“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”
Walt Whitman, Leave of Grass
You are getting ready to take a trip. You are preparing to take a journey that will transform your life if you let it. Gather that which you will absolutely need.
In this third installment of YOU DECIDE I will be talking about the stage of change called Preparation.
“All things are ready, if our minds be so.” – William Shakespeare, Henry V
When you were contemplating changing a behavior there were many steps you took toward the act of thinking about what to change and how to change. The preparation step in changing the problem you want to change “takes you from the decisions you make to the specific steps you take to solve the problem during the action step”, so says the authors of the book, Changing For Good (CFG) (pg. 146 CFG). Soon we will discuss the 4th step on the ladder of change, the action step.
It is very important toward your success to fully engage and not skip over the preparation step.
According to Dr. John Norcross and his book Changeology (CO), he says in his “Prep” stage of change, “There is a tiny exception to the rule of planning/preparing for change: Planning can be unsuccessful when conducted with dysfunctional perfectionism. A fascinating line of recent research suggests that extensive planning can backfire for some perfectionists. For them, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Planning that triggers constant critical self-examination can obstruct progress. There is a solution…. Tame your self-criticism, understand that no plan is perfect, and keep moving forward. If you keep criticizing yourself, add not doing so to your list of resolutions.” (Pg. 85 CO)
“I have learned that the person I have to ask for forgiveness from the most is: myself. You must love yourself. You have to forgive yourself, every day, whenever you remember a shortcoming, a flaw; you have to tell yourself “That’s just fine”. You have to forgive yourself so much, until you don’t even see those things anymore. Because that’s what love is like.” – C. JoyBell C.
It is encouraged during preparation to continue to re-evaluate yourself and the problem you want to change while at the same time maintaining a feeling of confidence about your decision to change. The preparation step says things like, “Get ready, we are heading out”, “What should I pack for this journey”, “I think I can do this”, “Oh yeah, that is why I wanted to make this trip a success”.
The preparation step looks forward in all ways. “It asks you to focus on finding the most suitable type of action to overcome the problem.” (pg. 146 CFG) “We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” – Thomas Edison
It is a fine line at this step in the changing process to also be feeling ready to take action rather than just prepare. The problem with skipping the preparation step is that we tend to wish that just admitting we have a problem that needs to change would be enough to make that wish a reality. Remember that wishing is not enough to make most things happen. You have to find the energy to back up the wish and that energy creates hope which will lead to success in making anything you want, possible.
“If you are going to make a change, you are going to have to operate from a new belief that says life happens not TO me but FOR me. “ – Tony Robbins
Your old-self needs to imagine the new-self and get a mental picture going of what it will look like when you are working the change steps, what it or you will look like when you are fully engaged and making the changes happen.
You started to draw this mental picture during contemplation but now you are adding colors and roads to take and mapping out where and how you will travel. Hopefully you are going to eliminate unwanted surprises along the way by being mindful of what you pack, how you pack and how you will set out toward your destination. Surprises arise no matter how well we plan but trust in the research you have done, the self-talk you have engaged in, the team you have put together and the outcome you want to achieve.
If you know ahead of time that nothing is perfect and imperfection can be an ally then when the surprises crop up you will be able to handle them.
Now would be a great time to get your juices flowing by making a list of all of the perks of your changes. Here are some questions to get you started. Expand as far out as you can with each answer. Get detailed; get into a great story of your journey here:
What are all of the positive outcomes once my changes are complete?
What will I be capable of accomplishing when I change?
Who will I be free to become?
How will not only my life but the lives around me be better because of these changes?
Keep this list with you wherever you go. It is an important tool you will need to reference from time to time.
“Once a person is determined to help themselves, there is nothing that can stop them.” – Nelson Mandela
Are you serious?
If this changing thing turns out to be too difficult will you give up?
When you were thinking about changing a problem way back in contemplation did you think this would be easy?
