Contrary to a widely held belief that people do not change, I submit that people often change dramatically in life-altering ways. I say this with complete confidence as I have witnessed it happen repeatedly. Creating positive change in your life is possible. You can change yourself and, thereby, your life.
It will happen when you are fully committed to making changes in your life. That commitment, based on a deep desire for growth, is half the journey. Once you have made that choice with total awareness and honesty of your present reality, you are free to move forward towards a better or even new you.
The one constant in this universe is changing. Everything that exists is in a state of change. Ask any quantum physicist. As part of the universe, we are part of that change cycle. The experiences you have today will impact you in such a way that you will awaken tomorrow changed in some way. Once you have hit your forties or fifties, the kid you were in your twenties is pretty much gone, and a wiser you are standing.
Change is desired on several levels. We might be looking for more effective leaders or managers to increase productivity in business. That might entail changing how we deal with people by improving our motivation and communication skills. Change might mean a new career, lifestyle or relationship. It might mean building more confidence and self-esteem or learning to be less aggressive.
Change involves inner work before outer work can begin. That is always the case. According to Albert Einstein, the significant issues we face cannot be resolved at the same level of reasoning that led to their inception. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, written by Steven Covey and widely praised, emphasizes the idea that change and inner work must come first.
The inside-out approach to change means starting first with self; even more fundamental, starting with the most inside part of self – with your paradigms, character and motives.
So, if the change is to happen and if it is to last, we must acknowledge that we must look at who we are now and who we want to be in the future. We must be honest with ourselves and recognize reality as it exists, not as we think it should or could be. We need to develop a high level of awareness and clarity about everything we do, as our subconscious often tends to run the show and not us. Most importantly, we need to take full responsibility for our lives and not place the blame elsewhere. That also involves giving up the need to control things except, of course, yourself. Until you are willing to do this kind of work, change will not occur, at least not enduring change.
Where are you feeling dissatisfied? Where are you noticing dissonance in your life? Where are you feeling stuck? Identify the issues. Now, recognize exactly where you are and then consider where you would like to be in the future if everything were running smoothly. Consider what a highly motivated and successful sales team would look like if your sales team is not performing up to budget and you are having difficulty inspiring them towards success. Consider what your role would be in achieving that goal. Who would you be? How would you function? How would you feel? The gap between where you are now and where you want to be is where the work will be done.
In Life Coaching, we find that your ability to succeed at your job highly depends on whether your values and passions align with your job and its requirements. After some serious inquiry, you might discover what is called for in motivating your sales team. Say it will consist of more patience, enthusiasm, nurturing, and a team atmosphere. Are these the kind of things that hold value for you? If not, you will be unable to be effective.
Do the important inner work of discovering who you are now, what matters to you, what you are passionate about and what you place value on. Are these things showing up for you in your everyday life? If not, there is sure to be dissonance.
If being successful in your work is of great value to you, then what are you willing to do and not to do to be a success? Are you willing to make the necessary changes in how you are being? Are you willing to try something different? Are the things you need to do aligned with your values and passions? What are you willing to say yes to, and even more important, what are you willing to say no to?
Awareness, as mentioned, is of utmost concern when effecting change. When we live in a state of true awareness wherein we are truly conscious of our actions, we can free ourselves from reactive, self-defeating behaviour and realize our personal best. Unfortunately, although we may think that we make conscious decisions, in reality, our unconscious mind often impacts our behaviour. When it does, our actions are not truly under our control. We can learn to recognize the unconscious, that part of our mind that has great power over much of our actions without us even being aware of its existence. In doing so, we can diminish its power over us.
For example, try simply noticing that voice inside your head that gets very chatty whenever you are about to make a decision, especially an important one that could result in change. Is it telling you that you’re nuts to consider what you are thinking of doing? Does it say that you failed once before and will probably do so again? We fail to understand that the voice is out to sabotage us. By noticing it, you will realize that this inner saboteur is at work; in the act of noticing, you begin to empower yourself to make conscious decisions that will result in positive and lasting changes in your life.
I have mentioned how changing reactive, self-defeating behaviour is key to realizing our personal best. What is reactive behaviour versus proactive behaviour? You are on the defensive when you react to life and its circumstances. You are not in control. Lifes circumstances dictate your behaviour versus being proactive and in control of your actions. There is a good chance that you are being activated unconsciously as well. Example: Your boss gives you what you consider to be a harsh criticism of your latest report. Your adrenaline rushes and a wave of angry indignation rolls over you. In that emotional state, you cannot hear what he or she has to say because you are already defending yourself. Your response to him is defensive and somewhat irrational.
You cannot control what he/she says, but you can control how you handle yourself. Therein lies the key to non-reactive behaviour: your ability to handle situations in ways that prove productive versus destructive. Stop and think. Pause. Get your heart rate back to the normal range. Without taking anything personally, was there anything in what he had to say that had merit? Is there some deep learning to be had, either from him or you? Could the perceived harshness perhaps have been amplified by your defensiveness?
Being proactive means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behaviour is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
Life will always be throwing things our way, much of it unpleasant and challenging. That’s life. We cannot control life, but we can control how we handle it. If we are aware and in tune with what is happening, we can learn not to add meaning to reality where no additional meaning is needed. For example, in the above incident, you may have reacted because you assumed your boss thought you were in the wrong and, therefore, not up to snuff. But that was just what you thought he meant. What you think he meant and said are often two very different entities. Perhaps all he meant was that your work could have been better, and he wanted to steer you in the right direction.
Often, adding meaning where there is none harkens back to childhood. Your Father was always highly critical, and you came to believe that this meant that you were a loser and wouldn’t amount to anything. That is the type of meaning a child creates in response to an unpleasant situation. What happened is that you had a highly critical father. Period. The most unfortunate part is that this type of reaction to criticism will often be carried into adulthood. Any time criticism is levelled at you, you respond with your childhood reaction: I am a loser. The ability to control reactive behaviour and see things for just what they are can make a world of difference in your life.
Finally, a word about perspective or attitude. How we view the world, or any situation will dictate our effectiveness and state of mind. Change your attitude, and you not only change the way you see things, but you will also change your reality. If you approach your work/life as tough, that perspective will trickle down into everything you do. Try a new perspective that will work according to your goals and desires.
Human beings can modify the exterior features of their existence by changing their interior attitudes.
William James/US Pragmatist philosopher & psychologist
Inner work means laying the foundation for a mindset that allows us to make lasting changes that will create a more meaningful, productive and happy life. Once the inner work is done, the outer changes will compound like bank interest. Your authenticity will shine, and people will be drawn to this new you. You will view everything that happens as an opportunity for growth, growth, and change. The work you do and its subsequent benefits will spread into all areas of your life, not just the ones you may have originally pinpointed. The vision you held of the will become your reality now.