We always want change to happen quickly, easily, and without pain. However, the truth of the matter is that change is never as simple or forgiving as you might expect. In order to navigate it without crashing and burning as you struggle, understanding how change does and doesn’t work can make a significant difference in your quest.
The Rules for Change
The following ten simple (but not easy) rules will help you make meaningful and impactful changes in your life. Each person must adapt the lessons to the unique circumstances of their lives, so your mileage may vary.
Be Brutally Honest with Yourself
Being defensive or finding excuses for action rarely work. Your resistance actually contributes to the problems you’re facing; instead, accept the problem with unrelenting honesty, no matter how uncomfortable this makes you feel.
Why this works: You’re more likely to clearly identify the real problem you’re facing rather than be fooled by solving what in reality may be a red herring.
Accept Things as They Are
You can’t control the situation you’re in, no matter how many resources are at your disposal. This doesn’t mean that you can’t respond to it, but above all else, don’t fight it! This is just the way it is.
Why this works: The energy you put into your disappointment and despair can be used instead to help fight your battles.
Don’t Tense Up
Don’t tense with it. if you panic or try to rush things, you are guaranteeing that will sink! Use what you have learned to be able to relax.
Why this works: When we tense up, we literally become inflexible and are more likely to break when we encounter resistance.
Don’t be impatient to “get it over with”! This is the hardest rule of all. If you find that you are running away from some hard truths about your situation, chances are that all your hard work will fail. Slow down and stop all of the busywork so that you can just sit with your discomfort. The more you push, the worse it will be!
Why this works: You’re more likely to solve the real problem rather than rush off chasing something that “looks” or “feels” right. This is similar to Rule #1 above, but with finesse.
The Irony of Giving up Control
You have to give up control in order to gain it! The more you try to control your situation, to be perfect, or to “solve it,” the less control you end up having.
Why this works: Our problems are more likely to be solved if we manage them rather than “cure” them. Plus, the energy we put into controlling things ends up leaving us drained and discarded. Instead, use the energy to flow with the problem rather than resisting it.
Relapse is not Necessarily a Failure
The truth about change is that any progress you make will go up and down. You will regress at times. This is to be expected. Use it as a learning experience. Pay attention to what your experiences have told you about how to handle it the next time. Don’t get upset if (and when) you slip up. Most of us do !
Why this works: What worked for you in the past may not necessarily work the next time around. Remember, perfection is an illusion.
You Become What You Fear
It is easier to focus on the negatives. Instead, work on focusing on the positives. We move towards what we expect and we become what we fear! If you fear a possible outcome, you are actually setting yourself up for this path.
Why this works: It’s the classic “Don’t think of a pink elephant” example. What you focus on sits in your subconscious and thus becomes more of a reality, not less.
Limit Your Vision
Live one step at a time. Take it one hour, day, or week at a time. Don’t worry about yesterday or focus on tomorrow. Just enjoy this moment (or day/hour).
Why this works: The human mind can’t juggle too many pieces of data, and you end up losing your focus.
Some Days May Seriously Suck
Realize that some days, or several days, may be terrible. Nothing may work. You will feel like giving up. Hang in there no matter what ! It takes time. Change is a process – not an event in time!
Why this works: By letting things take their time, you’re more likely to master what is likely to be a complicated task rather than “sort of” learn how to do it.
Don’t Try to be Perfect
Have the courage to be imperfect! You don’t have to do everything perfectly. We learn from our failures and mistakes, so we need these! Feel the fear and do it anyways.
Why this works: You’re less likely to spend the energy in beating yourself up and can instead use this energy towards focusing on real change.
What Blocks Change
Why is it so difficult to make changes in our lives? We all talk about it, and some of us will start work on it, but in the end we seem to get stuck in remaining the same. This happens even when we know that it would be best to make certain changes in our life. Why is this?
Change is Difficult
Part of this is we like what is familiar and tend to be fearful of anything that may be new. Change is very hard for us to handle because it makes us feel very uncomfortable, even when we are faced with the problems in our present ‘familiar’ life situation.
