The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” –J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
What do you believe about yourself right this minute? What is your statement of belief that is unshakeable regarding who you are inside and out? They call this belief statement a manifesto and by definition a manifesto is a declaration of intentions, objectives, motives, and aims generally given by a government or organization.
I ask this question because in order to be ready, inside and out, for the 4th step toward change, it will be very helpful and very necessary to have on hand and in hand your personal manifesto; your personal deep seated truths that you know for sure about yourself. You will need to refer to this manifesto often in order to make this action step have meaning and push you through to the change you want to become.
“To believe in something and not to live it is dishonest.” – Mahatma Gandhi
I have been telling you about my nerve wracking yet necessary ordeal with surgery that I had to have 2 years ago. It was my manifesto that helped me through the darkest parts of that ordeal. My manifesto took two months to write but really it’s taken a lifetime to cultivate and hone and is always a work in progress. Some things will change along the way but some things will only grow stronger. It looks something like this:
–I believe in moving forward with my life.
–I believe in always learning.
–I believe it is time to stop being afraid.
–I believe in forgiving myself whenever possible.
–I believe in putting out into the universe all that I want.
–I believe in preparing myself for the universe to answer my requests through positive thoughts about me and what makes me happy.
–I believe in learning the language of the moment. For example my baby’s language, my doctor’s language, my professor’s language, the language of love whether for myself or others, etc.
–I believe in changing my mind so long as I honestly own the choice I make. No excuses.
–I believe in hugs that reach so deep into my soul I can’t help but be put to rights.
–I believe in the power and freedom of my reality.
–I believe in allowing someone else’s reality to marinate in mine but not settle in my reality.
–I believe in being polite in public but as raw as I want to be in private. I like to vent and feel safe about it.
–I believe it takes a village to raise one child. I don’t have every answer. I believe in building my personal village.
–I believe in freedom of every kind so long as no one gets hurt.
–I believe in time. The time it takes to make choices and changes and plans.
–I believe in the power to imagine a better me and a better life and using the freedoms I’ve been given to go after what I can imagine.
–I believe in staying present, being mindful and the power of silence.
–I believe in a whisper and all that I can hear so clearly in that whisper.
–I believe in trusting my gut when all around me no one else does.
–I believe in emotions that run deep and act as my life guide.
–I believe in gratitude and latitude and attitude.
–I believe that life is for deep kisses, strange but wonderful adventures, midnight swims under a star filled sky, and rambling, nonsensical conversations and soulful, slow dancing.
I could probably fill pages and pages of what I consider my manifesto, those things that will never change about me at my core but most likely will grow deeper the older I get. I’ve added a few things to this list along the way because I had the courage to take risks, like this surgery, and come out on the other side better than when I went in.
- What is waiting on the other side of your pain?
- When looking at your own manifesto, what can you use to ground you as you go forward?
- What is the first thing you want to do when you have realized your dream of change?
In this next installment toward change we take a deeper look at the part that we have been working toward this whole time, ACTION. Dr. John Norcross labels this step the Perspire step from his book Changeology, because there sure will be a lot of sweating going on (Pg.111 CO). “Desire-Aspire-Perspire-Inspire but don’t Expire.” –Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha.
There is a lot of energy and high emotions going into this step. Like a horse ready to jump out of the starting gate you might be feeling that same excitement and built up power to get to it. Be warned that the time for research and planning is over. Don’t look back; stay focused on the road ahead. Only destruction lies behind you waiting to trip you up and make you question why you are on this path in the first place. “Don’t compromise your focus by comparing what you are trying to learn to what you already know. Focus in the moment, on what you are trying to learn now.” – Lorii Myers, No Excuses, The Fit Mind-Fit Body Strategy Book
Now we get to put all of our doubts and fears and preparations to work for us and really find out what we are worth. All it takes is commitment. “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” – Peter F. Drucker
In their book Changing For Good, Drs. Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClemente say that “in the action stage of change the focus is on the process of control, countering, and reward, with a continuing emphasis on the importance of helping relationships.” (Pg. 174 CFG).
This stage won’t be easy by any means and it helps to understand the obstacles you will face along the way. “Awareness of pitfalls will greatly increase your chance of success.” (Pg. 174 CFG). Here are the 4 main pitfalls to be aware of:
- This isn’t a piece of cake. You have hopefully worked hard during the time you took to prepare yourself for this moment but if you thought that you didn’t need to prepare all that much then it is very likely that any action you take will only last a day or two. There is a risk of great temptation to return to the thing you are looking to change.
“You never know what you’re made of until temptation comes knocking. The only temptation I’ve given in to is to have one more slice.” –Donna Lynn Hope
- No sweat. Did you know just how much sacrifice this action piece was going to require of you? Real change takes hard work and always keeping your eye on the prize. This is where your true beliefs in yourself will come in handy. Get out that manifesto. The more effort you put toward the change you want to make the more likely success will be yours for the taking. “Quitting a habit can require not only an enormous sacrifice of energy, but the pain of others’ disapproval of the anxiety and anger that self-changers can temporarily experience.” (Pg. 174 CFG).
