Here I detail five steps in working towards change. Looking to shake things up? Looking to get motivated? Then maybe you should try some of these strategies. I had a lot of fun writing this one.
In the case of bad habits the first and most vital step is becoming aware of the things in our lives that we want to change. Most people are fully aware of their bad habits. Choosing to actually do something about the things we want to change, however, separates movers and shakers from the undeniably lazy. It’s easy to be aware of a problem you have. Even a lazy person knows what aspects of themselves they want to change. The difference is choice. The lazy individual chooses apathy when it comes to confronting change. It is required that a person plays an active part in confronting the problem they’ve become aware. Without this awareness it is impossible to begin the act of changing it.
Personal growth and previous triumph in solving life’s problems gives the effective individual the necessary tools to become efficient in dealing with this phase of solving a bad habit or a problem. Many, but not all individuals, cease to grow with respect to this awareness phase at an adolescent level of maturity. That is, Mom asks Johnny “what is wrong?” to which Johnny replies, “Nothing.” Johnny knows what’s wrong deep down. He either chooses not to confront his problem due to fear of being judged, fear of ineptitude, fear of the future…etc., etc. or deals with it by evaluating what is wrong and making an active choice to confront his anxieties and the dark unknown.
Don’t be Johnny. Grow up.
The idea of having a confrontation with a bad habit suggests that overcoming fear of change plays a big part in the awareness process, but moreso in the evaluation of a problem. A person who has a disposition to create and cultivate change within themselves is able to confront fear directly because they are able to evaluate exactly how their bad habits are triggered. Why do we do the things we do? The first step in the evaluation process is finding the strength to be honest with yourself. As Søren Kierkegaard once wrote, “there are two ways to be fooled…one is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” It is easy to convince ourselves that our bad habits can be positive. If left unchecked and ignored, we take a back seat to our id monsters and choose to be less conscious to the negative aspects our problems may bring us. We must be honest with ourselves. We must have the personal fortitude to step outside of ourselves to question everything that surrounds our bad habits or problems. Without honesty, defeating the things within ourselves we want to change becomes an impossibility. Procrastination, self-inflicted sabotage, frustration, anger, and extreme depression are all results of personal dishonesty.
3. Dealing with Setbacks – Cultivating Motivation
The pre-programmed American was born for quitting. Quite often the biggest obstacle in overcoming a problem or bad habit is lack of positive foresight. People are predisposed for disappointment because we are programmed to expect immediate results for everything. The fork will indicate that a process of defeating a problem is undercooked, and yet many people will choose to remove our processes from the proverbial oven before they’ve been fully developed.
It is absolutely okay to want something now. The way you use that desire will determine how to deal with setbacks. We can choose to get frustrated when the things we want are far outside of our reach, or we can opt to use our desires as fuel for motivation. While powering through a process may be the inherent knee jerk reaction to getting a process to work, the best method to working on something is in short focused bursts. The best work occurs when we can aim our undivided attention in the direction of the things we need to make happen.
In addition to positive foresight we also must learn acceptance when dealing with setbacks. We must first grow to accept that some processes take large amounts of time to generate any progress. This is part of the process of change that we cannot control in an objective sense. Dealing with the passage of time is all perspective, especially when that time is, at face value–devoid of pleasure. Slowing down, taking in the details, and developing an autotelic sense of self-discovery within the subjective universe of yourself is a good first start in dealing with the prospect of acceptance of time. Without time, there is no personal growth. Without personal growth there is nothing positive to cultivate in the process of overcoming our problems.
There will be times when we have to do and redo the same process over hundreds of times without apparent progress. Accepting the possibility of this need allows us to to achieve greater understanding of ourselves and to the things that cause our setbacks. Eventually, learning to not make the same mistake twice in a row results in progression.
In order to deal with setbacks, we must recharge our motivations to act in order to positively move towards our goals. At times, we must accept that we will be incapable of overcoming distraction. We also must accept our limitations—we need to rest. Without rest it is easy to become burnt out which is toxic to maintaining our motivations.
We must be vigilant. What is our intent in cultivating change? Is that intent directly connected with the outcome of our eventual endgame?
4. Creating Change—Safety, the Illusion
Nothing ever worthwhile is ever easy. Sure, playing it safe gives us a certain level of comfort. But safety can result in stasis and stagnation. Being comfortable results in no progression. When it comes to change safety is a negative. Safety is easy, therefore it isn’t worthwhile.
I’m not saying that we must plunge headfirst without abandon into the all-encompassing darkness of the future in order to create change. Learning to anticipate our next step is a vital part of the process in creating change. Granted, we won’t always be able to anticipate our next steps, but we must temper ourselves in order to deal with the unexpected bumps in the road. We must be aware of our shortcomings. We must be able to evaluate ourselves with unfiltered honesty.
Everything we want lies on the other side of fear. Creating change is an active process that requires us to challenge ourselves to face the unknown aspects of our potential and tap into them. By thinking about changing something about ourselves, that begins the process to actualize it. Choosing whether or not to act on actualizing change is directly related in overcoming our anxieties and fears.
How do we know the change we are about to attempt will work or not? The worst that can occur is failure, in which we owe to ourselves to learn from our experiences and pick ourselves back up again to fight another day.
There will always be quitters. There will always be people too lazy to change themselves. There will always be people who fail and choose to die in bleak deserts of their own self-doubt. Those people do not exist in our world. As self-styled doers we must not give into our inherent animal tendencies to wither away and die. We must active be aware that it is our responsibility to ourselves to move forward.
Change requires planning. It requires persistence to continue amidst opposition. It also requires the ability to set aside idiosyncratic cannibal propensities and obsessive counter intuitive behaviors. We do this in order to direct ourselves in a positive direction towards the change we wish to cultivate within our subjective universe. Change means pursuing moderation over excess. Finesse over brute force. Patience over frustration. Change involves the will and the ability to do. To bring our subjective desires into the continuity of the objective house which exists in the world outside of ourselves.
5. Understanding Change
When the resolution of our problems results in the development of new problems, we know that we have changed something in our world. When problems are solved, new ones will always arise. Without this, we would fall back into stagnation. A life without problems is no life at all. A stagnant, comfortable life is just that—one devoid of self-reflection. It is illusory, and non-existent. Without the prospect of personal growth, there is no prospect of a meaningful life.
Understand that when it comes to enacting positive change in your life safety is illusory. Safety is limitation. It will work against you every time. Don’t be fooled by your id monster into stasis and comfort. Work against your natural inclinations. Produce new self-created standards in which to live by. Force yourself to feel excellent–because when you consciously make a decision to confront your fears and enact change you will embody excellence.