Finding the Force of Intent for Change
What changes do you want to make? We can use anything as an example, get into better physical shape, eat healthier food, happier relationships, more free time, or financial goals. What is important to apply (not just understand intellectually) is that these changes in actions, behaviors, and outcome begin with desire and commitment. Desire and commitment aren’t intellectual ideas or concepts. Desire and commitment are feelings and emotions which are much more powerful than ideas. These feelings are the raw material need to make change happen. We’ll use my friend Dave’s experience changing his attitude about the holidays as an example.
“I’ve got to do something about this. These attitudes aren’t helping me.” This is what Dave said to himself last year as he looked at his attitudes and opinions about the holiday season. It was the feeling and attitude that went with his words that was important. It was a commitment to change. It was also a recognition that he is the owner of his attitude and expressions about the holidays and that he has the power to change these attitudes. This is a recognition of our own power. “I’ve got to do something about this,” is said with the emphasis on “I am doing something about this.” Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, a year later, he wasn’t depressed about the holidays the way he had been in previous years. If these same words are said with feelings of despair, overwhelm, or powerlessness, that come from a victim voice in our head they don’t accomplish the same thing.
I know this message is after the holidays, but perhaps that is best. You have a window here to reflect on what just happened and time to intend a new experience if you wish. If you don’t need a head start on next year’s holidays, then use these ingredients in other areas you want to change for the coming year such as your diet, exercise, or relationships.
Some Practical Actions
What makes people sad and depressed during the holidays? Whatever it is for each person, it isn’t the same. And it isn’t that it is Christmas, or a specific thing about the holiday. If it were, we would all respond the same way. So some of this holiday gloom, has to fall on the shoulders of the individual. The good news here is that we can each change our own part. Without ownership of some of our emotional dynamics control of our happiness will default to forces outside our self. This defaulted approach results in a feeling of powerlessness. So the first step is to own some responsibility for your opinions, thoughts, activity, experience, attitude, and creations. This is empowering and necessary for change.
Splitting Lies from Truth
Recognize that there are some glib lies and falsehoods about the holiday season. It is NOT “the most beautiful time of the year.” It’s a great line from a beautiful song, but it isn’t the truth. I thinks something in our conscious awareness senses a lie in there and we revolt or rebel against it. However, perhaps we go too far in our rebellion and exaggerate our expression of disgust and extend it to anything or everything about Christmas. Perhaps there is some middle ground we can find between believing every line of a sappy song and exaggerated disgust at it. In truth, some people love the time of the year and it is the most beautiful to them. Let them have their experience and enjoyment. It is okay not to feel that way. And we can drop expressions of resentment about their joy also. The time of the year is really equally beautiful (or ugly) as any other time. You don’t need to try and believe the line from the song. If it goes against your integrity and it isn’t the most beautiful time for you then that is fine. I prefer the longer days of light during the summer or the colors of the leaves in the fall. But, hey, if someone finds the bright snow and freshness of the cold air in winter beautiful then I won’t begrudge them that. I’ll respect their preferences, freedom of expression, and choices and I’ll be the happier for it when I do. When I drop my story about it NOT being the most beautiful time of the year, and change it to, “It might be for some people,” I also drop the judgment, disdain, and resentments that I have been carrying around. That takes one me one step out of the emotions of misery and in the direction of happier. Every step is one.
Honesty About Your Emotions Helps
The Christmas Holiday season is often about getting together with family. It is a time that we relish our close relationships and take time to enjoy them. That makes it a special time, and, if we have lost close family members, it can make it an especially hard time emotionally. We are likely to miss those family members even more. This brings up feelings of sadness, grief, and gloom. In this case it isn’t the holiday decorations to blame, or an ornament that reminds us of a loved one or lost dreams. These holiday symbols are triggers for a kind of unfinished mourning. Somewhere down in our soul we haven’t released all the emotions and longings for that family member and loved one. We haven’t made peace with the cycles of life that includes death of a physical body.
Pointing our finger at Christmas and engaging in criticisms distracts us from this emotional journey of cleaning and releasing. Our attention is especially tempted to trades for less painful emotions. In this case our mind’s protection system is content with the minor sorrows and dissatisfaction’s of the holidays in lieu of the deeper emotional loss. While our denial system unconsciously trades for a lesser pain this isn’t the only option. It doesn’t solve next years pattern of sorrowful associations or the unreleased grief during the rest of the year. This requires that third option of the emotional journey of release as well as making peace with the cycles of life, death, and a what we do with the temporal in between.
