prefers they stick to.

Today, let your essence speak. Let it guide you to be the greatest version of you. Let yourself slow down enough to listen to your deepest desires and then go get them. Today be authentically and unapologetically you!

Luck vs Intention … which one wins

Some people just seem lucky. They seem to have everything we want and then some. We wonder why they have such ease and what makes them special.  But is is luck or intention? 

A client of mine told me “luck is just opportunity meeting preparation”, which is a statement about luck that I love. I like this one because so many chalk things up to luck and leave themselves completely powerless in the determination of their lives. I see this a lot in addictive patterns as well as those caught in cycles of trauma, abuse, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and bipolar episodes. They feel powerless over their circumstances, unlucky, and therefore stuck. What if it is not luck? What if it is intention and planning that make the difference?

To move into this paradigm one must be willing to take some responsibility for their current situation. This is very difficult to do when you feel someone has “done this to you” or “the world is cruel” or “my body/mind continue to fail me”.  However, even in these circumstances we have choices. We always have choices. The problem many face … they do not like any of their choices. To combat not liking or accepting what they have to chose from, they make no choice or a choice by habit. This results in feeling powerless and unlucky or fortunate and lucky depending on the outcome of today’s choice. When this becomes ritual it begins to feel even more random and uncontrollable leading to less empowerment and belief in one’s ability to manifest the changes they want to see in their lives. 

Intention:

In the business, self development, and leadership worlds intention is a very powerful and necessary thing to get you to the goal you want. It is talked about, developed, and cultivated as a core skill needed to succeed. You must decide, visualize, see, and believe that you will have what you want. Once you have those pieces in place, opportunities and options for how you will get them begin to appear. It is not that they magically arrived in your life. It is that by making the decision to go after a goal, you begin to realize the choices and opportunities in front of you – they were always in front of you, you just couldn’t see them because you were focused on what was missing, what you couldn’t do, what was wrong, etc. You find what you are looking for. Remember the blue car exercise a few months ago? This simple exercise shows us that where we put our attention matters. We begin to notice more of what we are thinking about – aka paying attention to. 

We can use this trick to be deliberate about our lives no matter what our current circumstances. A quick google search reveals that advertisers really understand how to get us to focus our intentions and they make millions watching us behave just how they wanted us to.

Although intention may feel like a whoo whoo concept of abstract nothingness, it is actually physical movement. Your thought becomes an action by activating areas of the brain associated with movement. According to Lau, Rogers, Haggard, and Passingham “intention is central to voluntary action” (p. 1208) and “our results suggest that attention to intention may be one mechanism by which effective conscious control of actions becomes possible” (2004, p. 1210) Knowing that intention is a physical process in the brain we can ground into the knowledge that as we think about things we also create a physical reaction in the body. This physical reaction sets into motion a variety of processes that help us realize and notice the right opportunities to making our thought reality. 

Today try it out. Shift your focus from the idea that life happens to you and begin to set intentions about how you want your day to look. Start with small things and begin to notice how your mind and body react to the focal points you have created. Begin to pay attention to how those around you react to your new focus. Keep a journal or list of the changes you are noticing just by thinking about and visualizing your day differently – the one you want to have, not just the one you were handed. 

eMeals
Be intentional about your food

Take Control of Your Intentions:

Here are some areas to focus on to get you started. Remember change begins with you and happens best in small increments. As you shift your focus today, visualize how you would like to feel by engaging in your day. For example you might want to have a smoother morning routine, get to work on time, complete a work project with ease, want an appointment to go well, to treat another with grace, or enjoy your household chores. In your mind’s eye see yourself successfully complete your goal and allow yourself to feel the emotions associated with being successful. Feel them fully as you do the visualization. 

5 Places you can get started now: 

  1. Find one you find beautiful around you right now
  2. Set the intention to treat others with kindness today
  3. Decide to smile at everyone you meet
  4. Allow yourself to feel love as you cook a meal 
  5. Give gratitude for the things in your home that make you comfortable

Reference:

Lau, H. C., Rogers, R. D., Haggard, P., Passingham. (2004). Attention to Intention. Science 303, DOI: 10.1126/science.1090973


Poetry … The Language of the Spirit.

I love poetry. For years I have written it and read it. I love to hear people read it … find it tucked in strange spots throughout a novel, open mic night, or in corners of the library. I love poetry as art. Poetry is a large part of how I find, feel, and express my spirituality. Here’s a good one by one of my favorite poets: Hafiz, The Great Sufi Master. Enjoy.

When

The words stop

And you can endure the silence

That reveals your heart’s

Pain

Of emptiness

Or that great wrenching-sweet longing,

That is the time to try and listen

To what the Beloved’s

Eyes

Most want

To

Say.

Hafiz, The Great Sufi Master

It Takes Courage to Be a Good Leader.

Not only were the leaders who belittled, micromanaged, berated, and bullied rated the least effective, so were those who would not address the conflicts, take the challenge, or stand up for their teams.

Good leaders are not only kind, compassionate, visionary, and willing to do hard work. They also demonstrate courage and accept challenge. They understand the limits and weaknesses of their team and work to get around them. They problem solve well and play to the strengths of each team member, thus balancing out their team skills.

In addition, they address conflict directly, they can say no effectively, and they call out social loafers in kind ways to decrease the possibility of shame and shut down.

Today look at the places you lead in your life. Are you kind, compassionate, and courageous?

Find Your Flow

Flow is so important to our mental health. Finding your flow doesn’t have to be hard, you just have to be open to building options into your daily schedule.

