One day while having a conversation with my father who was in his late 60’s at the time we got into the subject of bad habits. He complained about some bad habit he had, and expressed his dislike for it. I told him that if he really disliked that habit he could always change it, and he could start today just taking baby steps. His response was, “I’m too old to change. I am an old man set in his ways, and change is impossible for me.”
I happen to know that he was not alone in his thinking. It is a commonly held belief that the older a person gets the harder it will be for them to change. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” they say. But I’d like to share with you that contrary to this widely held belief that people do not change, they do change and often in dramatic, life-altering ways. I say this with full confidence because not only have I witnessed it happen time and time again, I am a living testimony that creating positive change in our lives is totally possible.
The journey begins with a deep desire for growth and a sincere commitment to make bring it about. This desire and commitment become the fuel that carries us through the challenges that effecting change brings us. Change will definitely bring us challenges, and sometimes these challenges will be uncomfortable, even painful. But this is natural and to be expected. Even our bodies experience pain as we go through our physical growth. Nevertheless, we know that this pain is only temporary and a natural part of growing up.
If we want to effect real and lasting change, we need to take an honest look at ourselves. We must be willing to look in the mirror and see all there is to see; that which we consider good as well as that which we consider bad. Making an honest assessment of our qualities and motives will be the first working step towards bringing about positive change.
Steven Covey, in his critically acclaimed book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, states:
The inside-out approach to change means to start first with self; even more fundamental, to start with the most inside part of self – with your paradigms, your character and your motives.
Having assessed ourselves thoroughly, we must now identify the areas which we want to improve and how we want to improve them. In order to do this we must take full responsibility for our lives and our current situation and not place the blame elsewhere. This is not to say that we are to blame for everything that happened to us that let us to the place where we are today. Perhaps things happened to us when we were young and felt powerless. A child cannot be blamed for his or parent’s neglect or poor parental skills or abusive behavior. However, once the child grows up it will be of no benefit to him to continuously blame his parents for his behavior or current condition. Sure, it often helps to understand where certain unwanted behaviors originated. But once we become aware of patterns of behavior that we wish to change, it behooves us to take responsibility for our life from that point onward, and to begin taking the necessary steps to heal and bring about change.
We now need to assess what qualities are required to effect the desired change, and determine whether our values are in alignment with those qualities. We must do the important inner work of discovering who we are now, what matters to us, what we are passionate about and what we place value on. If, for instance, the change that we want to bring about will require more patience, more nurturing, etc. we need to determine if these are things that hold value for us. If not, we will not be successful in our quest.
Awareness is of utmost importance when effecting change, because it allows us to live our lives being fully conscious of our actions; this in turn allows us to free ourselves from reactive and self-defeating behavior and realize our personal best. Often we are operating in a sleep-like state. While we may think that we are making conscious decisions, in reality our subconscious is the one running the show based on prerecorded programs playing in the back of our minds.
Try this as an exercise the next time you’re about to make an important decision. Simply notice that chatty voice inside your head and hear what it’s telling you. Is it telling you that you’re crazy to consider what you are thinking of doing? Does it remind you of how many times you’ve failed in the past and warns you that you will probably do so again?
That is the voice of your subconscious. But understand that that voice is not your enemy nor is it out to sabotage you; it really does have your best interest at heart. The tapes that it plays for you, believe it or not, are for your protection. These are the messages that your conscious mind allowed your subconscious to accept as true, so you can hardly blame your subconscious for playing them back to you.
When we have identified that an old program no longer serves us, it becomes incumbent upon us to begin taking steps to replace it. Once we implant new, better and more beneficial programs in our subconscious, they will become the messages that get played back to us whenever we need to make decisions. In this case our behavior will be positively influenced by the new programs, and we will find ourselves feeling and acting in more confident and courageous ways.
In the words of Stephen Covey:
Being proactive means that we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.
Through inner-work we will be laying the foundation for a state of mind that will allow us to make lasting positive changes that will create a more meaningful, productive and happy life. We will begin looking at life through new eyes, and this will allow us to view everything that happens as an opportunity for growth rather than as a roadblock.
Change is definitely possible, regardless of your age, gender, or past or present circumstances. If you have a burning desire to bring about positive change in your life, and make the commitment to do it, you’ll inevitably succeed. You’ll definitely need some guidance, so you should probably consider hiring a life coach to help you along the way. You can certainly succeed without one, but having someone in your life who can provide some guidance, feedback, and encouragement when times get hard, has the potential to help you catapult your growth. But it all begins with a decision; the decision to not let your past or present situation define you, and choosing instead to create your own destiny.
As famous philosopher and psychologist William James puts it:
Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.
Do you have any input on this subject? Drop me a line in the comment box below.
I’d love to hear from you!