“It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t.
It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.”
Change is a funny thing. Sometimes we want it so badly and we'd do anything for it. Sometimes we're so scared of it that we'd give anything to stop it from happening. Change has played a big part in my life over the past year. I cannot think of a year when I've changed more than 2009. While I'm still working at the same place and living in the same area, almost everything in my life has changed dramatically over the past 12 months. My relationships with others, my relationship with myself, my understanding of the world, my actions and reactions, my thoughts and way of thinking -- all of these things have undergone major transformations this year. I often look around at where I am now and ask myself, "Why? Why now? What was so different about this year that made it so special?" Much as I scratch my head and ponder these questions, the only real answer that seems to stick with me is: I was ready.
It took a long time -- a lot of years of doing things to make myself stronger and, in some ways, harder -- to get to the point where I was ready for change. I don't think I even knew I was ready. I just looked around one day and it hit me like a bat to the head: I had to change things. I had to change things. I had that cliched experience of looking around and realizing that this was my life and I didn't like it one bit. I'd thought this many times before. I'd always wanted a different life. I'd always thought that "someday" things would be different. It wasn't until about a year ago that I realized that I had to make things different. I had to change them. It seems simple enough, realizing I had control over my life, but it wasn't simple to get to that point in my life. As the Indigo Girls sing in "Least Complicated" (click to listen): "The hardest to learn was the least complicated." It was such a simple notion -- take control of your own life -- but it was such a complex one for me to grasp.
I don't think I'm alone in this. I think it takes a lot of people -- a lot -- to realize that they can control their own lives. I think many people never realize it at all and end up floating along on whatever path they happen to find themselves drifting down. I was that person. I was that drifter, just floating and thinking I'd get there someday. I had hope that things would work out, but I didn't want to work for it. I just thought it would happen. Well, I can tell you from personal experience...things don't "just happen." Yes, sometimes there are those moments of excitement when things seem like they're falling in place. Yes, there are times when things seem like fate or coincidence. But the best things -- the really great things -- happen when you're working towards them, when you're making the changes and when you're putting in the effort to make yourself better.
But how did I do it? And how can you? I don't know if I have any true and definite answers to those questions. I wish I could post a step-by-step plan for how I changed, but I know that these things are really personalized and, if you want to change, the way to do it really depends on how you are as a person and what exactly it is that you want to change. Even though there isn't a formula for change, I can offer some suggestions and some advice on how I got from where I was to where I am now...
Stop, Drop, and Roll: How To Ready Yourself For Change
- Stop being afraid. It's so easy to be scared. Believe me, I know how much courage it takes to willingly choose to change. It really can be terrifying, the thought of changing your life, of changing yourself. I honestly think it was that fear that held me back for so long. I knew I needed change. I could sense something that needed to be different in my life, but I was so afraid. If you really want to change, you have to stop being afraid. You have to take whatever fear you're experiencing and just let it go. As you can probably guess, this is not easy -- but it is the only way to really prepare yourself to change.
- Drop your old ways. Sounds so obvious, right? If you don't like how your life is, just stop doing what you're doing, right? If you've ever tried to stop your habits or break your routines, you know just how difficult this can be. In theory it sounds so great, but it can be really, really hard to change things and to make choices that are different from those you'd made in the past. It was nearly impossible for me to alter some of my habits when I decided that I needed to change and it certainly didn't happen over night. It took a long time -- probably years if you count all of those failed attempts from the past -- to get where I am right now, but I know with absolute certainty that I would not be here if I hadn't changed my old ways.
- Roll with the punches. As I mentioned in #1, change can be really scary. Most people don't like it all that much, especially when it's hard. For this reason, you have to to learn to let go of your preconceived notions of what "should" be and live in the moment. Rolling with the punches isn't always easy (and was especially difficult for a Type A girl like myself), but it's the only way to really accept change in your life. If you're having trouble with this, I'd suggest reading The Power of Now or Loving What It Is. Both of those books really helped me out when I was trying to adjust to living in the moment and accepting my new life for what it was, changes and all. That whole go-with-the-flow thing didn't come easily to me (still doesn't sometimes!), but it's definitely an essential attitude to have when it comes to changing.
As we all know, change can be so brutal sometimes. It's hard to face it when it's forced upon us, but it can be even more difficult when we're trying to implement it ourselves. At that point, change becomes a choice and, for that reason, it's something we can so easily avoid or give up on. Changing yourself is really hard work and these three steps are only the beginning. They are only small bits of advice to help you ready yourself for change. Around this time of year, people are thinking a lot about change, about making resolutions and changes. Recognize that change is hard, but you really do have the ability to change anything in your life. What it really comes down to, or at least what it came down to for me about a year ago, was being ready. If you're not ready for it, you won't change. But if you are ready...well, you have the amazing ability to turn your whole life upside down...
How do you ready yourself for change?
What advice do you have for those who want to make changes?