If we don’t deal with our unreleased emotions and agreements with things like loss directly, it can cause us to build up other patterns that become traditions of sorrow during the holidays. If we go through a holiday season with deep grief and sorrow our mind can build associations between those emotions and the holiday season. We can then be induced by these associations to adopt the same mental and emotional pattern during the next year. After a couple years it becomes a pattern of holiday blues. And then we not only know that we will spend the holidays in sorrow and sadness, but we come to expect it. At that point we might build a layer of dread in response to this expectations at the coming holiday emotions. Dread at the coming season, or at anything, is a sign that we have abdicated our power over to patterned thoughts of a fictional future. This is also a state of self-hypnotized powerlessness that left unattended will dream us next year.
Practical Actions for Change
At this point it is not just about releasing the emotions of grief, but also about changing the patterns of our mind. For this, awareness, desire, and commitment to change our attitude can be helped with bold action. Changing the external pattern of triggers and the associations to emotional patterns may be called for. New traditions might include different decorations for the tree and house, a different menu for the meal, or inviting different family, neighbors, and friends to join. Or you can be more bold by going off to a warm beach for a few days or volunteer at a homeless shelter or food bank serving meals. New people, new interactions, and new environment forces your mind to build new neural patterns and will help keep you in the present moment. It is in the present moment you will feel more alive and vibrant, making it harder for those tempting stories of dread and sorrow to dream into your expressions.
The point here is that you can do something. You have to do something if you want to change how you feel during this time of the year, or any time of the year. The same applies to patterns of healthy eating and exercise. It is not enough to do the same thing, believe the same thing, have the same thoughts, and expect that your emotions or activities will change. Thoughts, beliefs, attitude, activity, and emotions come as a package. Once you start taking new actions and activities, your mind will be driven to different thoughts, and you will be on your way to creating new emotional patterns. Sometimes you start with changing the thoughts and beliefs on the inside and the inspiration for change externally happens. At other times you must consciously change external patterns that force your neural and emotional patterns to be disrupted.
The Raw Ingredients for Change
The process starts with taking responsibility and ownership of some part of your thoughts, attitudes, emotions, or actions. This sense of responsibility provides the faith for a sense of power necessary for change. These steps are followed by desire and commitment. Focusing on the desire to change helps grow that desire. When that desire is strong enough a commitment to a new direction or action arises. This is where Dave was when he said to himself, “I’ve got to change this. These attitudes aren’t helping me.” Notice here that all these important ingredients aren’t ideas in the head. They have the quality of feeling and are therefore much more powerful than ideas. Only when the feelings are felt do the words come.
You Don’t Need To Know How Yet
Do you need to know how you will change those thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and emotions at this point? No, you don’t. Trying to know how things will change before you have the desire and commitment usually leaves one in a state of paralysis. A person feeling powerless waits for the “right” answer of what they know will work before doing something. However, without being committed, without that desire for change, one will feel doubtful of any approach. When you have the desire and commitment you don’t really care if the thing you try will work because you know that you can and will try something else until you find a way. You don’t feel as powerless because you aren’t dependent on just one “right” answer. Once you have the desire and commitment, the mind will work towards figuring out the path with multiple approaches if necessary.
If you find that you are trying to figure out the “how,” then take time to notice that you are in the world of concepts in your head and ignoring the necessary ingredients of feelings. Then put aside those concepts and get connected back with your feelings of wanting and desire.
The specific actions other people use or that you read in an article may or may not work for you right away. Each person will have to find their own way through to a different attitude about the holidays or whatever changes they want to make. It may take one or more attempts to implement a strategy that works completely the way you want. For instance, you won’t know which nutritional food plan or workout regimen will work best for you until you try several. But in my experience, the process of Responsibility à Empowerment à Desire à Commitment are universal.
What is important to notice about these elements of change that precede actions or behaviors is that they all have to do with feelings. We feel responsible and powerful or we don’t feel it. We feel desire and committed or we don’t. What made Dave’s commitment with words work was that they were full of feelings of desire and resolve. There was a feeling of responsibility and power over his attitude and opinions. His words had a desire and a commitment so strong that he could feel a “need” to change. Change happens when you get in touch with your feelings. When you make your commitments to change, make sure your words aren’t empty of feeling. The more desire, and feeling they have, the more powerful your commitments and the faster your change will be.
I don’t just write about Dave because it is a good story. I know from personal experience the impact desire and commitment had to the changes I made. I vividly remember the desire that drove commitment that then led to changes. What I write about here isn’t just theory or story about Dave. Having and embracing these raw ingredients of feelings and emotions that produced change is also my experience.
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Original by Gary van Warmerdam
Posted at https://pathwaytohappiness.com/2015/01/06/intent-for-change/