If you read self-help articles, you see many lists from writers outlining the steps to change.
Many I have read on Medium are optimistic and use empirical data to support their claims. Few talk about the gritty parts of changing. While acknowledging the practical steps to manifest behavior modification has its place, what does it look like during the process?
For me, change has four subtle components that need mentioning.
In my early years, I was angry and thought of myself as a victim—my reasons why were complex and had many different parts. The process of adjusting this mindset had interesting peaks and valleys.
One thing I experienced that I do not see change advocates mention is that we all resist doing something new.
Even though I was aware my attitude was not getting me the desired results, I resisted making any drastic adjustments. Our minds have a specific way of doing things, and when we try to modify behavior, there becomes an internal fight against that action.
At that point, we might question whether something is wrong with us.
However, this biological reaction against transforming our behavior should not surprise anyone—the decisions we make daily form neural pathways in our brain that becomes our default mode over time. Trying to shift those decisions will cause some internal strife, regardless if they are positive or not.
Another issue I see few change agents mention relates to transitioning.
Specifically, how messy switching mindsets feels in the moment. There are many ups and downs when one does things differently. Going from an old to a new behavior is not a linear process. Two steps forward and four steps back was what usually happened to me.
I didn’t feel good on multiple occasions during the process. Other times I felt like a complete failure.
Although, hanging in there until I saw noticeable results in the right direction was the key. The process of getting to that point was anything but smooth. I thought about quitting multiple times; my old thinking patterns definitely came back now and again.
An additional vital thing to recognize regarding altering our lives revolves around time.
For me, real change took years. It was not something that occurred overnight. I displayed a different mindset with help from multiple sources, which showed me how inaccurate my thoughts were about life.
While going through the motions of change, I had to contemplate these issues independently.
Therefore, it was far from instant gratification. Anything worthwhile in life usually takes much work. One can verbally agree to anything, but behavior shows what one thinks.
In many instances, when it came to my worldview, there was a slight movement toward self-efficacy.
Small steps of taking more and more ownership of my decisions. Also, accepting the way my life was and understanding I made poor choices based on the information I had at that time. This allowed me to reframe the events of my life and have gratitude for many episodes in which I had previously been bitter.
But as I said, this was an evolutionary process that took time, not a one-day transformation retreat.
Direct honesty is the final concept missing in many articles regarding altering behavior. No matter what a self-help guru, psychologist, or religious leader tells a person, that individual has to be the agent of change.
If you do not act and maintain the progress you earned, your life will not improve.
My life showed progression once I took steps to go forward. The assistance from others was crucial but had I not listened to anyone, then no progress happens. I ultimately had to decide to live a better life; expecting others to do that for me is dehumanizing.
Thinking you cannot change sells yourself short unless you have a debilitating physical or mental health disorder.
No one has all the answers, and getting help when you’re stuck makes complete sense. Although, if I did not believe I could change or if I listened to unhelpful feedback from others, then I would still have the negative mindset I had in the past. This would have adversely impacted my life, and things would have turned out worse than they are now.
I’m very grateful my life improved and did not go backward.
Trying to enhance our lives is courageous, but it is far from simple. It’s critical to realize that point before one gets started. Having unreal expectations can set oneself up for failure. Accept the reality that some struggle will likely occur.
Ideally, things would go as planned without much turmoil. However, most of us will face adversity while trying to improve our lives. And that is entirely okay; hang in there and keep moving toward your goal.
P.S. What do you think regarding the process of changing?
Vertis Williams is a Positive Habits Life Coach and a Mindfulness Trainer. He is a regular presenter at employee and team-development events. Contact him to request more info on his Workshops or on his Coaching Services! Click HERE to Request a Complimentary Habit Coaching Session!