December 27, 2018

Stepping into Change: 5 Steps to Getting Unstuck in the New Year.


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While change can occur at any time of the year, moving from one year to another has always been connected with making internal shifts.

We all know that resolutions that are made on January 1st are often left by the wayside come February when we start to realize how challenging it is to change. Through my work as a therapist, I have seen people all over the map with their motivation to change.

Ultimately though, until we take action we will continue to stay stuck.

What to do?

As I ponder this, I am brought back to a life lesson taught through this song in the classic Christmas special, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

As we sing along to the song, we realize that change can be as hard or as easy as we want to make it. Literally, like Kris Kringle says, “It’s as easy as putting one foot in front of the other and soon you will be walking across the floor!”

So, what makes change seem so darn hard? In my experience, it was being overly attached to who I knew myself to be, even if that meant I was continuing to stay stuck. Real change began to happen when I allowed transformation to take place.

During the process, I went through a period of grief while letting go of the ways in which I identified myself. It didn’t matter if they were unhealthy and causing me pain, it was still hard to let go. Once I started to see how good life could be, it made it easier for me to continue to let go a little more and then a little more.

The “Stages of Change Transtheoretical Model”, created by Prochaska and DiClemente, discusses how we move from being defensive about making a change to integrating that change into our lives. The model has six stages of change, including precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and relapse.

We go from being defensive in precontemplation, to thinking about change in contemplation. When we are ready to take the steps toward change, we start in preparation and then move into action. When the changes are integrated into our lives, we are in maintenance and sometimes we do end up backstepping into relapse.

But once a change is integrated into our lives, it generally doesn’t take us long before we get back on the horse again.

Sound familiar? Sure does to me. From my own experience of making changes as well as working for over 16 years in the field of behavioral health change, it definitely resonates.

So, what helps us move from just thinking about change to believing that we can change and then putting it into action?

Here are five steps to help us embrace the light within us and make real change this year.

1. How important is it? In our society, we tend to place a lot of worth on what we can do for others. We dress up the outside so that we can hide our insides. But we can really only hide for so long.

When approaching a change, it’s helpful to think about how important the change actually is to us. We need to get real with ourselves. If it’s losing weight, getting on top of debt, relationships, career—whatever the change that we want to make, just how important is it to us that this change occur? Notice within this the value we are placing on ourselves versus value on others.

2. Cost-benefit analysis. What would we gain or lose if we actually made this change? What would we gain and lose by staying the same? Conducting a cost-benefit analysis is an exercise often utilized in the theory Motivational Interviewing. We can also work on making the old pros and cons list. These are both ways to work through this cognitively, but I would strongly encourage number three.

3. Get out of our own head. Meditation is paramount to making change. What I see time and time again is that what keeps people stuck in a rut is all in their head. We value the brain in our head but it’s the enteric nervous system (ENS) in our gut that is responsible for our gut instinct, and therefore, our wisdom.

Michael Gershon detailed his research on the ENS in his book The Second Brain, in which he discusses how the brain in our gut is much wiser than the brain in our head. If we create some space between our thoughts we may be able to embrace the idea that we actually do possess the ability to change!

4. Supports. There has been much research on the fact that we are often more capable of following through with change when we have a buddy to come along for the ride. Don’t have anyone that wants to make the same change as you? No worries, there are many people out there whose job it is to provide support along the way.

While having a buddy to go to the gym with is helpful, ultimately the change really takes effect when we work on how to be our own cheerleader. Remember step one—value yourself because, as corny as it sounds, you are worth it.

5. Lifestyle change. In order for the change to last, it needs to be a part of our lifestyle. Using the words “New Year’s resolutions” or “diet” are laced with the story line of “This is something I want but I will not follow through with.” Instead, I like the word “intention” because it feels like something that I own and can put energy into manifesting.

When our behaviors are not in-line with our intentions, then we are out of alignment with spirit/universe. The energy that exists in the universe also exists within us. It is in our actions—in how we treat ourselves and others that helps us embrace the light.

Well there you have it, a little toolbox of steps to take to help us embrace change in the coming year.

Just like Kris Kringle says, change happens by taking the first step. Life is not linear so backsteps will occur. The work is to build resilience to take the next step forward. I believe that we all have the capacity for transformation, all we need to do is to take action, let go, and allow the path to unfold.

Cheers to stepping into change!


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