A Process For Change

Like the seasons, every year I go through a process of change.  I take time to reflect on what I do, how I have spent my time, what I enjoy, what is fulfilling, and what doesn’t work. It isn’t the only time during the year that I do this, but at the end of each calendar cycle I take extra notice.

I put aside some projects that don’t seem fulfilling, or that I assume won’t bear much fruit.  Projects that inspire me are moved to the top of my list to work on this year. What I spend my time and attention on is considered. Most importantly I look at how I feel emotionally, and prioritize things around my happiness.  It is more a feeling and emotional process than a logical one.

I don’t know what the results will be so I can’t make a decision based on that. I can only make assumptions about future outcomes.  I only get to know how I feel about doing it right now.

You don’t get to know what the results of your labor will be. You get to change your expressions and your actions and then measure the results.  I think of planning for the future much like blacking out the front windshield of your car and looking in the rear view mirror.  You can’t see what is in the future.  You can only see what is behind you in the rear view mirror, the past.  Based on the past we make assumptions and decisions about tomorrow, what will work, and what won’t, and we steer our life in that direction.  It’s not the best decision making system, but since we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, it is better than none. I know that I don’t know, but I will consciously make an assumption, and in that I have the confidence to move forward. Most of the stuff I plan and intend doesn’t turn out the way I pictured it.  Such is life.  We keep taking actions as we create. Don’t let this not knowing cause you to hesitate very long.

This process of change for me has a format. I use it in my life, and I use it at my events, and it can be found in my Self Mastery Course.  I take time to gain some perspective on how I have been spending my time, my emotions, and my beliefs, and behavior.  I look at what works for me, and what doesn’t, as best as I can decipher in my rear view mirror.  I then let go of what doesn’t work.  I may do this in some journaling process, breath work, a meditation walk on the beach, or a ceremony.  I make some conscious decision and commitment to cut with that expression of energy. The commitment is followed up with vigilance and practice to change the habit.

By not expending any more energy on that expression, I have extra personal power to direct towards a new expression. That new expression might be a work project, or more personal, like how my wife and I communicate.  The important element here is that I first eliminated something and recovered personal power. This gives me a valuable resource with which to create something new.  There must be a death before there is a rebirth.

My events usually have the same process.  We spend time at the beginning taking a close look at ourselves and identifying what doesn’t work. What is important about this step is that we do it compassionately. We must reflect on ourselves in a very non-judgmental way.  We are not there to criticize, or find fault.  If this is happening, then we are not changing, we are just reinforcing a habit of our Judge voice.

Developing this compassionate attitude, or neutral perspective with which to reflect on our life, or year, or meeting, is necessary for good change.

As you make intentions for change I suggest you include these elements into your process.

  1. Take time to reflect in a compassionate way.  Do your best to view, without fault finding or criticism what you have been doing with your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.  The best version of your self now, is not a fair standard for the best version of yourself last decade, last year, or even last week.  You have traveled further down the road, and can now see things in the rear view mirror of your life that your past self couldn’t see looking forward.  Be compassionate for the former versions of your self that didn’t have this awareness.
  2. Take ownership and responsibility for the expressions you made.  This responsibility is an important part of tapping into the power that we create with.  When you put your attention and presence in the emotion and energy of those expressions, however painful they might be, you also tap into the force of life that propels you to express in that way. Tapping into that source of life, you can redirect that energy in a new way.  This is only possible when you compassionately take responsibility for how you created expressions in your past.
  3. Commit to expressing more beautifully.  This doesn’t mean a commitment to having a better image. How you look to your self and others is actually a byproduct of how you express your self.  Do the first and the second will come.  Expressing better sometimes means difficult changes that take us in a direction of new beginnings.  Whenever you are working to do something new, such as be more honest, vulnerable, and present in your relationships, you will be self conscious and fumble in the beginning.  Allow your self this learning curve. You have to fail at something for a while before you will be good at it.
  4. Use your mistakes as a chance to learn instead of a chance to beat your self up. Earlier in my life the voice in my head would beat me up for a mis-step as if this would somehow make me better. It was a lie.    We don’t play the guitar better because someone is yelling at us.  We don’t do anything better over the long period because of negative reinforcements. This is true even if it is coming from our own mind.  In reality we get better because we use an awareness of our mis-steps to improve. Self criticism isn’t part of this improvement loop. Allow yourself a learning curve for new habits to be integrated into your nervous system.  The Judge voice in your head might say that you are a screw up, but you will find that when you really look at it, the Judge character in your head doesn’t know what he is talking about. It might take a year or two to learn how to see the Judge this way, but it will be worth your time.
  5. Write out your intent. The clarity that happens through articulating it in writing will help solidify it and make it stronger.  It can also be helpful to carry it on a 3×5 card in your pocket and look at it once in a while.  Each time you read it you are making your commitment stronger.  This focus of your attention will help sustain the necessary conscious repetition in the long game.

Any one of these steps of the process can be your intent for change and growth.  You might just make it a year long commitment to develop a compassionate neutral observer attitude toward your self. This is just one step in a change process that will help you in all growth in the coming years. You might make it your intent for the year to let go of certain behavior patterns, emotions, or stories in your head.  You can do a ceremony or journaling that makes the commitment at this time of year, and then allow your self the year to do the step by step process of the work. Giving yourself a year to change a lifetime habit is compassionate, and realistic. Give your self the understanding that it will take repetitions of conscious practice to build a new habit.

If that critical voice in our head was any good at getting us to change, we would have already changed by now. So try it a different way.