The gift? FREEDOM.
How did she wrap the gift? In a resignation from a job she disliked.
This gift was a long time in coming, even though the job was unfulfilling, the environment was hostile, the co-workers unsupportive.
This made me wonder – why is it hard for us to change, even when we want to?
Have you ever:
- resolved to lose weight – and then did nothing
- told your friends you would start exercising – and then not do it
- fantasized about dating that special someone – and not talk to them
- dreamed about living in a house that looked like an ad for a decorating magazine – then left the piles of clutter sitting on the counters (guilty!)
- wanted to work in your dream job – and kept working in the grind job
Now, switch gears. Think about the times you made the tough decisions to change and followed through. What was different about those times?
For me, those times when I made an important and scary change in my life, felt different – on the inside – from the times when I expressed a desire to change – and then didn’t follow through. On those successful occasions, my mind felt that there was only one direction I wanted to go, and I took a leap of faith. I felt fear during those times when I made a change – whereas I felt inertia during those times when I did not make a change. Yet despite the fear, once I made the decision, I felt settled and calm in my mind.
So, how do you make that change that you want?
- Hitting rock bottom. Yes, this option does work for a few people. Consider: people who have a heart attack and then lose weight, people whose work related stress destroys their personal life so they quit, people whose abusive partners start targeting their children. When other measures don’t come through for you, there’s always hitting rock bottom to get you going. However, the process can leave you a bit bruised.
- Wanting it so much that you can’t see any other options. This one is tricky. Everyone thinks they want change, thinks they want to lose weight, exercise, get a new job. But this option requires a want so deep that it’s practically a compulsion – a want that makes you blind to other choices and that propels you toward the change. Without the compulsion, wanting to change submits to fear of change, i.e., I want to change my job, but I’m afraid I’ll be unemployable/won’t make as much money/will lose important benefits if I go with the new choice.
- The disciplined way. You examine your values and your life. You evaluate the options and choose the best one. Ah yes – would that we could always choose this way. For the rest of us, there’s . . .
- Use your emotions to make the change. Think like a smart marketer – sell the sizzle, not the steak. Meaning, you have to appeal to your own basest, most primal self, identify the emotions that will drive your quest to change. Examine your emotions – and figure out what reason(s) for change tug on those emotions. Don’t give the same reason everyone else gives, don’t give the reason you think you should want to change. Give the reason that makes you FEEL and say, ‘Oh boy, if I don’t do this, I’m sunk.” Maybe you say you want to lose weight to fit into the clothes you wore in college – but, y’know, those clothes have been sitting around gathering dust for years, won’t hurt for them to sit around a few more days. That’s a BAD reason to change because it doesn’t engage your heart. But if you look into your son’s or daughter’s eyes and think, “I want to be around for them in 20 years” or “I want to feel strong and confident in my body so they’ll feel strong and confident in their bodies” – then your heart becomes your ally in making the change. Focus on the reasons that engage your heart, and you’ll have much greater success making the change you want. Identify the reason that scares you or the reason that hurts to admit or the reason that makes you cheer – or makes you cry. If you can’t identify a reason for change that moves you – maybe you’re thinking about changing the wrong thing.
- Recruit or hire a cheerleader. Whether you recruit a friend who wants to make the same change or someone who’s willing to be an accountability buddy – or even a professional coach, find someone to whom you can declare your change, who can test your conviction and give you feedback and who can check in with you on a regular basis to make sure you’re on track.
- Build your knowledge base. Afraid to change because you don’t know enough to make the change? Build your knowledge base. Do research. Read books, journals, blogs. Participate in online forums. Talk to experts about all aspects of making the change. But – be careful. It’s easy to do much more information gathering than you need, and it’s easy to use ‘doing research’ as an excuse not to ACT. If you want to build knowledge, identify the key things you want to learn about and set a time limit for concluding your research and moving forward.
- Break it down, do a test run, experiment. If your change looks too big and scary, try just a little bite. Scared to switch careers? Volunteer to provide services in your target career – or do some little jobs on the side. See how things go. Evaluate what went well and what didn’t – and adjust. Wash, rinse, repeat.
How about you? Have you struggled to make a change that you know you need to make? Or have you succeeded in making a tough change? Share!