Have you ever hit a wall in life and felt like it was time to change because what you’re doing just isn’t working? Have you been nursing a secret hope or dream and feel ready to pursue it? Or maybe you just want to feel better about yourself.
If you’re at the point of being “sick and tired of being sick and tired” of the same old patterns of behavior, don’t give up. Change is possible. Changing yourself can be simple, but it’s not an easy path. It requires commitment and hard work, just like any practice. To do it effectively, you’ll need a few key ingredients:
How badly do you want things to be different? We may say we’re ready to change, but then we continue our same behaviors and hit the same brick wall over and over again. Sometimes, we have to be in tremendous pain before we decide we really want to change. If you’re pretty comfortable with the same old, same old, it’ll be harder to get to the next ingredient – motivation.
What’s driving your desire to change? Do you want something or someone in your life? Are you angry, jealous, envious, vengeful? Do you feel terrible about yourself and just want to feel better? Are you wrought with worry and simply seek peace of mind? Have you chosen a life of security but really want to go for your dreams? The motivation must be strong to support sustained change, because to make it happen, we have to be persistent and committed – which requires discipline.
Many of us say we want to change, but we don’t know how. We can’t just keep doing the same things we’ve always done, we need new ideas to replace old habits. What we need is a way – a structure, a discipline, a program, a method, a set of principles – that gives us tools to practice change with. Methods might include religion, therapy, 12-step groups, and myriad self-help schools of thought. It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as it helps you continuously dig deep and replace unhealthy behavior with something that feels better.
This ingredient is somewhat indefinable when it comes to personal change. Dorothy Bernard says, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” Changing who we are and how we do things can stir up tremendous amounts of fear. “Who am I if not who I’ve always been? Will others accept me if I start doing things differently? If I stop doing [fill in the blank], what will be left in its place?” To replace our negative patterns with new behaviors takes a willingness to walk through such fears, and to take a leap of faith in ourselves.
It’s very difficult to make change happen by yourself. The support of friends, family, or those going through the same struggles is invaluable and nearly essential. Change doesn’t happen overnight, so having companions along the long road makes it more enjoyable, and they often contribute new ideas and energy that keep us going.
An example: I recently decided to lose weight, and used a well-known method for several months with no significant results. Part of the problem was that I was doing it alone without going to the program meetings. A friend joined me in the diet, and together we identified some of the ways we could eat less and healthier, add more exercise, and support each other in the effort. Since then, I’ve steadily lost weight, and I continue to check in with my friend regularly for encouragement.
Have you changed your life? What helped you the most?