The Power To Change
If I told you that you don’t have the power to completely change yourself and your life, would you believe me? Probably. Maybe. Those are the easy answers. The one that lets you shrug, give up and walk away. However, it wouldn’t be an honest response.
The reality is that one of the greatest lessons on the self-improvement journey is that you do have the power to change yourself and your life.
Ultimately, you don’t have a lot of control or power in this life, but the one thing you can influence is yourself. Life is an adventure and one of the biggest adventures you can undertake is the journey to understand why you feel how you do and what you can do influence or change that for the better. To get to know yourself you must also care for others, you must learn to listen to them and hear their ideas, you must also care for others, you must learn to listen to them and hear their ideas, you must embrace your differences and celebrate yourself.
Do you feel better when you live with purpose? If you are driven by righting wrongs and correcting untruths, then activism might be a purpose that motivates you. If you are driven by the adrenaline rush of calculated risks, then perhaps the purpose that motivates you is piloting aid planes. We tend to feel better what we have a purpose and we live that purpose.
Otherwise? Life feels a lot like dodging the arrows that come our way with every unbearable challenge. That’s what it feels like when you feel dismissed, overpowered, unheard, or disrespected. It’s discouraging. How could you be anything but dispirited? How could you be anything but angry?
Thus, begs the question… why is it so difficult to encourage yourself?
It isn’t. We just make mountains out of molehills and make everything far more difficult than necessary.
You have the power, you have the opportunity, you are the answer.
You are in control of empowering yourself. You are in a charge of changing your life.
When you are faced with disappointment, at your core you will find the necessary ingredients to empower yourself.
When you are faced with strife, at your core you will find the necessary ingredients to overcome it and empower yourself.
Your core is your most valuable asset.
Your core, your values, your beliefs cannot be taken from you. While it may be shaken at points, outside influences cannot take it away from you. A lot of the time, you aren’t even aware of your core values or beliefs. Yet, they are egging you on throughout your life. It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to navigate politics or your personal life, having your core values and relying on them to get you through is your biggest strength and it will be your greatest source of motivation and self-encouragement.
Think of your core as a combination of values, beliefs, and ideas. You should trust it, you should nurture it. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable you should check in with your core because there might be trying to tell you something. Your core is the answer to changing yourself.
Your core will help keep you on track.
For example, Molly’s first post-college job was working for a politician. Initially, she handled correspondence, and as she progressed, she started to handle scheduling and campaign work. That was a major jump from one position to another and it was eye-opening for Molly. The reason she got into politics was to make a positive change, that was the purpose that was driving her. She was influenced to get involved and to help people who needed it. In that position, she saw both the best and worst of the world and it would have been easy to allow herself to be derailed by the worst.
However, she remained focused on what change she could have and kept going. Her core kept her at it. Molly didn’t stick with politics in the traditional sense, instead, turning her hand to civic involvement through activism. It’s easy to give in to discouragement, but it’s easier to encourage. There aren’t enough generous and kind souls in this world and it’s up to you to be a shining light in your own world and in the lives of those around you. Everyone has a story of defeat, everyone has experienced disappointment. That won’t disappear, even if you successfully change your life for the better. Disappointment is a natural part of life. However, the impulse to overcome disappointment and keep going is where you will stand apart from everyone else. You should share your hopefulness, you should take courage and show your caring. You can change lives, starting with your own.
The Other Side of Change There is a flip side to change.
The want to change your life infers that you are currently unsatisfied with your life as is. Therefore, your life has gone in the wrong direction at some point and you have built your entire existence on a false premise or a flimsy foundation. However old you are, you suddenly feel as though all of your previous efforts were wasted because you aren’t where you imagined you would be.
What else have you built around this unwanted life you have created thus far? Are you stuck with friends you dislike? Is it a relationship you’re stuck in? A degree you didn’t want to progress in a career you hate? There is a range of ways in which we construct our identities and build our lives.
When we recognize that it is time for a change, it’s a daunting prospect because like a Jenga tower… who knows what will collapse when you focus on just a single block? Yes, you have the power to change yourself and your life, but do you have the energy to overcome the barriers standing in your way? You feel brave enough, but are you strong enough? You feel strong enough, but can you persist?
As of now, you may have just written it all off as that’s life. Life is what you make it and you have built the life you have built and while you may have taken a wrong turn or twelve, it’s this life you have constructed that holds you back from achieving your goals.
Yes, life often gets in the way. And the life you started building twenty years ago might not align with who you are now. It isn’t just life that stands in your way, though, you’re overlooking one massive obstacle… you.
Sadly, we are our own worst enemies.
Even if life unfolded and highlighted a path to achieving every goal you have ever had it still wouldn’t be easy. You have brilliant ideas, but you run into a complication and you take a step back, time passes, and you get stuck. Eventually, you restart but then you get stuck again and you find yourself in this constant cycle of hiccups.
What we didn’t factor in when initially discussing change and the power you have to change things are fears. Your fear of socializing, your fear of failure, your aversion to networking. There is always something.
Now, though, I want us to focus on action steps. The steps you can take to start the change you want to see in yourself and your life. Your mind is not a perfect machine, but it is powerful. It’s up to you to harness it to your advantage. For now, though, your mind is a mess of reactions, thoughts, and beliefs that have delivered you to the wrong address.
