Much of what we do as group leaders is help our clients make some kind of change. Whether we’re talking about a change to a huge system or a change in a single persons life, the things that stand in the way of change are similar if not the same. The following ten steps will make the most difficult changes easier.
Big Changes Don’t Have to Happen all at Once
1. What’s the cost of status quo? Not making the change that you know you need to make is costing you. Do some soul searching, consult with trusted allies, or journal to yourself to uncover the payoffs you’re receiving and the prices you’re paying for maintaining the status quo. If the price seems greater than the payoff, you’ll be clearer about what’s next.
2. Create a reserve. We don’t have to make a difficult change from where we are now. If we have issues with money, time, space, emotional support, skills, etc., make a plan now to get what you need in these areas. This creates a stronger foundation from which to launch in a new direction. Keep in mind that it’s better to be over prepared and arrive at your destination than to fail because you were just a hair short of having what you needed to get there.
3. Stop flagellating yourself for being stuck! Thinking your the greatest and thinking you suck are opposite ends of the same pendulum. So guess what? Beating yourself up for being where you are is egocentric, so get off it! Even though suffering may be supported, even nurtured by friends, family, and religions, most of the time is an excuse for not acting.
Not making a needed change may be your first mistake, but judging and condemning yourself for not making it is your second. It simply saps the energy you’re going to need to get off your butt. So dig down and uncover any judgments you hold against yourself and let them go.
For example, you may feel that you’re not good enough or deserving of the life you really want. Or you may feel that the change you’re about to make will hurt someone close and that you’ll be responsible for their pain. Or you may feel that you’re not smart enough, resourceful enough, bold enough, or just plain “enough” to make this change. Acknowledge these as faulty internal programs and let them die a quick death. Because the truth is, they are only ideas and you create yourself each moment based on the new idea you hold about who you are.
4. Stop complaining. Are you complaining about being in the situation you’re in? Are you blaming others? If so, you’ve chosen to be a victim and you’re wasting your energy. Even if you’re blaming yourself for not being happy or for having the courage to make the change, then part of you is beating up on another part of you, hence there’s a victim in there somewhere. To the degree you play this silly role, you lose power you could be using to move forward. So get behind yourself completely and own your full power to create the life you desire, no matter what.
5. Quit worrying about how. We are so conditioned to figure things out before we leap, that sometimes we become paralyzed to take the actions our bodies are directed to take from the beginning. This is particularly true if you’re an engineer, scientist, or a technical type who experiences the world more through analysis than through feeling. If you’re stuck in a thinking pattern rehashing the same ideas over and over, trying to figure out what will happen if, then you’re stuck in a mind-loop. It’s time to quit thinking and start doing. Feel the impulse of energy in our body that crying out for attention and do something! Much of the information you’re seeking will only show up while you’re moving and not before.
6. Imagine what’s possible. Making a big change like leaving a longstanding relationship or a long time career can be very frightening. If what we have is all we can see, then to give it up means we’ll have nothing. This is a terrible illusion. Life always rushes in to fill space in our lives with new opportunities, relationships, resources, connection, ideas, etc. First however, we must make the space for something new. Second create a clear vision of what your life might look like once your change is complete. The vision of your new future reduces the fear of the unknown—which can keep you stuck for a long time! Make up your vision if it isn’t coming to you naturally, but make it good. Your vision will form the matrix on which you will create your new life and give you the inspiration and courage you need to do so.
7. Risk failure. Does fear of failing keep you stuck? If so, define what failure looks like to you. Imagine the worst possible thing happening. Can you live with that? Can you make course corrections before it happens or after it happens? The answer is almost always “yes.” I suggest removing the word “failure” from your vocabulary. Instead, realize that each of your actions will simply yield a result. This result will be one you want or one you don’t want. You can choose to take the result as feedback from the universe and take the next logical step. Viewed from this perspective, mistakes are merely course correction indicators, they aren’t personal. Pilots check their compass all the time, making course corrections based on this feedback. They’d never get anywhere if they took every off-course reading as a personal failure. Give up the concept of failure and take flight!
8. Be a warrior. Within each of us there is an instinctual aspect built for bold, decisive action. It looks out, not only for our survival, but also for our soul’s mission. It sends messages all the time in the form of feelings in your body. They may come in the form of “gut” feelings or direct knowing with no rational foundation. If you have contemplated yourself into a rut of contemplation, it may be time to let your inner warrior take over for bit. Just act “as if” you know what to do, then do it without thinking about it until it’s done.
9. Ask for help. Contrary to popular belief, asking for help is actually a sign of maturity. It takes courage, humility, and acknowledgement that you can’t do it all. Besides, big changes in your business or your life can be nearly impossible to accomplish on your own. However, the right kind of support can make a seemingly difficult change relatively easy. For me, being a former lone-ranger, asking for and accepting help from others was difficult at first, but really nice once I got used to it. Now I wouldn’t think of starting a major project or making a big change without relying on my support team of close and loving friends and coaches. Do whatever is necessary to make change easy on yourself. You’re worth it!
10. Don’t go to your deathbed wondering what would have happened if… It’s easy for us to forget how short our lives really are. Many of us live as if we’ll never die. We waste away our hours and days in jobs we hate, businesses that are killing us, living just for the weekends, or “putting in time” until retirement, living like zombies. We may be in a relationship that’s draining and disempowering thinking it might magically get better somehow, someday. Or, that we’re staying in it for the kids or to preserve our image. As if living a lie could possibly benefit anyone! We deny our feelings or make excuses for frittering our lives away. This is insane. Stop it now! Our lives are so precious and so short. I challenge you to project yourself forward to your death. It’s real and it’s coming soon! See yourself on your deathbed and ask yourself if the life you’re living now is all you dreamt it to be. Write your own obituary today. How close are you to living your passion? Let this vision be a motivator to get off your butt and follow your heart!
These tips were mined from my own experience, most of which surfaced while moving out of a long-term relationship and a long-term career in mid-life. I know what stuck feels like. I was once intimately skilled at subverting the call of my soul with my intellect. And I know well the numbing fear of staring into the abyss. If I can help, I’m here for you.
Which of the steps above could you act on now to move you toward a serious change you want to make? Remember, big changes don’t have to happen all at once. But without taking small steps today, they are liable to never happen. Please share your questions, feedback, or experience in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.