Caleb desperately needed a change. Thanks to a nasty, never-ending divorce, he was completely burnt out. His ex was abusive during their marriage and her assault was even worse while divorcing. Not only was the process expensive, but he lost his business as well. Now that it was over, Caleb wanted to stop surviving and begin to thrive.
He knew that the process began with him but was unsure how to start. Caleb longed for the meaningful life change that would dramatically transform his life. He was tired of feeling like the victim, exhausted from others defining him, and was ready for a significant shift in his life. Eager to start his next business venture, he knew he needed a new direction in his personal life as well.
In the past, Caleb focused his energy on trying to change others instead of himself. But he was wary of that now and was willing to invest on developing himself. While it is not a natural process as it requires substantial commitment, time, and energy, he believed the rewards are worth the effort.
How does this happen? The following steps are only an outline of the process that Caleb began. However, the specifics need to be catered for each’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Acknowledge the obstacle within 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 and discover the obstacles that hold you back from being who you want to be.
- Make a list of positive and negative characteristics. Try to discover how a positive trait can be connected to a negative one. The significant change builds off a strength that already exists in a 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. This is a time-consuming exercise but it is worth the effort.
- Choose one thing to change at a time. Too often, there is a temptation to change multiple things at once which does not promote lasting effects and can be exhausting. Instead, choose one item to work on that is solely your responsibility. Caleb chose to work on his anger and subsequent bitterness after the divorce. By incorporating some mindfulness exercises into his daily routine, he learned to effectively release new anger and substantially reduce his bitterness. This gave him even more energy to spend on his new business.
- 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. Instead, embrace the resistance and use it as a way to filter out dysfunctional relationships.
- Recognize the need for help. One of the critical mistakes a person does is getting help from the wrong source. This 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. When it is business related, find a coach. In all situations, it is best to get help from professionals, not amateurs.
- Don’t expect immediate praise from others. 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, the change is only temporary. Having successfully made a life change well should be its reward.
- Be patient with others. 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.
These seven steps are merely a rough outline of what is involved in transforming from surviving to thriving. But it is a start and so worth the effort. For Caleb, his life change resulted in greater happiness and contentment.