Last week we looked at the initial stages of change – pre-contemplation and contemplation. In both of these early stages, we are unaware of our need for change, or may be resistant, or we may have tried to change but were unsuccessful for various reasons.
Today, we will explore the later stages of the change process. What does it take to make lasting change?
3. Preparation for change. At the point when we finally prepare for change – which typically can be anywhere from 2 hours to 3 months (but can last up to 6 months) – we have begun to set intentions to change behaviour in the next 6 months. We may have already made some small behavioural change or we may have tried over the past year and were unsuccessful.
In preparing for change, a common challenge in this stage is getting clear on our intention and focus for action. Our contemplation must be meaningful or we migrate back into pre-contemplation. Though change is not a simplistic process, constant re-migration to pre-contemplation and contemplation without ever getting to action is simply a waste of energy, creativity, and is a behavioural addiction to procrastination, excuses or a mental attachment to fear.
I’m quite amazed at how often I hear people speak about wanting to change a behaviour or complete a goal and then choose not to get the help and support they need to accomplish it. Why do we think we have to do everything ourselves? What is the issue of asking for help and getting support to change? All kinds of stories are created excusing them from standing up and living their destiny in a creative and loving way.
Surrounding ourselves with beneficial support and having a spiritual practice that sustains us through this time of new action can be the medium of our success or failure. Making mistakes is not a bad thing. Nor is failure. Often failure provides us with information and insight about where our strategies are not aligned with our values or about the truth of what we really, really want. The issue is, as I see it, is that we are ashamed of ourselves if we fail and so we don’t ask in case we don’t succeed. That way, no one has to know.
The other thinking process I hear is, “I’m not going to spend money on the help I need. It’s too expensive.” Usually, when I question further, money is simply a front, a smoke screen for the real issue, often one of inadequacy of some kind. The amount of struggle that can be created by these inner shadows of shame can bring about such distress in what is already a challenging task – that is, to change our behaviour!
4. Taking Action. Finally, we begin altering our behaviour or social situation. We take action and action and action and over a period of 6 months we are at a place of low risk to the old behaviour. We establish substitute behaviours that bring more health and meaning. We often begin to open up to others in a new way. We find strategies to avoid or counter expected high risk situations. And we take pleasure in rewarding ourselves.
The really cool knowing here is that the Universe shows up the moment we start moving toward change! It creates space that allows us to discover that change is an impulse we need to follow to dissipate our pain and gain the wisdom of a new way. And once we take our insight and move into action, the universe shows up in amazing ways to support, encourage and fulfil our intention.
5. Maintenance and Integration. With discipline, repetition, focus and loving action, we can maintain a new behaviour simply by repeating what we did in the action phase of change. Change is. We can’t stop it. It will come. It is our attitude and understanding of change that can help us be more graceful in the midst of it. Even if we stumble through change, having a spiritual practice and an awareness of what we need to navigate our transformations, we will be graceful.
What change is upon you this season? The leaves are letting go. They are not resisting it. If you imagine being a leaf on a tree right now, about to fall – what is it that needs to fall away? What do you need to let go of to move more freely and gracefully through change? What’s stopping you from making a change you know you need to make?
Change can be very difficult. I know that as much as we want the pain to stop in our lives, being and living the change that opens the path to pleasure can seem arduous and even too fearful to contemplate. However, if you experience conflict in your intimate relationships, in your work, with your friends and it seems to be repetitive, then perhaps you may wish to contemplate change where you previously considered change unnecessary.
Where are you in the process of change?
Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Speak with someone you trust, have a bold conversation with someone who can support you with change (wherever you are at), and seek the empowerment and awareness of Great Spirit – these are just a few ways to get you changing. Let go of that which no longer serves you.
As always, I am available to support and guide you in your process of change. Call or email me and let’s get started…