“Many individuals make personal change a goal but often times the goal gets relegated to a place somewhere between getting a haircut and going shopping. If you attempt to accomplish too much, you will ultimately put off the more difficult tasks that change requires. You must concentrate on making this change task a priority on your to-do list.” (Pg. 151 CFG)
“What I like most about change is that it is a synonym for ‘hope’. If you are taking a risk, what you are really saying is ‘I believe in tomorrow and I will be part of it’”. – Linda Ellerbee
Don’t forget to track your progress through this step of preparation. According to Dr. John Norcross there is a way to track patterns of the problem you want to change. He suggests taking at least a few days, maybe 5, to learn about the pattern. He encourages you to become a “behavioral detective”. Ask yourself these questions so that your actions steps, when you get to that step, will be understood more clearly:
- What times of day are the most problematic?
- What are the situations that trigger the problem I want to change?
- What are my feelings that trigger the problem?
- What rewards am I offering myself that maintain the problem?
- What are the delayed consequences of the problem that I typically forget about? (Pg. 90 CO)
If you are looking to understand more about what triggers behaviors that need changing then the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is a must read. He not only focuses on the new behavior but he helps you to become aware of the triggers that set off the old behavior.
“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” – Peter F. Drucker
Part of the process of preparation is commitment. Part of the commitment process is also known as willpower. Having the deep, unflinching belief that you will succeed no matter what happens along this journey. “When you make such a commitment, it is an act of faith in yourself. Begin by having faith in all you have accomplished during the contemplation step.” (Pg. 152 CFG)
The definition of willpower reads, Noun: Control of one’s impulses and actions; self-control. Words that strengthen willpower are grit, drive, resolution, and resolve. I would offer a more powerful word than all that I have mentioned so far and that word is courage. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to even think about change of any kind.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
I didn’t know that when I thought about finally taking seriously the need to have the surgery. I didn’t realize how courageous I was being in gathering my facts and making a plan, preparing for the surgery despite all of my deep, deep fears. Having courage as my ally was very powerful once I realized I was embracing that value.
I was at a moment where I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be and live a life that seemed out of my mental and physical grasp for so long. “I’ve chosen my life, now I want to start living it.” – Stephanie Meyer, The Twilight Saga. OH YEAH!!
Take a moment and allow yourself to think about the fears surrounding you within the changes you want to make. Think about what courage means to you…..
Where do you feel the fear?
How strong is the fear that it will act as the winner in this battle toward the person you want to be?
When in your life have you shown willpower or courage toward something that scared you, and you won?
Who was there for you through your fear and through your courage to help you face the battle ahead?
Your hands are shaking, your body is cold, your wits are scattered, your breathing is labored and shallow, what will it take at this exact moment to push through and move forward anyway?
It’s a date.
Just like a date is set for a wedding or possibly a birth or just like a graduation date is set rain or shine, a start date toward your commitment to change is an important preparation step.
Committing to a specific start date drowns out procrastination and jumping the gun of action. When you choose your start date get real about it.
Perhaps there could be significance to the date you choose (see my personal list at the end of this post). Make sure that the date is not too far off from where you are right now. Too much momentum will be lost if you wait too long to get into action.
When I chose the date of my surgery I picked a time that I knew I would be off from my job with enough time afterward to recover adequately. I also made sure that I had just enough time to keep preparing myself for the surgery but not too much time to build so much anxiety that I would definitely cancel the surgery.
“Nobody can achieve success alone.” –Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha
We touched on this in the contemplation step by thinking about who you choose to be on your support team. As always I offer myself as your cheerleader of support should you need that one extra person or that one person you can count on without any doubt.
Dr. Norcross covers quite admirably the intention of a team for support. He suggests:
“Make a real list now of potential allies. Keep in mind their availability, shared interests with your interests, and their ability to support and not criticize”.
Think about the type of support you want from these allies. Should these Special Forces be good listeners, pep talkers, someone who has already had success in this particular area of your change, or should these allies be neutral to you like that of a coach or trainer or therapist? Those most able to help are who you ultimately want.
Listen to their words when you ask for their help.” Is there hesitancy? Would this person or persons give unwanted advice or encouragement? Can you be honest enough within yourself to politely say “no, but thank you” to those well intentioned people”?
