“One key to meaningful change” I hear you ask? Many self-help, wellbeing and psychology articles talk about multiple steps towards personal growth. But in my experience there is only one. And it is mostly ignored and undervalued. Let me explain.
Before you go on reading, here is one important task:
Look at yourself in a mirror. I am serious. Look at yourself in a mirror and ask yourself: Do I like you?
Now hold that thought and hang on to that answer. I will come back to it later in this post.
Whatever the time of our life, we might be desperate for change, for sorting ourself out, for moving on.
But even meaningful change is not always easy.
Whether it is New Year’s resolutions or a personal crisis, how do we make change and personal growth happen? What is our key to meaningful change?
Do you have a strong urge for change in your life, but you don’t know where and how to start; or you have started and don’t seem to get very far?
Are you worried, that whatever change might be around the corner, might happen too late to have any meaningful impact on your life?
Might your think that the change you crave is selfish and unhelpful to others in your personal or work life?
If any of this sounds familiar, then what can you to make meaningful change happen?
1. Stop for a minute and ask yourself:
“What is at the bottom of this urgent longing for change?”
- Has anything happened – like a bereavement, a health scare, birthday, relationship difficulty, job loss – that makes you re-assess where you are at in your life?
- Or is it resentment, creeping up on you, a slow drip-drip sense of not wanting to be where you are or who you are in your life?
Some of this may only manifest itself as a sense of unhappiness, lack of fulfilment and purpose, of loneliness, anxiety and feeling down or depressed. Not knowing what to do for the best and feeling indecisive can make the whole thing a lot worse and sometimes unbearable.
Is there another way of looking at your dilemma with change?
One that might start to replace the sense of doomed desperation with a new sense of you being in charge, and your situation having an important purpose.
2. Have a quiet word in you own ear:
“Stay calm and don’t get stressed out.”
Remember when you were a child, all eyes on you to get something right at school or at home? That pressure of expectation then and now does not do anyone any good.
You will master it all in your own good time, and for that you need to stay calm, relaxed, and focused.
Trust, that in time, you will figure it out.
3. Reassure yourself:
“I am going through a time of change, and it might be tough. That is perfectly normal and often necessary.”
Instead of fear of failure or making a mistake, try a more positive approach: “I am onto something new, something good, new opportunities and options. I am onto MY key to meaningful change, that is good for me.”
The words you tell yourself shape your feelings. Positive words help generate a positive attitude.
4. Give yourself permission:
“At the end of the day, the choice will be mine and I won’t have to do anything, I don’t feel ready for.”
You are your own expert: “I will know and recognise the change that I need now and what works best for me. Eventually, it will become clear in my own mind.”
5. Make a deal with yourself:
“For all that to happen, I will need to remain calm and pay attention to my thoughts and feelings. Because that’s where the clue for change will be.”
While feelings and thoughts like ‘I feel rotten, lonely, fed up, useless’ can be very real and overwhelming, positive change can only happen, if you can observe your feelings and thoughts and understand what lies at the bottom of your desire for change. That’s where your direction for change lies.
Now, there are at least two snags with all this, and you might have already spotted it.
First, you need to have patience.
Needing to exercise patience can be infuriating, because we want it all yesterday.
Being measured and waiting is not always encouraged in a world which is about immediacy and solutions. Patience can be hard and painful, because it means facing up to and enduring difficulties without running for a quick fix.
But patience is an integral part of change, which comes from within and has a positive meaning for your life.
Second, when you looked at yourself in the mirror and asked: Do I like you? What was the answer?
The one key to meaningful change and personal growth is to like yourself.
At least a little, otherwise ‘a word in your ear’ will not sound like calm, hopeful encouragement, but instead like bitter, hopeless and empty words which cannot conceal the self-doubt or even self-loathing you may have for yourself.
If you want change but don’t like yourself, then I would suggest, there is your answer.
Why do so many of us struggle with liking ourselves?
Because we doubt our self worth.
Why? It often goes back a long way, to experiences and events in our lives which shaped our level of confidence and self worth.
The one key to meaningful change is to like yourself and believing that you are entitled to change. Too often we worry about the impact of change on others.
The change you need, does not need to be selfish. Don’t be afraid.
Have some compassion with yourself.
Notice when you are harsh, critical and even self-destructive with yourself.
Do you really deserve that? I think not.
Sometimes we want change, and we need change, that is natural and healthy. But we may not have been encouraged to welcome change. Sometimes change is seen as a sign of failure instead of natural growth and self development.
In my experience, if we are truly and patiently open for change, the answer and direction will reveal itself – step by step or in a single massive revelation.
But we need to be open to notice.