Lasting Change... Really?
It’s New Year’s time. The holidays are winding down and we’re turning our attention towards becoming the person we always thought we could be. In the past I’ve set huge resolutions, and theme resolutions. And many years have happened when January came around again and I was in the same place as before, stuck in the same old patterns. In the last few years, though, things have been changing.
Much of my life’s work (inner and outer) has been around making change. I have a regular yoga asana practice, I work out and eat well, I have a regular meditation practice and see a meditation teacher/therapist/enlightened being regularly. I study yoga philosophy and I’m a life coach for goodness sakes and talk with coaches and clients all the time. So I’ve gathered some thoughts for what really seems to work in my life and for others to share with you —
WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM YOGA, MEDITATION, AND LIFE-COACHING ABOUT MAKING CHANGE THAT LASTS
YOU HAVE TO SEE IT ON THE INSIDE BEFORE YOU SEE IT ON THE OUTSIDE.
This comes from life coaching. Whatever it is that you want to change about yourself, you have to actually dream it up and get really clear about it before you can make the change. If you don’t have a vision for where you’re going, you’ll never get there.
MANY PATTERNS ARE ANCHORED IN YOUR MIND- SO CHANGE YOUR WAY OF THINKING ABOUT IT
Change your belief structure, don’t just try to act differently. (this is actually way easier than you might think) If you don’t believe you can create the change then you won’t be able to create it. If your mind has an old way of thinking that is blocking that change from coming your way, it will never get there. Clear up old thought patterns that don’t match your desires and all of a sudden changing gets a lot easier. In some cases I’ve found that this is all I have to do. In others there’s still some work to be done.
CHANGE TAKES INTENTION AND ATTENTION
My life-coach friend, Margaret Webb puts these two together and so does my meditation teacher. If you really want to change you have to set an intention for it. By that I mean bring your mind to where you want to go every single day. But it’s not enough just to have the Intention - then add Attention to the Intention. Many hours of lives are spent either distracted by the world or asleep to the world. Attention is bringing your mental energy back from sleep or distraction to that which is most important.
LITTLE BY LITTLE AGAIN AND AGAIN
This is a phrase from Douglas Brooks a teacher of Tantra Yoga Philosophy. It points to the actual act of changing an ingrained habit. Once you’ve made mental shifts and you’ve set your intention and attention on the behavior you want to change. There may still be a time where you must meet the habit and actively work to change it. Every time it comes up, bring as much attention as you have to choosing something different. And the habit will change. You do it little by little. You do it again and again. Over time, you change. For me this is both hopeful and frustrating. I want change NOW. I feel frustrated that it doesn’t happen immediately every time. But hopeful because even the smallest effort is a help. What is interesting is that though I feel like I’m not changing fast enough - when I step back and look at how different I am from myself 5 or 10 years ago it’s pretty remarkable. Change does happen.
FOR CHANGE TO LAST, REMEMBER YOURSELF BEING DIFFERENT
This comes from my meditation teacher. She is forever asking us to not discount those moments when you’ve made a change and are different in a situation that you often encounter. It is so easy to dismiss that experience as a fluke, or to be in fear that you’ll never be able to sustain the change. But when you remember yourself being different you reinforce the mental pathway you created when you were different. You make that path stronger so that it is easier to take it again in the future.
Notice that only one (little by little again and again) has much to do with motivation and will-power which is what we were all taught was needed for making lasting change. The others are much softer.
Woven through all of this are our old friends Acceptance and Non-Judgement. To keep your change process light and less stressful, bring along as much acceptance of yourself exactly as you are as possible. And Non-Judgement for when you screw up. Add a healthy dose of humor, play, and curiosity and changing a habit becomes a game instead of a huge chore.
I’d love to hear what resonates with you. Have you ever created lasting change using one of these ideas? Have you done it in other ways? How are you hoping to change this year? Please share in comments below or send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.