Do you know how to change your life?
I believe that you do. After all, your life likely looks very different than when you were 4 years old or 14 years old.
Yet confidence in your ability to change can seem elusive when you are pursuing goals that stretch you into a new self-concept.
It can be exciting to set a target, to focus your mind on something you want to create in your life.
But, of course, there might be setbacks and disappointments along the path to that change.
The speed bumps you encounter might drain the batteries from your “new goal” excitement.
These detours – especially the ones in our minds – are part of the process.
Consider this approach when traveling the “try, try again” path to lasting change.
Stage #1 – Awareness
We’ll use a simple analogy to bring the change cycle to life. Consider getting an email. The first step is seeing, “Ah, yes, new email.”
You are aware.
Let’s say you want to create a habit of being consistent with an exercise plan.
The first awareness is the desire: “I want to get in shape.” or “I want to be healthier in 3 years than I am today.”
At the same time, it helps to hone the skill of being aware of your resistance.
Thoughts like “I always quit, so why will anything be different now?” or “I worry that I’ll let myself down again.”
Feelings like uncertain, discouraged, inadequate, anxious or overwhelmed might rise up inside your body, begging for distraction or relief.
Stay with awareness. Be willing to notice what’s coming up for you without acting on an urge to make the resistance go away.
Stage #2 – Curious
The second stage is neutral curiosity. For the email, “What’s this about?”
When you’re changing your life, staying in the position of a neutral scientist will massively amplify your results.
Ask open ended questions like “What is this showing me?” and “How can I learn from my thoughts/feelings?” and “What would it be like to stay with this discomfort without pushing it away or quitting?”
Having an attitude of curiosity encourages you to collect data and analyze the results from a neutral position.
Stage #3 – Context
Next, see what you are making your thoughts and feelings mean. That email is mere pixels on a screen until you make it mean something about you and your life.
Perhaps you are feeling discouraged about missing a week of exercise. What is the meaning your mind is making about it?
It might be “See, here we go, giving up!” or “I always sabotage myself!”
Resistance doesn’t usually feel friendly or helpful. It often sounds judgmental and right/wrong in tone.
From that curious awareness, see if you are adding a layer of story on top of your experience.
Stage #4 – Decision/Commitment
Okay! You’re aware (this is happening), curious (I wonder what I can see from my experience), and you see the context your mind is creating (ah, yes, I see the storytelling there…).
Now is your chance to decide. What commitment do you want to make?
This isn’t a recommitment to your goal, per se.
This is an invitation to decide how you want to treat yourself at this moment.
Do you want to choose encouragement? “I know I didn’t exercise last week. The past is gone. What’s on plan for today?”
Do you want to choose playfulness? “Oh, Resistance, you’re such a dramatic character! Surely it’s not as bad as all that?!?”
You get to decide how to talk to yourself along the path to change.
How can you be your most enthusiastic champion, your unflagging supporter, your own best friend?
P.S. I invite you to fall in love with my podcast, “Less Stress, More Fun.” Subscribe today! Each week’s episodes are short (14-18 mins, on average), smart (lots of research) and fun (especially if you love 80s music).