What will you do today to find your flow? Flow helps us tap into the larger field and creatively access information, ideas, and options for living our best life.

Often we find flow when we participate in projects that challenge us but are something we feel engaged in and enjoy doing. Can you think of anything you can do today to help yourself find flow? It doesn’t have to be anything big.

Claudia and I taking a break.

I am planning to hit the mountain, ride my board with a good friend, and enjoy the morning looking at beautiful views. After than I will be ready to tackle the administrative parts of my job I really don’t like! I am looking forward to tackling those tasks after a morning of blissed out flow!

Happy Solstice!

May the light return in your life. Enjoying the end of a great day contemplating the light and dark aspects of our world, the balance between them, and the need for both. I love this time of year and am sad to see the dark begin to recede. What a beautiful night to enjoy the light of the fire and the light of the full moon. The light always returns in more ways than one.

If you are looking for support in early recovery … DO This!!!!

Dear Stacy,

This Monday night, December 17th at 5:00pm PT, I will present an R20 Live Session for anyone stuck in active addiction, all those who are relatively young in recovery and those who have experienced relapse.  

It is one of our my core philosophies that different people need different things at different times.  People in early recovery have specific needs and I would like to address these from the Recovery 2.0 perspective.

Due to the critical nature of this subject matter, this talk will be open to the entire Recovery 2.0 Community, not just members.

If you are not yet a member, hopefully you will join us and become a part of our community and our year-round activities, gatherings and work together.

R20 Session of the Week
Topic: Navigating Early Recovery and Relapse

Presenter: Tommy Rosen
When:
 Dec 17, 2018 5:00pm PT
Join by Computer
Join by Phone:  
+1 646 558 8656  | Webinar ID: 989 664 609

I look forward to seeing you there.

With Love and Gratitude, 

Tommy Rosen 

#SoloAdventures: Why being alone is important for our society. 

I was talking with my daughter as she came back from a camping trip with friends. I asked her what she learned about her self and others on this trip off grid. She said “I learned that there’s times I need to be alone. When I’m alone I am able to find my values and myself”. I thought this was a pretty brilliant answer for a 15 year old who struggles to find her own voice in an age of intense peer pressure.

When I asked her what she thought her values were, she didn’t have a good answer. She said “that’s why I need to be alone, I need time to think about what kind of person I want to be and what’s important to me so I can be the best version of me”. Pretty … damn … smart.

I started thinking, regardless of our age, we struggle to determine the people we want to be. We often struggle to find ourselves in the face of change and our voice gets buried in the load roar of society’s voice. That’s why being alone is so important. You need time to reflect and contemplate what you want in your life, who you want to be.

When you find yourself on solo adventures you only rely on you. You are only doing things you want to do, eating where you want to eat, and exploring what you want to explore. You do not listen to anyone else’s voice, hear anyone else’s opinion, or deal with anyone else’s expectations. When you solo adventure you have to rely on yourself and find your own strength to navigate, to get around, to figure out timing, and make decisions. 

This is no easy feat, in our world there are so many choices in every moment it’s often safer to stay between black and white, right and wrong, good and bad. When we don’t know ourselves well and have a strong identification with our personal values, it’s safer to adopt values based on someone else’s voice. It’s easier to let someone else tell us what we should and should not do, who we should like, what we should like, what we should eat, how we should move, when we should go to sleep, what we should read, the list goes on. It’s also a bit of a cop out. If things go wrong or don’t turn out as we expected it’s not our fault we were just following what we were taught. Solo adventuring allows you the opportunity to find out what your own values are and then live your authentic truth. 

I know this is a commercial … but I like all the different places it shows. I do not know about this company. I just liked the video. 🙂

Finding values is hard. There’s great freedom and responsibility in value choices. If you haven’t given your values a thought in a while, now might be a great time to take a value inventory determine what it is that matters most to you. From here you can look at your day to determine if you are living up to your values. So many of us give great lip service to values, but we don’t really live by them. We say we care about our health while tanking it with our food choices, say we care about being present while using substances to alter our state whenever we are with good friends decreasing our ability to be fully present to them. We say we want to move more, while driving around looking for the closest parking spot. If you haven’t spent some time soloing – it might be time to book yourself some alone time and reflect on how well you’ve been living up to the person you say you want to be. 

If you haven’t thought about your values in a while check out this values inventory to help you get started. This is a great place to start. It’s important to check in on your values every so often. The person you want to be today, may not be the same person you were 2 years ago, 5, 10 years ago. Solo adventuring offers an opportunity to take space and develop a relationship with yourself. 

728x90gif

When you have a strong self-relationship, you know who you are – deep down know who you are. You know you are not trying to fit yourself into someone else’s category. You have an understanding of what’s important to you. Once you have clarity, you have an opportunity to practice skills that move you toward the person you want to be every day (more on this in the next post). Other people’s voices no longer crowd your mind, you know what to do to live your most fulfilling life.

This is an amazing gift to the rest of us. When you live your most authentic self, the rest of us are free to live our authentic lives. We all get an opportunity to bring our gifts to the world and be valued for them. Ahhh, isn’t that what it’s all about in the end?

To all my running friends and all my non-running friends – this is an inspiring podcast on creating the life you want using movement to express yourself, calm, and connect. It happens to be focused on running, however you could substitute all sorts of physical activity.

The big take away for me was – Remember to use your body as your spiritual source. Get embodied in your activities and experience them deeply and thoroughly. This is the place of being Alive.

Enjoy.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/on-being-with-krista-tippett/id150892556?mt=2&i=1000389624423