Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Season of Change

I am not sure what to make of this post. Pretty much all of my ramblings up to this point have been strictly humor, without the thought of giving information that might be helpful to someone in any measurable way. Don’t get me wrong I love ranting about movies and things I hate, but I felt that this post was needed. To be honest it is probably mainly for me, but if it gives anyone out there some help then I guess that is a bonus.

With New Years, and the resolutions we made, fading fast in the review mirror of life I see that while we often make goals to change we never think about the best way to act on them. So here I give you five steps on how you can effect change in your life.

1.       Identify the issue

This step is the foundation for everything you will be working on later, and as we all know a firm foundation key to see any type of structural success. You never want to see a building come down due to shoddy workmanship (unless the building had it coming) and you also don’t want to see any of your goals suffer the same fate (I doubt they have it coming).

Either these were poorly built, or the local frost giants decided they wanted to play with dominoes.

  If you don’t know what you want to change, nothing will change. It is like going into a movie 20 minutes late and hoping that at some point they will recap what is happening because you are afraid the bewildered look on your face will stick for good. It is like going to the grocery store without a list of what you need and just throwing anything in the cart. You will end up walking the aisles for hours, eyes wide with terror at the thought of returning home without what you need. Days later you will still be confused and frustrated as to why you have 13 boxes of pop tarts and a barrel of couscous when all you really needed was a loaf of bread. I guess all I am trying to say is, that not knowing what to change is bad news
 Another key is to make sure you have done your part to uncover the true issue. If you start working on something that is not the true issue you will find yourself back at this step a ways down the road. I find that for me the easiest way to figure out the problem is to write things down in lists of what I feel like I should be doing and what I want to do about it. It is quite interesting to see what comes up when you are just sketching out ideas. Often the thing I want to change just glares up at me from the paper or screen, but in a good way like a JJ Abrams film (don’t judge, I like his work). That may not be the best way for you. It could be that you need to have interaction with others and bounce ideas off of them to help find what you need. It might be as simple as spending some time in quiet contemplation. I am not here to tell you the best way; rather I am sharing what has worked for me.

Choosing your own adventure often begins here.

 I am not the only one I know that is a fan of the technique of jotting things down. Recently my good friend Ricky sent me email with an attachment called “guidelines for life”. He had listed out the things he felt needed to change. He then took those things and made a comprehensive list of them and also paired them with some of the possible solutions. It was quite the list that while it was all encompassing it could seem daunting for certain people.  So find what works for you and go for it since the next big step is…

2.       Deciding to Act

For change to happen you have to truly decide to make it so. According to the laws of Physics a body at rest stays at rest and a body in motion stays in motion. Depending on what our goal is we need to find a way to jump start ourselves into action or find some way to stop.

This message brought to you by Newton.

A way to stop is to find an anchor, something that will be firm enough to stop you in a tempest of self-doubt. Often that can be a simple thing like the support of a friend.  Generally speaking being a friend means you like someone (I think that is the actual definition) and that you are willing to help them in what they need (fine, here is the actual definition. A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard). The only issue is that friends are not mind readers and can’t help anchor you if they don’t know that that is what they are supposed to do. So in order for your friends to support you, they need to know that is what they are supposed to be doing. So you will be required to open your mouth.

 An example of this is once again my friend Ricky. At times he can be crass in his choice of words and it is something he wishes to change. When we were hanging out in a small group he told us of his wish to change and his desire for our help in the matter. If he hadn't spoken up I would not have known this and would not have been able to remind him to not use certain words by flicking him rather viciously. He hates being flicked and I love doing it so I was more than willing to help him in his quest.

Another anchor we have is the support of our family. In most cases our family loves us and they want what is best for us, so they are great candidates for helping people change. Also if nothing else we always have the support of God in our attempts to better ourselves. He is always there and is a staunch ally who will never give up on us no matter how lost we think the cause.

For some of us the issue might be the fact that we are omitting to do things in our life. This can be any number of things from not going to the gym or not going to school or studying when we should. It could also be not taking the time to prepare meals or even taking the time to be with loved ones. Getting ourselves up and about when it comes to these omitted acts can be quite an onerous task. We are often comfortable where we are and don’t feel the need to change. This is just our general malaise trying to keep you complacent.
Turns out there is an image for everything.