Change Takes Both Work and Time
Anything new is hard to learn as it seems to take too long to do before we find it becoming comfortable and second nature to us. We also want change to happen fast and we become impatient when it doesn’t happen fast. We are conditioned to want immediate solutions and answers even though real lasting change takes time and practice over and over again.
Change is Blocked by Old Habits
Sometimes we stick with our old habits because they are familiar to us. We do not want to be uncomfortable. For example, we find ourselves staying with others who are not the best people to be around as they have a negative influence on our lives. They are not good mentors who can help point us into improving our life’s, but they are familiar. So we stay in those relationships with friends, spouses, and others as we are use to being treated poorly. When we do leave it is not unusual for us to find other friends who are negative people who block growth in our personal lives.
Change can be Blocked by the Past
Change is blocked by past traumas, hurts and wounds which many of us have as we travel through life. As a result, we find ourselves stuck in a ‘flight or fight response’ where we either want to fight back or run away. Many times, these past hurts, traumas, neglect by others, are hard to admit as we even hide them from our conscious minds and self so we don’t feel them in our present life.
Change can be Blocked by Excuses
A traumatic way of responding becomes a way of living that is automatic and familiar, even if it leads to self-destruction in relationships and jobs. We develop a habit of excuses for not changing or growing. We develop get trapped in “yes, but” and other excuses for not ‘growing up’ and working the change over time. We are stuck in old messages, probably from childhood, for how we should be in life; imperfect and defective because of… whatever. Some may be true, but the majority of these issues are changeable with knowledge, work, giving it time.
We Have Mixed Feelings about Change
We believe that we can’t change basic things about ourselves. We like the familiar and they remind us of where we came from. We get stuck in our ambivalence (mixed feelings). Staying the same gives us a warped sense of control. This control gives us a sense of security and is many times based on our anger at others. So we would rather that ‘they change’ even in the face of the reality that we can’t change others.
How to Implement Change
So you’ve got the overall understanding of how change works and what keeps us stuck. Now comes the important part: Actually making the changes.
First, you need to admit to yourself, and to others, that you are stuck and don’t know how to change.
You need to ask for help (real help) and tell them that you need them to push you towards growth and personal change so you are not stuck. Talking for the sake of talking may make you feel good at the moment but that does not lead to helping your to really face your problems. You need to agree to have someone who can help guide and push you to a better life even if it feels hard. This person must be healthier than you or any of your present, or past, negative people in your life.
Admit that you are fearful and don’t know what to do. You will struggle to learn new things but this is all part of learning to be a better you. So you have to start to pretend, or act like, what the person is you want to be. You learn to act in a more positive way, to make positive decisions, and to keep moving toward the goal of how you should be in life: A normal, functioning person who isn’t running away from being a responsible adult.
You need to start writing down what goals you want to achieve to make you a better person. Also write a note to yourself that you don’t have to make changes fast or achieve all your goals at once. Change happens with one step at a time. Each day you should write down what you should and need to be doing in more positive ways to help continue to bring about change in your life.
You need to write out what traumas, fears, hurts and lack of knowledge you might know, or suspect, about that has been blocking you from growing into a healthy person. For example, if your early years were a time when you experienced neglect, abuse, and trauma, you need to start to guess what your ‘little self’ might have been experiencing and how they felt overwhelmed, fearful of getting close, and how this might have left your early childhood self afraid to love and want to grow in a positive way in relationships.
You should also write down those situations in the past when you felt safe and how you made yourself safe in those situations. Make sure to compliment the small child inside of you for doing what it could to help protect you while admitting that continuing to do that in the present may not be practical in you present adult life.
Be honest with yourself and others about your fears of changing for the better. Many times it feels ‘safer’ to remain the same. It is a known way of being that makes it comfortable to stay in bad relationships, in bad situations and not growing.
The most important thing to realize is that when things seem to be the hardest and you want to quit is when you are getting close to making permanent change. Stay positive. Remind yourself that you are working on making life better for the present and the future.