Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Mother Nature and I are Chillin': How to Change Naturally
Today is the most glorious day outside. You can smell the Spring in the air. I'm so stirred by this weather I just want to sing!
In addition to loving today, this blog post is a celebration of organic change and everything in due time. It's not like Mother Nature says: "Yo, gestating buds, sprout out NOW and put some leaves on this dead lookin' cold tree." So why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we (or at least, I, and a few others I may know) expect full bloom overnight?
Yesterday I was coaching a former investment banker who quit her job because she wanted a different life. Three weeks into her new life she's feeling anxious. In a very gentle and empathetic way I recommended a chill pill. Here are the details of that prescription, which I've been taking myself, and yes, it's sometimes hard to swallow.
1. Everything is happening as it should. You're in the perfect place. Whether it's amazing or sucks. There's something you need to learn about your current situation and that's why you're there. Learn this lesson now so you can move on. Or else, you'll continue to be challenged until you pass. If you're currently in a delicious place, congratulations! All you have to do is be grateful for every drop. But even for those of you who are in a sucky place, you also need to be grateful for the lessons because that's how you grow.
2. Change is physical. Or neurological. Whether you're starting a new job, trying to lose 10lbs, or choosing to date people who are actually good for you, changing your behavior is not as simple as just making a decision. There's a lot of rewiring that has to go on up there (in your brain) in order to make the change you want feel like second nature. William James, the famous psychologist, talks about the plasticity of our neurological system. New habits force new neurological pathways while practicing old habits deepens existing pathways.
3. Take action. Go cold turkey. William James advises that if you really want to make something happen, you just have to do it. By not taking action on your desire to create change, you're hard-wiring yourself for failure.
4. The key is to take one small step in the direction you want to go and acknowledge your success. For example, I told my banker friend to make a list of her priorities in the areas of wellness, relationships, fun, and work. I asked her to schedule the items that give her the most joy as if they were her most important business meetings. At the end of each day, she's going to write in her journal about how she delivered against her objectives to love life. William James says that action + experiencing success (even if small) is what insulates your resolve from the temptation of going back to your old habits.
5. Give yourself a break. We're all about productivity, efficiency, results, and logic in our society. So when our bodies and minds don't operate as quickly as our Apple, we think something is wrong with us. There's a gap of space and time between becoming aware of a change you want to make and actually making the change. Honor that gap. It takes time to cross through it and for the brain to rewire. The more elegantly you honor the rocky process of change by just being patient and accepting the fact that it might be messy, the easier the discomfort will pass. Remember, "a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." - Asian proverb.
Hope you like this mixed bag of metaphors...
Mustering patience with much love,