The nature of my counseling practice is talking about changes clients want to make in their lives. Some of the most frequent frustrations I hear are, “I’m too old to change. It’s too hard. Why should I be the one to change when they’re the problem?” Weary voices object, “Take me or leave me as I am.”
I hear that voice in my head, too. Then I have to ask, “How’s that working?”
Change doesn’t always happen the way we hope. Sometimes it’s so slooooow. And even when we do change for the better, it is not always appreciated, much less acknowledged. Ugh! For the people pleaser, not getting approval for making positive changes is practically a deal breaker.
When we feel like our life is diminishing, remember a strong and beautiful finish is within reach. With our lifetime of experiences, now is the time to transform into our best self.
We’ve been created with incredible value. Sometimes the change we are seeking is actually a return to who we were born to be: worthy and wonderful.
Where Does Your Change Actually Begin?
Changing your behavior, as instructed in a million self-help books and YouTube videos, is not where change begins. It starts inside the most vulnerable part of your head, heart, and soul with these three questions:
Have You Accepted That You’re the One That Needs to Change?
Change starts with some honest and sometimes painful confessions in the privacy and safety of your own mind. One woman admits she’s been pushing her family away. Another cries that old friends seem to avoid her now. Jobs are lost. Opportunities are denied. Many people feel sad or angrier than ever before.
It’s hard work to admit that you’re the one that needs to change. Sometimes we can’t get to this kind of insight alone. We all need a loving friend or therapist to guide us (not tell us) toward these conclusions.
Do You Believe You’re Capable of Changing?
Look for times when you’ve successfully changed in your past. Life is not one monumental conversion that the world can point to and say, “WOW, look at her now!” It is usually the accumulation of incremental “change-steps” that are barely noticeable by themselves.
Has something like this happened to you? Someone I hadn’t heard from since 1990 sent me a Facebook message which started with the question, “Hey Chris, are you still the stubborn, ambitious woman I once knew?”
I immediately felt a little embarrassed. Thirty years ago, insecure and defensive, I was a “me-first,” do-whatever-it-took-to-get-ahead kind of woman, professionally and personally. Clearly, he thought I was still the same person.
Thank God with a lot of love (and therapy) I barely resemble that unhappy woman. My transformation came slowly but continually. Now I have a constant reminder that I am able, if willing, to change, instead of waiting for my circumstances and the people around me to change.
Are You Focusing on the Wrong Side of Change?
Before we put change into action, we have to really want it. If we don’t want it, we won’t get it. We have to warm up to change until just the thought of it burns into a bright and fortifying flame. How brilliant do you want to be? Do you want to burn better and brighter? If you answer yes, then read on.
Rather than focusing on the end result or payoff of change, focus on the initial reason your heart and soul are inspiring your transformation. Sure, being 20 pounds thinner, having better relationships, and being less afraid are worthwhile pursuits.
But the brass ring itself, no matter how strong its lure, is not enough to create and sustain change. And changing behavior for the sake of better behavior is just an exhausting act of discipline and hard to maintain.
How Do You Know You Need to Change?
The real change factor is in the internal wiring of your heart and soul. You’ll know you need to rewire how you navigate life if:
- Your need for approval and your avoidance of conflict smother your desire to change.
- You struggle with unworthiness and believe you don’t deserve a better life.
- You feel like a predictable – though painful – life is better than an exhausting and unpredictable fresh start.
- You are stuck in a comfortable and ordinary life, unable or unwilling to risk it all for what’s extraordinary.
These are heavy issues to deal with. But you must begin to unwrap them, even a little, so that nothing holds you back from launching your sustainable change. This is the key to lasting transformation.
We can change a little more every day. Change, really changing forever, means opening our hearts to let go of habits that were protecting us from getting hurt. Change isn’t about protecting our self. It’s about connecting with the better self we are meant to be.
How often do you evaluate your personal strengths and weaknesses? Have you ever considered that you might need to change to move on in your life? What’s been stopping you? Please share your thoughts and let’s have a conversation!