When we have decided that things must change, and when we have worked on creating that change in our lives; and when things start going wrong and the fire of enthusiasm starts to die within us – how do we find the energy and the determination to continue?
This was a question posed to me some time ago by a friend who had attended a fantastic two day workshop in Sydney on “Creating the Change you Know you Want”. It had been wonderfully empowering, the speaker was charismatic and the topics really covered the issues that he had. He returned, he said, a changed man.
His energy and enthusiasm was there for all to see. And yet within three weeks he had slowly returned to the lifestyle he had tried so desperately to change. What went wrong?
It is, unfortunately, something that I see quite often. People realise that change is necessary, they may find a book that inspires them, or they attend a workshop that enthuses them and yet ultimately they do not achieve that change they needed. The fire died, and there was no way to reignite it.
The problem is that change, any change, is quite scary. Whatever our lifestyle is, it does have the feel of a known ‘comfort zone’. It may not be bringing us the satisfaction or achievement that we crave, but it has the reassurance of the familiar. It is also the outcome of the lives we are really living; it’s the putting out of the rubbish bins on a Thursday, the going shopping on Saturday, the changing of sheets on a Sunday – it the old familiar routine that, while not getting us where we dream of being, at least gets us through life. It has been produced by all the choices we have made and the circumstances we have found ourselves in, and it is very difficult to change.
Because it is the outcome of our lives, when we try to implement changes in our life, we are really trying to rock the boat. And to create the kind of changes that we yearn for when we read that book or go to that seminar, we need to do an awful lot of boat rocking, and that can be very uncomfortable for us.
When change becomes too uncomfortable, the old mental voice of doom gloom starts up again “you can’t do this – it’s too hard” or we comfort ourselves with the adage “Better the Devil you know!” when what we are really saying is that the creation of the change is causing me discomfort and I don’t like being uncomfortable.
But of course, the intellectual realisation that change is needed to grow and progress is an exciting thing. The understanding that we don’t have to accept the way things are, we can change them when it is only a mental thing is wildly liberating. “Yes” we say, “that’s what I want, and now I know how it can happen. I will start today.” But we probably won’t.
In the grip of all that enthusiasm, we forget that change requires careful planning. Implementing the change we want without a plan is doomed to failure; and very often (not always of course) that book or that seminar will be big on the reasons for change, and huge of the positives that can occur but very short on the means of creating the plan.
When I talked to my friend, I found that he had been enthused to change but was given no practical ideas of how he could implement that change into his comfortable but uninspiring lifestyle. He considered that having a positive outlook, reciting the occasional mantra of affirmations would do the trick; and when they didn’t he was discouraged.
Well I am sorry – but regardless of what some might say, Positive Thinking without a Positive Plan of Action is futile. It might make you a positive Pollyanna (and I have often been accused of that!) but it will not create change.
Only you can create that plan, because only you know the intricacies of your particular lifestyle, only you know what needs to be done to create the atmosphere in which your change can occur. But without that plan you will backslide into the known and the comfortable.
And then we need to understand that we will sometimes fail – yes I used the ‘F’ word! Sometimes we will loose our enthusiasm, we will feel that it is all just too difficult. This is where the plan comes in handy. A practical worksheet of reinforcement, reassessment and re-affirmation will help us over that natural bump in the road. It can refocus our determination into positive action.
Then finally, we need to be gentle with ourselves. We need to chastise ourselves softly when we trip or fall on the way. Castigating ourselves, as we mostly do, for our failures is the worst kind of negative self-talk. The techniques of gentle chiding will not destroy our confidence in our ability to change. “Well, that didn’t go too well, what can I learn from it” is a much better attitude for change and growth than “You stupid idiot, why do you always stuff up!”
After I had talked to my friend, we sat down and over a week we worked out a workable plan that allowed him to put into practice the techniques of positivity he had learned at his seminar. And because he had created it with his present lifestyle in mind it became realistic and achievable.
It had been six months since I had seen him last, and when we caught up for coffee I was interested in how he had been going with his plan for change. He said that he was still on track, that he had indeed had times when it all felt too hard and the enthusiasm had waned, but he had stuck to the practical plan throughout and strangely his enthusiasm had reignited. He was delighted that some things he had changed now came automatically; and he was taking on some of the harder things that he had only dreamed of when he started.
“So” I said, “what was the answer to the question you asked me all those months ago?”
He grinned – “Positive Thinking is fantastic, but it’s Positive Planning that does the trick!”
Michele @ Trischel