“There must be a few times in life when you stand at a precipice of a decision. When you know there will forever be a Before and an After…I knew there would be no turning back if I designated this moment as my own Prime Meridian from which everything else would be measured.” –Justina Chen, North of Beautiful
In actuality, the sign in the photo above should also include a few more directionals saying “go back”, “stay the course”, “pull over”, and “stand still”.
In this 2nd installment of YOU DECIDE I am going to take you on a journey through contemplation, the 2nd step in the process of change.
“What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.” –Meister Eckhart
Contemplation looks like you are considering an idea.
Synonyms such as think, reflect, scan, regard, meditate are what we do when we are truly ready to consider something that is important or could be important for our lives. In this case the idea is that possibly, maybe, someday but not necessarily today, I will change something about myself that I don’t like, am not comfortable with any longer, want to break free from, etc.
Contemplation says things like, “I’m ready to consider a change”, “I wish I could change the behaviors, thought patterns, feelings without the work”, “I am aware of my situation but can’t change a thing without help”, “I just don’t understand how I got to this place”….
Contemplation allows for the voices of those we love and respect to finally be allowed to speak about what needs to change and more than that we, the changer, are less defensive because we welcome the awareness and the support of those around us. The line that is drawn right here is that on the one side we are excited and enthusiastic to learn more and start the process of change however the other side is that we could stay stuck in just thinking and talking about the process and the research about the problem and become what is described in CFG (Changing For Good) as “chronic contemplators.” “Chronic contemplators substitute thinking for acting, promising that they are going to act ‘someday’.” Their motto is ‘when in doubt, don’t change’.” (pg. 110 CFG)
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
Let’s take you for example and imagine that you have just lost 100 pounds. If the changes in weight were not moment by moment, mindful and present it will be difficult for the new thinner you to accept and relate to your new self. You don’t understand the new rules; rules like how to maintain this new image, how does the weight loss affect those around me, how to socialize with others as this new you and the reactions toward you from other people outside of your immediate circle of support, how to dress, how to play in and out of sex, how to stop living the “old” way. Sometimes it is so overwhelming to make friends with the new thinner you that it takes no time at all to gain the weight back and get back to the person you knew so well. Those old rules were familiar and safe.
There is fear involved with change, no matter what we change, even something simple like the furniture in a room. Will the lighting feel warm and inviting like it does now or will I not like it so much that I have no choice but to stick with the layout the way it is, forever? Contemplators can get so stuck in their thoughts that they don’t do anything at all. Fear is a very powerful emotion against change of any kind. When I start to notice fear rearing its ugly head I always take a few minutes to ask and answer, “What is the False Evidence Appearing Real?” journeyoncoaching.com/2013/09/09/get-off-your-but/. Taking that mental break and bringing myself to the present moment allows for a deep breath and subdues overwhelm. It still may take a lot of time to do something beyond thinking about it, but at least I’ve started the process and make the arguments.
There are little devils that play against change when you are creating awareness of what you want to change, when you are contemplating making a change.
The first devil is the perfectionist*.
Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” – Dr. Brene` Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are
The perfectionist looks for evidence constantly to support the change. The perfectionist can get so lost in playing people against each other, playing self-help books against each other that nothing happens toward change. In the end, “the unfortunate truth is that we may never know enough about behavioral problems to be certain about their causes or cures. There comes a time when decisions must be made.” (pg. 112 CFG)
At some point you really did gather enough information to champion making a change in your life. It’s now or never. What is the fear you are believing?
The second devil that comes along when thinking about making a change is the idea of “waiting for the perfect moment.”*
When is the perfect moment to make a change? When does life have enough open space to allow for you to find time to change? Perfect moments get caught up in the thinking that the changes we want to make will happen, someday, somehow; that the time will be just right to “do this”.
“Nothing is permanently perfect. But there are perfect moments and the will to choose what will bring about more perfect moments.” –Mary Balogh, Simply Perfect
What needs to happen for you to create your perfect moment? How do you get through this moment to get to your perfect moment?
