In one moment....you've decided enough is enough. You're done with pity, the blame, and the negative outcomes. You want to make a change and you'll do whatever you can to make it happen.
You've read the self-development books. You've gotten clear about your vision. You're doing the inner work. You spend days, weeks, and months researching, planning, and implementing the tools. You're motivated as all hell.
Until one day...you're not.
You start thinking "Damn, when is this ever going to get easier?!" and "Shouldn't I BE there by now?"
Trust me... I've been there.
Over the last two years of my own journey, I've fallen down and gotten back up more times than I can count. The falls become less frequent, but they still hurt. Bad. Every single time I've fallen down I've wondered "What is wrong with me? I shouldn't be feeling this way anymore. I'm doing the work! I want to be different!"
That was until recently when I realized that it's all part of the process. Change isn't easy. Growth isn't pleasant. Were going to experience turbulence, obstacles, and ultimate pain in our journey.
Whether you're overcoming an addiction, launching a new creative endeavor, trying to elevate your business, ending a toxic relationship, or working to develop a more present and positive mindset....you're going to get hit with some growing pains.
But, don't worry. Nothing has gone wrong. It's just a part of the process. And before I tell you the good news, let's get clarity around why growth is so painful.
Why Change Is So Hard
The Unknown is Scary
The first and most obvious reason we experience pain during transformation is for the simple fact that human beings hate the unknown. We like to be comfortable. We like to feel safe. Changing our behaviors and our beliefs is like hijacking a cruise ship and saying "Hey guys! We know you were headed to Bermuda, but we've decided to shift directions and try to find another island further out."
Yeah, not cool.
When were trying to change, were forced to step out of our comfort zones and jump off cliffs without safety nets. There's no plan. There's no security. Of course our brains are going to freak out. Even in you're running your health and relationships by a drug addiction or eating disorder, your brain doesn't know the difference between a good and a bad habit. All it knows is what you've done repetitively and it doesn't want to give that up for something unknown.
Go into your growth knowing this truth and be prepared to ignore your mind's temper tantrums every time you do try something different.
You Don't Want To Look At Yourself
You cannot change your situation until you take responsibility for your current situation. Repeat. You cannot change YOU until YOU take responsibility for YOU. Notice I didn't include anything about your genetics, your predisposition to addictions, your environment, your boss that laid you off, your ex-boyfriend that cheated on you....NADA.
If you want to change, you have to accept radical responsibility for the outcome of your life thus far. Release all of the blame on others and be willing to accept what you have created right now. And don't get stuck in the shame spiral of "I can't believe I did this to myself, I suck!" That's not helping either.
When you accept that you created this, you realize that you can also change it. Take responsibility so you can take action. Start to get curious about the specific thoughts, feelings, and actions that you routinely take that have gotten you where you are now. Which ones are no longer serving you? What parts of you do you want to let go?
This isn't easy work to do. But, it's essential. Best advice....look at yourself objectively as if you're evaluating the current condition of a complete stranger. When we get caught up in guilt and judgment around ourselves, it keeps us stuck in a negative spiral before we can even implement a new vision for ourselves.
You're Constantly Battling Between Your Old Self and Your New Self
When were in the midst of change, were literally forced to create an entirely new identity for ourselves. And in that creation, our old identity is going to cling on for dear life. Because even if our old self was addicted and miserable....it still kept us alive. And our monkey mind doesn't take that for granted.
Even the smallest changes are going to require a creation of a new self.
For example, let's say you're trying to quit smoking. It's not as simple as replacing the act of smoking with chewing gum or deep breathing exercises a few times a day. Because even with those substitutions, you will still be your old self.
You will still have the craving for a cigarette after every meal. You will still have the thought "I need a cigarette right now." You will still carry around the belief "Quitting smoking is hard."
You literally need to create a new identity. You need to become someone who doesn't smoke. You need to become someone who doesn't give into cravings. In other words, you need to mentally occupy your future self, not your current self. And that takes a lot of awareness.
You need to pay attention to your old thoughts and have new, empowering thoughts ready to go when they strike. You need to change your beliefs about your individual capacity to overcome challenges.
