26 Sep How to really change your life. Yes, really.
In 2007 I was diagnosed with lymphoma. In that moment when I heard the doctor say “You have a malignant, aggressive cancer”I felt as though my whole beingness collapsed in upon itself. The coming weeks were filled with tears, visits to doctors, and a tremendous sense of fear until the day I heard my oncologist say: “You will be cured.” As it turned out, he was right, and six years later I am as healthy as I was before I got diagnosed.
What I am not, however, is more healthy. Did hearing that my lymphoma was possibly caused by ingesting pesticides make me swear to buy organic and become a vegetarian for the rest of my life? Nope. Did knowing that stress is a contributor to illness cause me to make a deep and impassioned vow to take time to meditate and reduce stress in my life? Nope — I’m still overcommitted in most areas of my life. Was it the one thing to finally inspire me to cherish myself, mind, body and soul, to wake up from a fog and say “I’m gonna LIVE starting RIGHT NOW TODAY! And make EACH DAY COUNT!! And let my family know every day just how much I love them!!!” – in short, to get a whole new lease on life?
So why didn’t this life-altering experience change me? Well actually, I was already doing many of these things. Healthy diet, exercise, taking time for relaxation, and telling my family how much they meant to me were already a big part of my life. I felt like I had a pretty good lease on life and was constantly striving to maintain that experience. But I also know that I have certain behaviors that aren’t healthy for me that I wish that I could get motivated enough to change.
As an abundance coach, I hear a lot of stories about what’s not working in people’s lives. I hear tales of difficult bosses, stubborn clients, unexpected expenses, not quite enough in the bank to cover the rent, how hard the job market is, how unsupportive their friends and families are, and on and on. Sometimes the stories are relevant to what I’m coaching them on, sometimes they’re not, but one thing sure is consistent: the same stories repeat over and over again.
In some cases, the circumstances might have changed – the person might have gotten a new job, for instance. So now they have a new boss, new co-workers, new paychecks, and new responsibilities. But after a while, the stories they tell all start to sound familiar. It’s as though time never passed and nothing has changed.
This is how I know with absolute certainty that changing your circumstances will never change your life. As long as you are still operating from the same place of being and consciousness, you will continue to recreate the same experiences over and over.
What I find confounding is both how committed we are to recreating these scenarios and how blind we are as we do it. I can spend weeks coaching someone, and they can really be feeling like they are making progress and making a shift. And then either we don’t talk for a while and they forget, or, they might have gotten one situation down only to be faced with a new one that they react to with the same historical beliefs and behaviors.
We have all heard stories of people experiencing “satori” (a Buddhist term for “awakening”). They have some epiphany that inspires them to quit their job, start running, reconnect with family members, etc. To me these stories belong in the same category as get rich “quick” schemes or “easy” ways to lose weight. We think there will be that one thing that is going to finally get us off our ass.
Perhaps satori has happened to some people, perhaps there is a miracle diet out there, and perhaps someone will come up with that one idea that makes them millions. More likely however, we’re faced with the day to day experiences of procrastination, helplessness, and just plain inertia.
Why do we do this?
- We are remarkably tolerant. We are tolerant, day in and day out, of these most annoying, difficult, unpleasant, and uncomfortable situations in our lives. We are so tolerant that the situation becomes completely unbearable before we do anything about it. Even then, it’s usually when we can no longer avoid it, or something happens that is outside of our realm of control (like getting fired from a job you hate), that we buckle down and take any sort of action.
- We are stuck in our “as soon as” conversations. We think that “as soon as” our boss quits, or “as soon as” our kid starts school or “as soon as” we get enough money, things will change. We really believe this, and nothing could be further from the truth. Trust me, if you haven’t changed your underlying belief that bosses are jerks, then any boss you run into will turn out to be a jerk.
- We are committed to our stories, and we are even more committed to being right about our stories. One woman that I have been coaching for years just changed jobs and is (surprise!) encountering some of the same issues that she’s had before in other jobs. When we began a recent call, she spent the first 20 minutes telling me all the ins and outs of the personalities, the situations, and the difficulties she’s been having. Nothing, and I mean nothing, she told me during that time gave me any new insights that would help me coach her. I interrupted her and asked her if what she needed right now was simply someone with whom to share her story – everyone needs to just get stuff off their chest from time to time. She said, yes, I guess I just want to tell my story right now, and so I continued to listen, which I was happy to do, but when our session was ended I hadn’t said one thing that would actually make a difference in her life going forward. I’ve learned that until people are ready to listen to coaching and stop telling their story, they’ll only interrupt my coaching to tell their story again.
- We think feeling bad about doing something after we do it will prevent us from doing it again in the future. Let’s say you are working on eating healthier, and want to cut out sugar from your diet. You go to a birthday party and the host offers you cake. Your mind says “no”, but your taste buds say “yes, sure, and anyway, it’s just one piece.” Later, as you crash from your earlier sugar high, you say, “Why didn’t I just say no? I feel terrible. I’m not going to do that next time.” Alas, unfortunately, you probably will. To make the connection between the current moment of choice and the past moment of feeling bad relies on your ability to conjure in this moment how bad you felt in that moment, and since you don’t feel bad right now, you probably won’t be effective at conjuring it. Therefore how bad you felt before won’t affect your choice now. What will affect your choice now is just, well, making the correct choice now.
We’re always looking outside of us for some inspiration, some motivation, some point of crisis that will stir us to take action. That’s one of the reasons that people take transformational workshops or invest in coaches… they think that by doing that they will hear something that will alter their state of mind in such a way that they will finally begin to affect change.
What a productive world we would live in if all that it took for us to make a change in our life or to get something done would be to decide to do it and then do it. If we were willing and able to just CHOOSE NOW, without any change in circumstance, inspiration or external force, to be, do, or have that thing we want. There’d be no time spent agonizing over tough decisions, no more wasting your time (and that of your captive audiences) with the same old stories, and no time regretting that we didn’t act differently back when we had the chance.
I continue to make anywhere from bad to mediocre to powerful decisions as I go through my days. Sometimes I read or think about or have an experience that will thrust me forward in a renewed commitment to create a different result in my life. Ultimately, though, what keeps me moving in the direction that I want is making a choice from a free and clear place based on what I am committed to creating now.
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