It all begins with you. Regardless of the circumstances, traumas, abuse, injuries, hurts, and situations, meaningful change can occur within that dramatically transforms a life. It is not a natural process as it requires substantial commitment, time, and energy but the rewards are worth the effort.
It is precisely when a person is most vulnerable through a life-altering event, that they equally become aware of the need for change. When this moment is wasted on trying to change others, denying the significance or weight of the event, or discovering new ways to avoid similar situations, there are only temporary adjustments. However, when a person is willing to take an inventory of self, admit to wrongdoing, seek help from others, make difficult decisions, and persist through the resistance, real lasting change can occur.
How does this happen? The following steps are only an outline of the process. The specifics need to be developed on an individual basis.
- Acknowledge there is a problem and it begins with you. This is not about accusing others of wrongdoing, minimizing others hurts in light of yours, or blaming unforeseen circumstances. Preferably, it is about what can be changed: you. Each person is responsible for their behavior, actions, thoughts, and feelings. So take authority of your life.
- Make a list of positive and negative characteristics. Then, try to discover how a positive trait can be connected to a negative one. The best change builds off a strength that already exists in life. For instance, a person who is highly protective of their family can take things too far when protection becomes paranoia. However, when protection is used for reassurance in commitment, it is beneficial.
- Choose one thing to change at a time. Too often there is a considerable temptation to change multiple things at once, this does not promote lasting effects and can be exhausting. Instead, choose one item to work on that is solely your responsibility. If a person needs to lose weight or exercise more, this is a perfect example of an item that a person is wholly accountable for managing.
- All change will be met with resistance, to expect otherwise is foolish. This is, unfortunately, is a fact of life. Even when a person tries to do a positive shift such as not drinking alcohol, there will be resistance from others who used to drink with the person. Here is the key: resistance from others is about them not you. They don’t like the change because it highlights some deficiency in them. You are not responsible for that.
- Recognize the need for help and seek it out appropriately. One of the biggest mistakes a person makes is getting help from the wrong sources for a problem which often leads to no change and increased frustration. When there is a health issue, talk to a doctor. When the matter is more spiritual, speak with a pastor or other spiritual advisor. When it is a mental health concern, find a counselor. In all situations, it is best to get help from professionals, not amateurs.
- Don’t expect praise from others for the change. A person who needs constant affirmation from others is not changing for self-improvement, they are modifying life for others. This is a bottomless pit as the expectations of others can dramatically shift depending on who is present. It is also an indication of co-dependency or narcissism. In this case, the co-dependent or narcissistic traits would need to addressed first before another change is done. Otherwise, it is temporary.
- Be patient with others during the process. Just because a person is making considerable strides in their life does not mean that others will follow suit. Everyone has their timetable so give them space to go at their pace. If others have been hurt along the way by your behavior, it will take substantial time for them to believe that the change is real. A reasonable expectation is anywhere from six months to a year.
Remember, these seven steps are merely a rough outline of what is involved in transforming from an unhealthy existence to a thriving life. But it is so worth the effort.