Could it be that the perfect moment was the instant you thought about making a change? When you turned away from “perfect” and instantly embraced the now? Maybe the perfect moment comes when you realize there are no moments left. You are in one right here and it’s now or never. How do you define a perfect moment? “Instead of waiting for the right moment, BE the right moment. You won’t be ready for anything if you aren’t ready to be you.” –Kaiden Blake, Before Ever After
The third devil of contemplating change is wishful thinking.*
According to the book, Changing for Good, “wishful thinking is probably the most common behavior that prevents people from progressing through the steps of change.” (pg. 112-113 CFG) “Wishful thinking is one thing, reality is another.” –Jalal Talabani
Wishful thinking says, “I wish I could eat whatever I want and never gain weight”, I wish I could drink as much as I want and never lose control, “I wish I could just win the lottery and not have to go work every day”.
There is a difference between hoping and wishing journeyoncoaching.com/2013/05/22/is-there-a-difference-between-a-hope-and-a-wish/
“We promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears.” –Francois de La Rochefoucauld
A wish is a want or a desire. There is just not enough physical energy to back up a wish. It is as fleeting as a breath. On the other hand, a hope has strong energy attached to it and implies, no, it demands that there is work to be done and you are counting on the outcome to be the result you want as your intention works toward the fulfillment; “hoping demands that you envision your success, and then work toward it.” (pg. 113 CFG) This begs the question:
“Does fear generate the power and energy toward hope?
Is fear a doorway to hope?” I believe we can’t have one without the other. I like to imagine that a wish is also a doorway to hope by disguising itself as a dream. Hope has to start somewhere so why not with a dream. “We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming, well, that’s like saying you can never change your fate.” –Amy Tan, The Hundred Secret Senses. PERFECT!
The final devil of contemplating change is premature action.*
Premature action says, “I’m not ready but you are forcing me to do this anyway”, “I’ll do this but I’m telling you it won’t work”, “Sure I’ll give it a go but don’t expect much.” “The payoff for premature action is that it can relieve some guilt and social pressure. After the inevitable failure, the message is, “Now stay off my back about this change nonsense.” (Pg. 114 CFG)
“The two worst strategic mistakes to make are acting prematurely and letting an opportunity slip by; to avoid this, the warrior treats each situation as if it were unique and never resorts to formula, recipes or other people’s opinions.” – Paulo Coelho
In his book, Changeology, Dr. John Norcross labels the contemplation step as the “psyche” step. He makes it very clear right off the bat that this step must be about only you. Your goals toward change, your decision as to what you want to change and most of all that although you may define what it is you want to change you are NOT limited to what you define. He encourages making your defined change “vital, ambitious, and transformative.”(pg. 54 CO)
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage, pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically to say ‘no’ to other things. The way to do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.” –Stephen Covey
It is time to enlist. Take a moment and write down those people you know for sure, without a doubt, you don’t even have to ask but you will, that will support you anyway they can in order to help you get you to where you want to be. Hint: It only takes one person. If you have a whole army of people, fantastic. If you need someone, call me. Once you have your support team laid out it’s time to concentrate on the research.
The research toward the change(s) you want to make will fall into a defining of what you hope to achieve. When speaking to a client about the psyche step of change Dr. Norcross helped his client to see that this step says, “The goal is the destination and the research and/or sub-goals are the map to how you get there.” (pg. 57 CO)
There are 5 main areas of sub-goals:
Realize that this is all about you. When my clients come to me for coaching they know before we even say anything that our time together is all about the art of my client. We are each intricate designs, works of art and we shape shift and twist and turn and grow and create ourselves anew over and over again. In the context of the “art of you” platform that I use, my clients have complete freedom to take their moments and create themselves however feels comfortable and authentic. This is done with specific ideas about what needs to be created. The only “must” is that creation begins and moves and ends with only the client as the priority for their own selves. “They asked me what I wanted to get out of this experience and I said me.” –Barbra Annino, Opal Fire
Tracking your progress. Find a way to measure and track your progress toward your goal. Seeing your progress written out whether it is in graphs or journal entries or calendar days will help keep encouragement high and accountability stable. “We progress a step farther, in each tick of the clock” –Ronnie Cornelisz
Be real. Dr. Norcross gives an example that if your goal is to lose 30 lbs. in 90 days that is not so real. It is more along the lines of fantasy. In 90 days you could reach your goal but not in any sustainable way that will have long lasting or life time achievement affects. Get real with your goal and get real with yourself about what needs to be done. “When we turn around & come face to face with our destiny, we discover that words (spoken) are not enough. I know so many people who are brilliant speakers but are quite incapable of practising what they preach. It’s one thing to describe a situation & quite another to experience it.