It isn't easy. It doesn't happen overnight. But, this is how the brain works. Our brains want to keep us in the known, repetitive, and "safe" thinking and behavioral patterns. When we start to think and behave differently, our brains start sending us rational lies and stress signals encouraging us to stop.
And in that creation you will constantly be battling your old sense of self and all of its thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs. That's why it's so important for you to zoom the lens out and stop focusing on the behavior or element you want to change and get clear on the new person you need to become.
Start thinking about the thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs of your new self. Keep them fresh in your mind when your old self tries to fight you during your transformation and choose to empower the identity you ultimately want to become.
You Have to Let Go of the People and Environments That Are No Longer Serving You
Eeeeeek. I know. But, this is an important one. So often, we decide that we want to change and to better our lives. We feel good about our commitment, we start getting the books, doing the journaling exercises, practicing the meditations, and then we go hang out with our friends and tell them about our new goals and then BAM, we get shut down.
"That'll never work!" ,"Oh, come on! Don't be lame, just have a drink!"
Even if they don't say it outright, their current behaviors mimic the exact ones you're trying to rid yourself of. Negative, unmotivated, and STUCK. And you start to wonder...."Maybe they're right."
And not only that...you start to wonder that if you did in fact change....who would you hang out with? Would your friends change their attitudes and be there to support you? Or would you be forced into an isolated life?
Now your excitement and motivation has quickly turned into fear and despair. And in this moment you need to decide what's more important: your friendships or your growth.
And I'm not saying you need to ditch all of your best friends and never speak to them again, but I do want you to ask yourself some questions about your friendships you have.
If this sounds familiar, start to ask yourself some questions.
Do these friends inspire you? Are they making moral choices? Do you feel happy when you're around them? Do they support your goals?
If they don't, it might be time to start setting up some boundaries on these relationships. Spending less time together, changing the activities you take part in together, making a choice to not take their advice so personally, etc.
Change starts internally, but we need the external support to make it stick. And it's up to you to evaluate your environment and decide which relationships and situations are serving you.
You Have A Lot More To Unpack Than You Thought
Whether you're making a huge life change or just trying to break a bad habit, you'll soon realize you have a lot more inner work than you expected. Because your binge eating isn't just about food restriction. Your smoking habit isn't just about the physical addiction. Your procrastination isn't just about the way you organize your calendar.
Usually, the things were trying to change are just symptoms. They're not the real problem. And the harder we try to change, the more the issues we don't want to face come to the surface. The shame, the traumas, the limiting beliefs. The stuff we don't want to look at it.
But, in order to make lasting change, we need to unpack all of it. It might be uncomfortable, but it is essential for our growth and healing.
Now that we know why change is so difficult, let me share with you a few suggestions to help you along the journey.
What You Need to Do to Change
Find Your Purpose Behind It All
Why are you trying to quit smoking? Why are you trying to eat healthier? Why are you trying to be more confident? Why are you trying to earn more money? What would this change allow you to create in your life? What is your purpose behind it all?
When we only look at the surface habits and beliefs we want to change, our motivation can die out when struggle strikes. But, when we tap into our purpose behind it all, the motivation will never fade away.
If you're unsure of what your purpose is, get a journal and start to write out some ideas. Ask yourself...."What would this change allow me to become?"
Maybe it would allow you to be a better parent. Maybe it would clear mental space for you to pursue your passion of being an author. Maybe it would allow you to grow your business to touch more people. Maybe it would give you the life credentials to become a coach.
Forget about your own personal benefit for a moment and get curious as to how this change would allow you to serve the greater good. The stronger your purpose is, the stronger the motivation. And the more support you'll receive from the universe to guide you on your path to transformation.
Keep Your Vision Strong
In order to make change, you need to keep a specific and detailed vision of your changed self alive in your brain every single day. You can't just say "I want to stop drinking." or "I want to make more money." No.
You need to proclaim and visualize exactly what you want your life to look like. Make a vision statement for yourself. And write it in the present tense as if you've already there.
