I think it is safe to say that we all have things we would like to improve in our lives. Sometimes it is about a career move. Other times it may be about deepening a relationship. Oftentimes we want to improve our overall health or lose weight. Whatever it may be, there are always things that could use improvement. And that’s a good thing, really. After all, change is growth, and what else are we here for if not to grow.
So if there is something we would like to change, it should be pretty simple. Figure out what you want to do, how you are going to do it, and just do it. ( My apologies to Nike). Sounds like a pretty straightforward formula, right? If the theory is so easy, why do we still have the same resolutions on each New Year’s Eve? What stands in our way from accomplishing what we know we can do?
The answer, like the question, is pretty simple as well. Life gets in the way.
Let’s face it. There are only so many hours in a day. And while we would all like to think that we are superhuman and can fit thirty-six hours of activity into a twenty-four hour window, the truth is we can’t. The Media and Madison Avenue may try to convince us otherwise, but the reality is we can only do so much in a day. And when that day is already filled with getting the kids to school, getting to work, meeting deadlines, fighting traffic, catching up on emails, assisting ageing parents, making dinner, helping with homework, and maybe planning for the next day, well, change usually falls to the bottom of the list.
With all this in mind the idea of change becomes a little more daunting. It takes energy to make a change, and in today’s world, that is the one thing that is usually lacking by the end of the day. The good news, however, is that change is possible. It may not be easy, but it is possible and when four ingredients work together, it is almost guaranteed.
The first ingredient is the recognition of our own ability. We all know we are capable of making changes. Just knowing we are capable is not enough. We also have to believe that we are capable of change. If we know something is theoretically possible but we doubt we can do it, we create our own outcome. Without a strong believe that we can accomplish a change, the odds are pretty good that no change will happen.
The second ingredient involves motivation. Why do we want to change and what will happen when we do? Motivation has to be personal. True motivation is generated from our core–it happens because we truly believe something is important. We may be motivated by outside ideals–the should factor–but that is not a true basis for creating change. In those instances the results, if any, will usually be short-lived.
Attitude is the third ingredient in the equation. Attitude determines the quality and depth of your change. When we approach an issue with a positive outlook, there is a much better chance we will give our all to get the thing done. When we approach the same issue without being fully charged, change may still happen but it is harder to achieve and the probability of molding that change into a positive habit drops as well. As mentioned earlier, not only do we have to know something is possible, we need to believe it is possible as well.
The fourth ingredient for making a successful change is support. This ingredient is unique to the equation because it generated outside of the self. While we are responsible for the first three ingredients, we need to rely on outside influences to provide support and encouragement while moving forward. This can be frightening as it opens us up to others, exposing our vulnerability and perhaps parts of ourselves we may view as flawed, but it is a very powerful tool.
I can honestly say that quitting smoking was one of the hardest things I have done. As a matter of fact, I used to quit on a regular basis. I knew I was capable of it, I was motivated, and I had a good attitude. But I was in my twenties, not proud of my addiction, and certain I could quit on my own. I would stop for a week or so, but I could never really quit. It wasn’t until I finally decided I needed the support of those around me to keep me encouraged and accountable that I was able to push through and finally call myself an ex-smoker. That was over twenty-five years ago and I am now think of myself as a non-smoker. None of that would be true if I had not admitted that I needed support.
All the ingredients for change are important. All of them are powerful tools by themselves. But trying to make a worthwhile change by focusing on only one or two them at a time is more a recipe for failure than success. When all the ingredients are working together, an amazing transformation begins to occur. Goals don’t seem unrealistic or out of reach. Realizing that we are making change happen bolsters our self-esteem. Lasting change becomes possible rather than just theoretical.
It is true that we are all busy. In fact, most of us are probably over-scheduled on a daily basis. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t find the time or energy to change. When the right ingredients are mixed together in the proper portions, personal development and self-improvement become much more accessible and achievable.
I like to think that is something we would all be happy to make time for.
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