“Sometimes the greatest thing to come out of all your hard work isn’t what you get for it, but what you become for it.” –Steve Maraboli, Life, The Truth, and Being Free
- It’s like magic. If you have ever had to start and finish to completion a detailed project you know that there are no short cuts to getting the project done right. Following the guidelines, going step by step, sweating through the details will not only get the job done it will get the job done well and last for a very long time if not forever. Most people, not all people, imagine that some kind of magic can be conjured up to make “it” easier to get to the end. Simplicity is what is wanted but blood, sweat and tears is what it will take. Not everything has a simple technique or answer. If it can’t be done in 20 minutes or less then what’s the point? Belief that you can take a shortcut toward meaningful change will yield a defeating conclusion: you are not doing enough and must do the same thing again and again. Get your mind in the right place and don’t worry about how long it takes. As long as you are working hard and staying focused on your goal then you will get the results you are hoping for.
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who do not believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl
- Same what? If you want a certain outcome but the methods you have been using are not getting you to the desired results, why would you keep your actions the same? Why not try different methods and combinations to see what results you get? Nothing can get better if the status quo stays the status quo.
Here is a funny little example: When my son was learning to tie his shoelaces he wanted to do it “like Daddy does it with his thumb” so I tried and tried to teach him the one loop wonder of tying a shoelace. No matter how hard he tried to learn this technique he couldn’t do it. He became frustrated and upset with himself and one time gave up and went outside to play with his friends without shoes on. One day I sat him down and showed him how to tie his shoelaces using the bunny ears technique and he got it in one try. He never went shoeless again.
Having an open mind toward different methods and options toward the one result you want will not only make for interesting learning experiences and stories but will pepper your change path with all kinds of possibilities and each day will not be like the one before. You will never get bored and lose momentum. Stay present and aware of what works and what doesn’t and how you are feeling in each method of action that you try. You may wind up being an inspiration to many other people simply because you didn’t give up or get bored. Besides, your head won’t hurt so much from hitting it against that brick wall wondering why your head hurts so much.
“If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.” –Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon
Earlier I mentioned 3 focus techniques during the action step. I just went through a process of helping you take control when problems strike. The next technique is countering.
In order to be successful in the action step you have to think about replacing an unhealthy behavior or thought with a healthy behavior or thought. It is common for self-changers to get rid of one problem only to then encounter another problem that they were suppressing because all the attention was going to the first problem.
For example it is possible to lose weight without exercise but if your overall goal was to eat healthy and get fit then you have to replace bad eating habits with good ones while at the same time shaping up an out of shape body as it’s losing the weight. If you neglect to shape up the body then you may feel proud of the thinner you but be discouraged because you don’t look like you imagined, until you get that body into shape.
An easy fix to make sure that you are replacing bad behavior with good behavior is to divert your attention away from the problem. In other words, keep busy.
- What activities keep you busy?
- What busy things do you enjoy doing that could take your attention away from a problem behavior and be healthy for you at the same time?
Some busy activities might include: exercise, writing, cleaning, playing an instrument, reading a book, brain games, knitting, or taking a walk or a bike ride. Other diverting activities might include meditation, taking a nap, prayer, yoga, getting a massage. Still other busy activities might include learning ways to free yourself from negative self-talk. You can join a coaching group for support as well as diversion, read self-help books, or volunteer your time to help others.
“If you deliberately plan on being less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you will be unhappy for the rest of your life.” –Abraham Maslow
The final focus technique is reward. “Reward would be unnecessary if resisting temptation were its own reward. If it felt good to decline fattening foods or avoid cocktails, self-change would require little effort.” (Pg. 191 CFG).
We need to celebrate when we substitute a salad bowl for pasta bowl. Little celebrations keep us motivated and help us to look forward to the next happy moment toward reaching our overall change goal.
There are 3 ways in which we can generate reward systems for our achievements toward the change we want.
- Covert Management (Pg. 191 CFG) “When cues arise to throw you off your action plan tell yourself to ‘be calm’; ‘Nice job of keeping busy’, ‘It feels good to be in control’, or simply ‘Way to go’.” By using positive reinforcement toward weaknesses in action, eventually it will become a habit to switch your thinking toward the positive instead of beating yourself up for being human and tempted. It is part willpower but in a so much more powerful way it is consciously choosing to stick to the change goal you prepared yourself for. Forgive yourself immediately for the trip up or tempting thought and quickly remind yourself of all the great work you have done up to this moment. Keep doing that each time and before you know it you will stop beating yourself up and start believing and adding those new beliefs to your manifesto.
- Contracting (Pg. 193 CFG) Remember when you were a kid and you used to bet a friend on anything? It was a motivation technique to ensure that you would do or follow through on what you said you would do. How about when a car insurance company offers money back for each year you go without an accident? Let’s say you make a contract with yourself to put away $5 for each day you go without using one swear word. Reward yourself from that ever growing account by buying yourself a new lipstick or a fabulous dinner out at an exclusive restaurant. A clean mouth deserves really great food right?
- Shaping up (Pg. 194 CFG) “Gradually shape your behavior into the new behavior.” If getting into shape is the change you want to make but you have never had the nerve to go to the gym, start shaping-up your resolve to exercise with like-minded people by working out bit by bit at home first. Then, once you feel ready to take it outside go for a bike ride at a bike park one day or roller blade or go for a walk around the neighborhood. Two things will potentially happen: 1– you will start to get used to the feel of exercising and start to look better and 2- looking better will give you more confidence to go to the gym or participate in that marathon and be seen. It is a step by step approach that breaks you in at your own pace toward your desired behavior. How about this: Make a contract with a friend that if you go a whole month without smoking then your friend will accompany you to a comedy show where you can show off that amazing new white smile.
The hope is that you will display pride in yourself and carry yourself with more confidence and that is a reward that has the gift of giving written all over it.