An example...."I am vibrant, healthy, and full of energy. I have incredible romantic relationships and am increasing my company's revenue by $20,000 every month. It's easy for me to create new content and secure new clients. I can travel whenever I want and I have more financial freedom than I've ever had before. I am more spiritually connected than I've ever been and I offer compassion to everyone around me. I am so grateful for my life and for my ability to make this change."
Tailor this to your specific goals. And read your vision statement to yourself every single day. Then, close your eyes and start to visualize your new future. The people you're surrounded with, the healthy and vitality you feel, the smile on your face, the passion you feel....Soak this in for as long as you can.
There's a reason pro athletes visualize their wins. It works. It's not woo-woo nonsense. It's neuroscience. If you don't believe it, try it. If you still don't believe it, do some research on it. Then try again.
If you try this exercise and find yourself filled with doubt and disbelief, I need you try again. But, this time, trying sitting in meditation first. Let your thoughts completely fade and allow your conscious mind to rise above your current body, your current situation, and become a blank slate so to speak. It will be much easier to accept this new vision for yourself as reality if you rise above your ego and tap into the unbiased nature of the divine.
Personally, visualization has been the most important tool I've used to overcome addictions and negative thinking behaviors in my life and I still practice it every single day to create new circumstances for myself.
Find A Supportive Community
If you've realized that your current friendships are not supporting your growth, don't let yourself slip into isolation. Trust me, I've made that mistake before. Humans are meant to connect with each other. We are social beings and need the support of others, especially during difficult times, to keep us afloat.
Find a new group of friends that are going to support you. Start by looking in your own network of acquaintances and ask "Who inspires me?" or "Which of these people are really DOING something with their lives?"
And then reach out to have a conversation. You don't need to become best friends, but you can go out for a cup of coffee and pick their brain a little. And when you're done, notice how different it feels to spend time with people who are motivated and going after their goals vs. the negative and dull conversations you've had with your former social circle.
If you don't have anyone in your network, go out and find them. Go to a yoga class, go to a self-development seminar, join an online community....There are plenty of opportunities for you to find people that are drinking the same Kool-Aid as you and can support you in your journey. You just have to go out and find them.
Get Back Up
When you're trying to make a change or elevate your life in anyway, you're going to slip up. You're going to revert back to your old patterns. You're going to fall down. A lot. Don't take it personally. It's just the nature of the change. One of my mentors, Brooke Castillo, calls this the "river of misery." As in, were trying to swim from one self to another self and there's rapids, waterfalls, and chaos in our journey. But....we can get to the other side if we stick with it.
When you fall down, get back up. And every time you fall, try and jump back up quicker than you did the time before. Do not take your failures personally. There's nothing wrong with you. There's nothing wrong with your brain. It's not out to get you. It's just being efficient.
Plan for pain. Plan to fail. And fall in love with that process. Because at least if you failed, you know that you're pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. And every time you get back up, you build up your resilience and become stronger.
Find A Reason To Believe
If you've tried to change before and have failed, you most likely had a deep-rooted belief that change isn't possible. And that is to be expected. Your brain holds all of those memories of you failing before and will try and deter you from trying again. If this is the case for you....you need to look outside of yourself for a new reason to believe.
One idea is to pump yourself full of research on neuroplasticity and the nature of change. I found that when I filled myself up with so much education and information on the subject, it became harder the doubt the possibility of my own transformation. It is science, after all.
Another idea is to find someone who has had a similar story to yours that has come out on the other end. Whether it's overcoming an addiction or creating a multimillion dollar business from the ground up...there's inspirational stories everywhere. Do some digging, listen to some interviews, read some blogs, and start to build up some references in your mind to beef up your belief. If they can do it...you can do it.
Belief is without doubt the most important thing you can bring to the table when it comes to making a serious change in yourself and your life.
And to further support your journey, here are a couple of my teachers that have really helped me in my own journey:
Dr Joe. Dispenza, "Break The Habit of Being Yourself"
Brooke Castillo, "The Life Coaching School Podcast"
John Assaraf, "Brain-A-Thon"
Change isn't easy, but it is possible. And more importantly....IT IS SO WORTH IT.