Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Secret To Change?

Last week, my friend Evan emailed me and brought up the topic of change:

" . . .and your blog entries are insightful and thought provoking as usual. Here's the problem. I think to myself, OK, I'm going to fix my life. Then life happens and it never gets done. I don't even start. But boy do I love reading them and thinking to myself, someday.... "

Does that resonate with you (as it does for me)? I have been pondering a response to this for many days now and I'm not sure how to answer it. What is the secret to change? Instead of hypothesizing I thought that maybe I would share a story as a way to kick start the discussion:

I have this friend who I work with named Cole. Cole is a great guy, gets along with everyone, has high social skills, is in his early 20's. A year and half ago Cole weighed 320 pounds. He ate really poorly, didn't exercise, and felt badly about himself. He endured the subtle taunts of his friends and family and would avoid looking at himself in a mirror. He still enjoyed life but didn't really know where he was going.

One day a co-worker invited Cole to work out with him. He didn't really want to but he said yes. He felt very uncomfortable and self conscious at the gym but endured it to make his co-worker happy. He didn't mind the working out, but he would have quit if he could have gracefully. Then one day he had a dream. He dreamed that he was standing on a street when he saw an man running down the street. After he had passed Cole noticed an old man on the corner. The old man told him to run. Then he woke up.

At first he just pondered the dream for a few days. Then he decided to try running a short distance. It hurt, but he enjoyed it. Then he tried running more and more. Eventually he tried to run from his house to the Golden Boy, then across the entire city. He began running everywhere even to work. He started working out harder and radically changed his horrendous eating habits. Soon the pounds were dropping off. He invited others to run with him and many have started doing it. A few months ago, he decided to try to run from Grand Beach to Winnipeg (55 miles) in one day. He did it in 28 hours. Terry Fox and Rocky are his heroes. He is inspiring to everyone around him. He is currently training to run from Calgary to Winnipeg this summer (13 hours of running a day for 35 days). He's going to do it to raise money for diabetes. Cole weighs 90 pounds less then he used to, is excited about his future, and is in the best shape of his life. He has truly changed for the better.

So the question is, what do you think caused Cole to be able to change? What are some of the things that cause people to make significant life changes? What has helped you or others you know change?

May Light increase!


Mark said...

Hmmm . . . no one has responded so I guess I'll respond to myself (is that weird I wonder?). Anyway, I've been thinking more about this and after talking to my friend Jay about it decided that the biggest catalyst for change in someone is motivation. For instance, in counseling, success with a client is based about 60 percent on how motivated the client is (not how good the therapist is). The more powerful the motivation, the greater the chance for change. Some powerful motivations include emotions (love, hate, disgust, frustration, fear), thoughts (beliefs, vision, ideas), and sensations (pain, lust, etc). Thus, I may have a desire to be better organized but my motivation is not enough for me to do much about it. My next question though is can you truly motivate yourself? Or do you need outside assistance?

stacey said...

Hi Mark,
I think from my own experiences change occurs when I am most open to change.

Having been through counseling I can say I had the desire to change, I really wanted to feel different, I had one of the best counselors I could hope for and for the most part it was a solid journey of discovery and change. Yet the sessions that I was most unaffected by (at the time) were the ones (perhaps because of the topics discussed) where I was too closed off. I wasn't ready. After some time, the words of my counselor, or the thoughts provoked by him, penetrated and created in me an openess and a readiness for the process and to be primed to change.

It was a mental, emotional, spirital and physical metamorphis! That is a case where I needed outside assistance!

Depends on what you want to change about yourself or in your life but I find that before motivation, before a commitment, before I can even convince myself to be disciplined-- I must have that very deep desire to change. It's very difficult to describe unless you've felt it. It's much more than, "I really, really want 'XYZ....' When you get to that deep desire stage, the discipline you need to make the change is very easy to find.

You can motivate yourself by either physically or mentally creating that "big picture"... the pay off. Ask yourself, "how will I benefit from this?" Once you've convinced yourself (or really understand)the benefits and that the pay off could be tenfold--and possibly affect others in your life in a positive way as well--that often is enough motivation for me. Even if I know how much work I have cut out for myself!

Anyway, that's a slice of what I think based on my experiences and what works for me.

Great thought provoking topics as usual! Thanks for that!

Wow, that was a long post. Sorry for taking up so much room :-)

~Stacey in T.O.

Mark said...

Stacey: I like what you have to say about openness as a precursor to change. I think you are right that openness to change is foundational to actually changing. I wonder where openness ends and motivation begins? It seems to me that there may be overlap between them or that they are linked somehow. What do you think?
P.S. Thanks for sharing some of your story, it was encouraging.

stacey said...

Yes I agree that openess to change and motivation are somewhat linked. Again I have to say that it depends on the circumstances. There have been moments I did not feel motivated because I was too overwhelmed to know what I needed to even begin. However the desire and to be open to change, for me at least, had to be the foundation as you say. Once I was on the journey, the fact that I was growing, maturing, and on the road to being the best I could be was the motivation. Take the example of your friend who lost weight. When I have wanted to lose weight, and first dropped a couple of pounds, there was no better motivation then seeing the results of my efforts! It motivated me to keep going!

We are all different creatures so knowing what works for us is sometimes only discovered through personal experience.

Here's another thought: Why is it we sometimes don't want to give in to change? Fear? The unknown? Sometimes we choose a vice as a bandaid to bad/immature/irresponsible behaviours, choices or habits. Why is it so hard to let go? Why is it that the bad food/relationship/financial decisions we make somehow make us feel safe even though we know we should change. It reminds me when we're on our journey with God and we compartmentalize all the different aspects of our lives... and we don't open up all of our "boxes" to God. We say, you can have these, but I need to hold on to this one for a bit longer. Are we creatures of habit? Control freaks? Or just afraid of what we do not know for sure?

Now I may have started a completely different topic! Or I'm just babbling. :)

Mark said...

Stacey: Why don't we to give into change? Good question. Fear is definitely one. I also think comfort; change is inherently uncomfortable. Thus, we are essentially wimps, we don't want to be uncomfortable and many of our bad habits are comfortable because they are familiar. This leads back to motivation; often we don't change until the motivation becomes strong enough push us out of our comfort zones . . . I think.