It seems like the most important step in either case is that if you feel something needs to change you need to decide to act. There can be no hope of change if the main party hasn't truly decided that they want to change. So remember you need to want to change for anything to happen. It can’t even be a wishy-washy type of want either like “yeah I would like a taco, but only if it were already in my mouth”. It has to be a fully vested want. You have to desire this change in your heart.  Once you have that desire you are ready to take that first step down the road of change.

 I would recommend possibly making a list of one or two things that you want to change and make a plan of everything that this change would entail. Once you have this list in hand it is time to look at those things and...

3.       Act as if you were

Okay so at this point you have figured out what you want to change and you have decided to act. Another step to tackle your goal lies in the phrase “Act as if you were”. This principle was taught to me by my mission president. It seems so simple yet it blew my mind with how effective it could be.

 I will give you a few examples of what this step could look like. If you want to be better at cleaning the house just act as if you were. In the beginning you will think to yourself “What would a very tidy person do in this situation?” Once you thought about what they would do, you would do it yourself. After a while of acting like you think they would it becomes a part of you and is a habit. Or if you want to be more patient, just take the same steps and think what a patient person would do in that spot. It can be really frustrating to begin with since many people suck, but over time you find that you have a greater capability to be patient with others (I think this is one I need to work on). 

 Another thing that seems to be a part of this is if you are the one helping someone change you need to act as if they were as well. If you treat them as if they have changed it will give them greater confidence that they will be able to finish what they started. This part also works great in a work environment. If you have people under you and you want them to be better you need to treat them as if they were that person already. It is remarkable in the way it boosts their motivation.

At this point we have identified the issue, decided to act and have taken up the mantra to act as if you were. Now you need to remember that..

4. You don't need to be afraid of setbacks and relapses

I know that was a longer header title than normal and that it doesn't fit with proper header etiquette, but I live life on the edge so deal with it. Back to the topic of discussion. I find that this section is probably the most important for maintaining changes. When you are trying to change something in your life setbacks are impossible to avoid. They will happen and what we do after they happen is what will decide our fate. If we see that we had a setback, it is normal to feel a little despair and to think about giving up on change. DON'T GIVE IN! Just don't.

Let us imagine that your goal is to eat healthier. It is a worthy goal, but one day you are just innocently going along and BAM!! You find that you have no time to make a meal so you swing by McDonald's and grab a Big Mac.  Don't let that get you down or before you know it you will be double fisting ice cream and pizza sandwiches while tears slowly roll down your face and onto your stained sweats.

Puppies don't judge

Even though we know that relapses happen that doesn't mean we can't limit them and shape them a bit. With the example above we know that part of the problem is that your body will crave some of the things you are no longer eating. If you just try and use willpower to avoid eating a cookie ever again your face will probably explode. So instead of avoiding it forever you need to plan for it in your meals. Maybe you will have one cheat meal a week or maybe you will have an Oreo with one meal a day. With other goals it might be avoiding the things that tempt you. I don't know what will work best for you. I just know that for each goal there is a way to minimize the effect and scope that setbacks have.

Okay, some puppies do judge.
 5. Monitor and Maintain

Good for you if you have made it this far. It means that you have identified a problem, you have decided to act and act as if you were, you also are aware of the setbacks that will come. Now we come to the last step, monitoring your progress. If you see that things are changing that will be a great perk and will add extra motivation to improve even more, or if you aren't seeing any improvement that might be a sign that it is time to try a new approach to solving the issue. Not every attempt is going to be a success, but that shouldn't be a deterrent.  Just remember that even if it didn't work the fact you tried is a good step.

I like to think of this step as the repeat step on the shampoo bottle. After you have made it through all the stages it is time to repeat. As you move along the path of change you will find that at times you need to tweak your goals. It could be that you have completed what you were aiming for so now you are going to tackle something else. It could also mean that as you move along the path that you will find that you wish to reach a slightly different destination. to get there just take the aforementioned steps and go through them again.

I know that it seems like changing is hard, and you would be right. It is hard to change, but not impossible and the rewards make it all worthwhile. It is my hope that we will all be able to find our goals and to make them reality, even if it is just to make that Chewbacca puppy stop judging you.

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