When you have successfully established your list of allies “don’t email them your request and intentions. Make it personal and leave them feeling important. Call on the phone, get together in person, or send a fancy over the top invitation by mail”. Establishing the feeling of specialness and importance toward your allies will help them understand just how precious this request is to you.
Be prepared to answer questions as clearly and precisely as possible. “Let them know the plan of action, how you prepared, why this is important and what you are going to achieve with their help. Two minutes is all you really need”.
One of the questions from your team might be “What can I do to help”? All of the work is really coming from you so just letting them know that their support and willingness to hear what you have to say through the process is the most important thing they can do.
“Be willing and able to offer the same kind of support to your allies as they have been willing to offer to you”. To see the full list of team building steps please read Changeology by Dr. John Norcross, Ph.D. and find his list on pages 92-96.
“One secret of success in lie is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” – Benjamin Disraeli
At the end of the prep chapter from his book, Changeology, Dr. Norcross lists possible days to set as your beginning or start date. I like his pattern of thinking but I want to get a little creative here and suggest other possible start dates.
Since we are still in the beginning stages of a new year I will offer possible start dates I like and that take you through the month of March. Keep in mind that you can choose to get started any time of day or week or month just because you make it so. Get inspired to find your own wacky or meaningful start date to make these changes in your life so that the dates you choose is that much more memorable and positive:
Sunday if you believe that the week actually starts on a Sunday
First day of any season
8: Bubble Bath Day (a great way to start to ease yourself into a change)
13: International Skeptics Day (a great day to prove the naysayers wrong)
24: Compliment Day
25: Opposite Day
1: National Freedom Day
7: Start of the Winter Olympics 2014
17: Random Acts of Kindness Day (Be kind to yourself)
22: Be Humble Day
3: I Want You To Be Happy Day
16: Everything You Do Is Right Day
20: Proposal Day
30: I am in Control Day
I spent 2 more months, February to early April, researching, gathering my plan of attack should I jump ship or follow through, making my list of allies and most of all I did a ton of self-talk.
While making my plans toward the surgery I had also started to be mindful in a big way of my diet. It wasn’t just that I needed the surgery, there was a whole inside/outside image I was trying to achieve and each baby step toward that image was a positive step toward the happiness I wanted so desperately.
By the time the surgery came around I had lost noticeable weight and felt good about the direction I was going. That feeling helped empower me toward not backing out of the surgery. Even with all of that empowerment I was still fearful, nervous, second guessing my decision, I mean after all I have been living 11 years without having the surgery what would be the harm in waiting another year or two?
I think it is very okay to admit to yourself that you still feel fear and doubt while in the midst of preparing to make a change. I think it is normal. The question is, at the very moment of that start date toward change, if you turn back now and give up on making that change that you wanted so badly to make, what kind of person will you feel like? Will you respect yourself? How can anyone respect you if you always back out of what you say you will do? Will you let fear of the unknown always rule the day? What would it feel like to go through with the change and get to the other side?
“As long as we dare to dream and don’t get in the way of ourselves, anything is possible, there is truly no end to where our dreams can take us.” –Hilary Swank
Call to Action
Please take some time to answer all of the questions posed in this post. Only you can know for sure if making any change in your life is what you absolutely want to do. Here is a great website to visit and use to help you get started toward your goal of change. This website helps you to create good habits and all of the information is backed up with scientific research on behavior change.
Professor BJ Fogg teaches at Stanford University where he leads the Persuasion Technology Lab. He also runs the website: http://tinyhabits.com/. This site will help you create new behaviors in your life. On a very small scale I tried his techniques and I can absolutely say that it worked. One of his key strategies toward being successful with any kind of behavioral change is to celebrate your wins. I like the sound of that. Positive reinforcement is always a good thing. Good luck!!
For information about coaching, whether it is in a like-minded group atmosphere or one on one please contact email@example.com or call 203-560-3061. For guidance through contemplation let’s chat for a bit.
For more wisdom wizards please visit her website at www.journeyoncoaching.com or visit Lisa’s Pinterest Board at http://www.pinterest.com/lisazaccagnini/wisdom-wizards/.
Images by bing.com
Here are the 3 books that I recommend reading: