Contrary to a widely held belief that people do not change, I submit to you that people do change and often in dramatic, life-altering ways. I say this with full confidence as I have witnessed it happen time and time again. Creating positive change in your life is totally possible. You can change yourself and thereby your life.
When you are fully committed to making changes in your life, it will happen. That commitment, based on a deep desire for growth, is half the journey. Once you have made that choice, one made with total awareness and a 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 change. Everything that exists is in a state of change. Ask any quantum physicist. As part of the universe, we are part of that cycle of change. 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 is standing.
Change is desired on a number of levels. In business we might be looking to be a more effective leader or manager in order to increase productivity. 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 how to be less aggressive.
Change involves inner work before the outer work can begin. That is always the case. As Albert Einstein said, “ The significant problems we face cannot be solved on the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” Steven Covey, in his critically acclaimed book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, stresses the concept of inner work before outer work or change:
“The inside-out approach to change means to start first with self; even more fundamental, to start with the most inside part of self – with your paradigms, your character and your motives.”
So, if change is to happen and if it is to last, we need to acknowledge that we must take a look at who we are now and who we want to be in the future. We will have to be honest with ourselves and recognize reality as it exists and not as we think it should or could be. We need to develop a high level of awareness and clarity about everything that we do as all too often, our subconscious 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? If for instance, your sales team is not performing up to budget and you are having a difficult time motivating them towards success, consider what a sales team that is highly motivated and successful would look like. 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 is highly dependent on whether your values and passions are in alignment with your job and it’s requirements. After some serious inquiry, you might discover the things that are called for in motivating your sales team. Say it will consist of more patience, more enthusiasm, more nurturing and more of 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 in order 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 are living our lives in a state of true awareness wherein we are truly conscious of our actions, we can free ourselves from reactive, self-defeating behavior and realize our personal best. Unfortunately, although we may think that we make conscious decisions, in reality our unconscious mind often impacts our behavior and 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.
As an 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. Just 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 truly conscious decisions that will result in positive and lasting changes in your life.
I have mentioned how changing reactive, self-defeating behavior is key to realizing our personal best. What is reactive behavior versus proactive behavior? When you are reacting to life and it’s circumstances you are on the defensive. You are not in control. Life’s circumstances are dictating your behavior and actions versus your 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 are unable to actually 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 had to say but you can control how you handle yourself. Therein lies the key to non-reactive behavior: 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 sort of 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 behavior 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 really aware and in tune with what is happening, we can learn not to add meaning to reality where there is no additional meaning 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 what he 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 really 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 adult hood and anytime criticism is leveled at you, you respond with your childhood reaction: I am a loser. The ability to control reactive behavior 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 given situation will dictate our effectiveness and our state of mind. Change your attitude and you not only change the way you see things, you will change your reality. If you approach your work/life as being tough, that perspective will trickle down into everything you do. Try a new perspective on, one that will work in accordance with your goals and desires.
“Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”
William James/US Pragmatist philosopher & psychologist
Inner work means that we are 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 and grow and change you will. The work you do and its subsequent benefits will spread into all areas of your life, not just the ones that you may have originally pinpointed. The vision you held of the will become your reality now.