I realised a long time ago that a warrior in search of his dream must take his inspiration from what he actually does & not from what he imagines himself doing.” –Paulo Coelho, Aleph
You are in control. Be honest about those feelings, behaviors/actions that you can control while researching whether the goal you chose is the right one to work on. Be honest in what you can control and what you can’t. “Today I am in control because I want to be. I have my fingers on the switch, but have lived a lifetime ignoring the control I have over my own world. Today is different.” –A.S. King, Please Ignore Vera Dietz
Positive posturing. Watch the wording you use when framing out your goal statement. Use positive images, cut out pictures, phrases, words, descriptions. Dr. Norcross talks about changing a habit of putting things off for another day. It is called procrastination. Instead of framing your goal to say “decrease procrastination” frame your goal to say “increase time to plan ahead”, “take one small step each day to work towards something important.” (pg. 55-56 CO)
”Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.” –Mahatma Gandhi
My biggest fear was anesthesia. I hate the feeling of being out of control of my own body. I hate the idea of someone, or in this case, many some ones, seeing me in such a helpless and vulnerable position. That is the main reason why it took me so long to decide on the surgery.
I realized much later on that I also wasn’t connected to what was happening to me. I was in deep denial that the surgery I needed was serious, that it wouldn’t just go away on its own, that I really did have control over the who and the how and the where and the when.
When 2012 started I had a goal in mind. I wanted to change things about me that would help me feel more connected to who I thought I really was inside. This surgery was a major step toward that goal. I didn’t give myself time to start over with my research. I spent 11 years researching and talking with different doctors. I finally found a doctor that would work with my fears and perform the surgery the way that was acceptable to me, no anesthesia. I rallied my army of support, spoke my intentions out loud, chose a date for the surgery and left myself the option to back out at any time including right up until it was time to go to the operating room. I tracked my progress toward this overall change goal by writing about all the little things I had accomplished by the time the surgery came around.
I had an example to set for my children that when you want something that means the most to you personally you have to beat fear back with a big stick and concentrate on the outcome. I got as real as I could with myself and allowing that option to back out was as real as I could be. I positively believed that I would start to live a more authentic life within myself if I could get through this surgery. I believed wholeheartedly that this surgery would be the ultimate open air field toward my better self. Did I back out? How did I prepare for facing my fears? Stay tuned…..
Call to Action
Questions to “Contemplate”
- How often has someone asked you to change a habit or a behavior or a feeling before you were on board to change?
- On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being “very much so”, how emotionally attached to the idea of changing a behavior, feeling, habit are you? If you are ready, what now? If you are not ready, why not?
- How often has wishing for something made the wish come true?
- Think of a time when what you wished for was followed by an action toward making that wish a reality. What happened? What was the energy around making the wish real?
- How aware are you of the crossroads, the choices in your life? Every day? Every week? Every month? Every year?
- What happens in your body when you are faced with making a choice or a decision?
Please let me know how you are progressing so far. I would love to hear feedback as to whether these posts are helpful to you.
For information about coaching, whether it is in a like-minded group atmosphere or one on one please contact firstname.lastname@example.org 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/.
*Strategies written out in Changing For Good by James O. Prochaska, Ph.D., John C. Norcross, Ph.D., and Charlo C. DiClemente, Ph.D.
Images by bing.com