Awaken to Something New in Your Life: Conscious Change

What do we want most from life? Certainly, we all want to have POWER in our lives - the power to:

· Be the best person we can be;

· Do the things we'd truly like to do, in our work life, social life and spiritual life; and

· Have all the things - the STUFF - that would make us happy.

And most of all, we believe that we all want to live as we REALLY ARE - very special human beings with a divine purpose for living. And, of course, we want it all...RIGHT NOW.

Well, we probably won't get it RIGHT NOW, but we CAN get it. What we have to know is:

1. what change is - REALLY is;

2. why we tend to resist it (regardless of where it originates); and

3. what we might do to open our minds to the possibilities inherent in it.

The phenomenon of change

If change were ice cream it'd come in three flavors - vanilla, chocolate and chocolate chip.

Vanilla change is the kind that starts outside of ourselves. It's change we don't control; rather, it's change we have to adapt to, like a corporate downsizing in which we get laid off, or perhaps the loss of a loved one or a relationship. We call that "change from the outside-in." Just as vanilla is the most popular flavor of ice cream, change that's imposed upon us is the kind that seems to happen most often, the change pattern we're most acutely aware of when it happens or threatens.

Chocolate change is that which starts inside ourselves, a decision we make to alter our circumstances, a choice to become different - hopefully, "better." It's usually a selfish sort of change, designed to get us something we can't attain or obtain in our current state. Change of this sort can also fall into the category of "not-change;" that is, preventing change. We call these kinds of change "change from the inside-out." The third flavor of change - to continue the ice cream analogy - is the chocolate-chip kind, that in which we suddenly (or slowly) realize that there's something about US that MUST change if we are to function in the world at any reasonably high level of effectiveness. We call this "change from the inside-in." This is perhaps the most difficult, yet the most fundamental, kind of change - a change in character rather than a change in action, affect, or behavior. It's almost purely intention-based and attitudinal in nature.

There are really only two questions to ask about change:

1. Why do we resist change?...and we do!?and

2. How do we learn to embrace change and create positive momentum in our lives?

3. Resistance - the way it is

Truly successful people enjoy and encourage change. They constantly look for ways to improve themselves and how they relate to the world around them. They also are quick to latch on to the opportunities that change inevitably creates.

Most of us, though, would say that we're "comfortable" in the environments we have created. Because sameness is both familiar and "safe" we somehow come to decide that change is threatening, an invasion of our sense of self. After all, if we change we'll have to pursue habits, attitudes and activities that are unfamiliar. Change always produces ambiguity and uncertainty. That, in turn, causes us to feel that we don't exactly know who we are any more!

So, the primary reason for resisting change is that there's a high degree of comfort in the familiar, even when the familiar produces anxiety or even fear.

Over the years we develop mindsets - ways of thinking - about who we are and about how the world works, what we can do and not do, and so forth. We also develop habits - ways of reacting - that are so automatic that we fail to examine them for what they really are...old tapes!

From years of experience we also develop strongly held attitudes - ways of believing - that lead us to thoughts and actions that may no longer be valid or productive. Nevertheless, we have a very hard time changing those attitudes because we simply don't have enough evidence (yet) to cause us to question their truth for us. Or perhaps we just don't hurt enough (yet)! Finally, we link all of the conceptual stuff with activities - ways of acting - that keep us trapped in the status quo, sometimes even when we know deep inside ourselves that change is what's called for.

These are formidable obstacles. But for many of us, right now, change is absolutely necessary! So how are we to wrench ourselves out of the preconceptions we hold about the status quo?

Acceptance, alliance, advancement - the way it can be

Here are some answers - six points for you to consider, six ideas that we believe can help you learn to embrace change.

1. Recognize that all change involves loss, even if the outcome will or could result in immeasurable gain. Let's face it, it's instinctive in humans to want to hold on to what we've got, at least to some degree. The minute you fully accept the loss component of change, you'll be ready to see change as a normal, evolutionary life change, not as a commando raid on your serenity!

2. Be willing to see yourself as others see you. This is crucially important, because if you don't know who you are and how you fit in the world, you won't know what needs to be changed, nor will you have any idea about how such change could be accomplished. In order to gain this new perspective you must be willing to ask others to tell you candidly what they think of you, how they see you - and you must be willing to listen...hard! Also, learn how to say "thank you" even when they say critical things about you. This, by the way, is one great exercise in change all by itself!

3. Get clear on what isn't working in your life right now. Change is generally driven by dissatisfaction of one sort or another. When it's you who decides to change it's usually because of frustration, anxiety, boredom, discomfort, or some toxic circumstance in your life. Focus on exactly what it is that produces these feelings. Once you've "got it," the path to change will be much clearer to you.

4. Plot your goals and the paths you'll take to achieve them. This will give you the focus needed to stay the course and to do what you must to make the change happen for you. Be sure to commit all this to writing because externalizing your thoughts gives them more substantive form.

5. Seek out role models...people who have learned to face change challenges and have passed through them successfully. You know people like this. Make them your allies. You may be surprised how quickly they'll come to your aid and how enthusiastically they'll welcome the opportunity to assist you!

6. Actively enlist support. This can be a bit tricky with some people - people like mates, best friends, other family members, or certain co-workers - because their comfort may depend in some measure upon your outcomes. But if you're diplomatic about it you can bring even these people on board. Discuss the changes you want, the reasons you want them, and how the outcomes can perhaps help the very people whose support you're seeking. The more people you have supporting you the easier it'll be it to do what is needed, and the less room you'll have for making excuses not to do those things.

Does this all sound like an overwhelming job, this process of change? Well, it is. But it's completely "do-able." The starting point is to begin to see yourself as a person who is truly capable of positive change. Then, just do it ? one step at a time!

Copyright 2002, 2005 Optimum Performance Associates/Paul McNeese. Paul McNeese is CEO of Optimum Performance Associates, a consulting firm specializing in transitional and ransformational change for individuals and institutions through publication. His publishing company, OPA Publishing, is an advocacy for self-publishing authors of informational, instructional, inspirational and insightful nonfiction. Email: [email protected] Websites: http://www.opapublishing.com and http://www.opapresents.com

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