Transformation is a process, a journey of self-inquiry and self-awareness.
All of us, over time, develop patterns of behavior and thought based on many different circumstances: influence from family and friends, traumatic situations, social “norms,” stress of daily life and so on.
When we notice something inside of us that we would like to change, it helps to become aware of the stages we can go through to re-pattern ourselves into a healthier behavior and become empowered to take control over our own lives.
All change is self-change, whether we are working with a group, individual coach or any kind of therapist. It always comes down to the individual and his or her willingness to learn and take action.
So, how do you go about transforming and creating lasting change in your own life?
Here are four steps to consider:
1. Awareness and Contemplation.
At first, we are unaware of a particular behavior, thought or issue, and then something or someone brings it to our attention. When this happens (and we eventually let down our defense mechanisms), we go from a space of unconsciousness to a space of consciousness.
This is a time of contemplation and of recognition that there is an opportunity to make a different choice. We begin to search for the causes of what is happening, to understand what is alive in us and, eventually, to start looking for possible solutions and alternatives.
Sometimes people can be “stuck” in this place of contemplation indefinitely without moving to the next step. They recognize that there is an issue and think about the problem, but do not find the motivation to focus instead on the solutions and possible actions.
If you find yourself here, take time to consider the possible solutions rather than the problem; look to the future instead of the past. Make a list of ideas and alternative actions or ways of being, and allow yourself to feel anticipation and excitement as you envision yourself embodying this new choice.
2. Goal Setting.
Once we begin to think about the solutions and alternatives, we start to re-evaluate ourselves and form a plan of action by setting goals. A good way to begin is to make a public announcement of your intention for change. Rather than keeping the idea nested in your head, tell a friend—tell many friends—and invite them to hold you accountable for your intention.
As you start writing down your goals, remember the acronym for goal setting: S.M.A.R.T. It stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable or Action-Oriented, Realistic and Timely Goals.
Performance-based, action-oriented goals help break things down into bite-size pieces so you can celebrate small victories along the way. For example, instead of making your goal a general idea like “losing weight,” say that this week you will exercise for 20 minutes longer than usual.
Also, it is important to stay positive in your wording. Instead of stating what you don’t want, state what you do want. For instance, rather than, “I don’t want to be unhealthy,” say, “I want to improve my health.” Affirmations are a powerful tool and keep you focused on the solution.
3. Taking Action.
Now that you have recognized the issues, focused on the solutions and created an action plan, it is time to get engaged. This is where real commitment comes in.
Choose a healthy activity to counter an unhealthy activity, such as going for a long walk instead of reacting emotionally to a situation, or reading a book instead of watching television. Countering is an important tool in this stage of change. It is a powerful method to break patterns that were once unconscious and to begin to set in place new mindful patterns of behavior and thought that serve you in your personal growth.
Another way to support goals is to create an environment that offers alternatives. A few examples are: buying fresh organic vegetables and fruits as snacks to keep in the house, removing alcohol from your environment, posting affirmations all around your living space, reading self-help books to stay mentally stimulated and inspired and setting alarms during the day that remind you to take ten-minute breaks every so often.
As you move through this conscious action stage of re-patterning, it is helpful to have positive reinforcement from friends, family and even yourself. Honor your small victories, like accomplishing your goals according to timelines you have set.
Be patient with yourself, take your time and if you notice that you are slipping into contemplation instead of action, simply re-evaluate your needs and begin setting S.M.A.R.T. goals once again.
Over time, as you move through your action steps, supported by countering techniques, a healthy environment, positive reinforcement and the help of your loved ones, you will eventually graduate to a level where the new pattern of behavior replaces the old. Some issues will disappear completely and become new healthy behaviors that embed themselves into your being, while others may require a lifetime of maintenance and conscious self-awareness.
The bottom line is that real change is possible. Every moment of your life is a new opportunity to make a different choice that supports your mental, physical and spiritual health and well-being and the well-being of those around you. You have the power to make that change in your life.
Start now, and remember, as Lao-tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Val Silidker, MS, is in love with life! As a Deep Ecologist, transformational catalyst, inspirational speaker, writer and facilitator, as well as the founder of Inspired Life Workshops and Expand the Love, she has been empowering individuals and groups both nationally and internationally for over 15 years. Val delivers eloquent, thought-provoking and interactive experiences that address the core of who we are and the state of our world both internally and externally, while challenging individuals to question deeper and see the world with new eyes. Val also designs, directs and facilitates transformational workshops and works intimately with individuals to inspire them to ask deeper questions, discover their purpose and experience true happiness. Email her or connect with her at www.InspiredLifeWorkshops.org, Facebook or Twitter.
Editor: Jayleigh Lewis