How to Actually Change


Change is a great idea but sometimes that’s as far as it goes. Alcoholic’s Anonymous is believed to be the source of a great quote “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” This is something that we seem to struggle with as human beings. Why do we keep falling into the same holes as we walk down a familiar road? There is an anonymous poem that I found years ago and it sums it up best —

 

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost…

I am helpless.

It is not my fault.

It takes forever to find my way out. —

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out. —

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it there.

I still fall in…it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately. —

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

Real change involves intention. Intention is kind of a buzz word these days but what does it actually mean? According to Dictionary.com it is “an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.” In other words, it requires thought and mental energy to figure out what it is that we want to act upon, or a desired result. If you don’t know where you are going you are likely to get there! One of the downsides of all the social media and screen time that we do in this day and age is that it literally is impacting the way we think (or don’t think). For example, I can remember every phone number I’ve had since I was a child — which is pretty impressive considering I’ve moved a lot! Now we hardly even use that part of our brain that memorizes things like phone numbers and birthdays because our devices do that for us.

So what does intention to change look like? Three quick things to try…

  1. Think About It. What would you like to see different? Make it realistic and attainable, not some fantastical wish. Why is it important for you to change it? How willing are you to put time, energy and resources into it? Spending some time actually thinking about what you want to change and why will help you to stick with the process.  Being intentional means that you continue to think about your goals, not just having a passing thought about it. Ponder. Reflect. Create desire.
  2. Prepare to Change. Is there anything you need to get ready in order to put the plan into action? Do you have to create more motivation? What is the cost of staying where you are? Do up a T-chart with pros and cons — be honest with yourself. Get frustrated, maybe even furious with where you are at. THEN use the strength of that anger to help drive you in your decision to change. But don’t stay in a preparation place…
  3. Put it into Action! This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Take steps toward your goal and start walking down that different street. This may require a written plan, a ‘mantra’ to keep you on-track, professional counselling or coaching to teach you new skills, etc. Remember to be intentional — be clear about what you are changing and why. Take it one step at a time –if you’re looking at the forest and it’s overwhelming, break it down into one tree at a time. Celebrate each step you take, it’s progress! Small progress IS progress! Don’t undermine your own ability to make change by sabotaging your thoughts or fear-mongering yourself.

Be gracious! Making change involves slipping up or making mistakes. Learn from those times. What did you miss? What can you do different next time? Take those slips seriously but don’t use them to fuel shame and discouragement. It is not proof that you can’t do this, it’s proof that you are a human being.

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