So, you see yourself and your world through biased eyes. Even if you are highly motivated that connection to beliefs, reactions, and thoughts that have been heavily influenced by external sources will keep you walking down the wrong path.
To use your power to change yourself and your life you have to first create the ideal conditions, both inside and out. Making those changes in conditions will help you actively work toward and reach your goals.
You can’t change everything all at once or all of a sudden. If you were powerful enough to do that, then you probably wouldn’t be in a position where you so desperately need to do so. It all starts with one step, one small change, and building from there. If you notice yourself criticizing yourself, correct yourself. If you slept in, set your alarm earlier tomorrow. If you procrastinate, take steps to prevent yourself from doing so. If you blame others when you fail, learn to take accountability. If you make a mistake, correct it.
By tackling these things, you build a solid foundation that will stand you in good stead to tackle specific battles that come further down the line.
You can’t affect real change without first approaching your life with patience, sacrifice, honesty, and courage. You can’t try to change all of you at once. It’s a progressive development. Small steps are a start.
The Action Steps
1| Courage To Start A Journey of Vulnerability
When someone mentions vulnerability what is that you think of? Do you immediately associate vulnerability with betrayal, weakness, hurt, or fear? We deal with a lot of deep-seated emotions when we reveal ourselves to others. The idea of sharing your inner-most thoughts and feelings is scary and it feels like weakness, but in reality, it is a sign of strength.
It isn’t about winning. It isn’t about losing. It’s about truth. If you cover yourself and shy away from vulnerability, then you potentially protect yourself from hurt but you miss out on truly intimate relationships.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much you attempt to avoid vulnerability, we all possess a measure of vulnerability. When you are born, you are vulnerable for the majority of your childhood. When you are ill, you are vulnerable to everyone and everything. The relationship we have with vulnerability begins early and by the time we reach adulthood we are well acquainted with it.
To boost your emotional wellbeing and improve yourself and your life, you need to shift your awareness to change how you associate with it. You can’t throw up walls all around you and expect to flourish. If you block out the sun, no flowers will grow. In this equation, you are the flower and you are stifling yourself if you keep everyone and everything out.
If you would like to lead a wholesome life, if you would like to lead a purposeful life, then you have to accept your vulnerability. Even the tiniest act of taking your wall down shows a commitment to personal growth.
I want you to think about hurt, loss, or failure for a moment. Consider one of the most difficult situations you have navigated and how it felt. It felt like your heart was literally breaking. I’d like you to think about it differently. I want you to think of that break as a protective coating that surrounded your heart. When you experienced this situation that protective coating started to crack. Your heart wasn’t (and isn’t) broken. The situation merely tore down one wall to allow you to fully feel your way through the circumstances.
There is courage in vulnerability. By making yourself vulnerable you grow closer to aligning with your authentic self. The absence of vulnerability is essentially you hiding yourself away. It’s erecting a facade that you put in place to appease everyone else.
In the unknown, you will find your greatest potential. Using vulnerability as a strength helps improve your awareness of painful points. It’s easy to retaliate when under threat, when someone pokes one of those pain points you react and you may retaliate. You, like an animal, try to defend that pain. The pain, however, is a wound you have created by the way you chose to interpret that pain. You have used this pain as an excuse, it’s your shield to protect you against letting go and forgiveness.
Vulnerability is courage and it takes courage to heal your most fractured bits. At this moment now, you are fractured. You are a jigsaw puzzle that is in need of completion. Rather than trying to complete it you sat back and watched all of the pieces float away. Luckily, it isn’t too late, and making yourself vulnerable is the starting point to mending yourself and moving forward.
Healing requires self-examination. To effectively self-exam yourself you need enough curiosity to dig into why you react the way you do when those painful points are triggered. Your pain threshold is your own and it’s different from mine. If you allow it to go unchecked, though, those painful points will inflame and take over the entirety of your emotional landscape.
If you focus on your pain and sorrow then your suffering will intensify. By focusing instead on beauty and gratitude you enrich your life. Think of that focus like a magnifying glass that when you zero in on something it becomes much bigger than it is. That stands true whether it’s negativity or positivity you focus in on. Of course, the latter will have a greater outcome.
You can practice vulnerability by starting with small risks. It will help shine a light on your fractured pieces.
2| Introspection and Self Awareness
Have you ever told your children or heard your own parents say something like I want you to think about your behavior? Did it work? Did it work on your children? Did it work for you?
We could all benefit from a bit of introspection and self-awareness. Introspection won’t help you if you aren’t doing it right. Therein lies the problem with how most of us proceed. We often fall into the trap of believing that we understand ourselves a bit better as a result of this period of introspection. In reality, it tends to drive you further from the truth because you fall into mind traps.
The majority of people believe they are self-aware but are anything but self-aware. We are all lying to ourselves about lying to ourselves. There is another danger to self-awareness and introspection, which is our impulse to hone in on negativity. With our brain hardwired to search for the negative, it’s easy to get caught up focusing only on those negative feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and getting caught in a spiral of incorrect information about yourself.
Your mind enjoys playing tricks on you. If you’re familiar with the term confirmation bias then you may perhaps have an existing understanding of the cognitive biases that hold us back. These tendencies of our mind highlight why introspection can backfire if tackled incorrectly. Sadly, when we get down to the motive or behavior, we are often guilty of looking for answers that we cannot access. We struggle to uncover the real reason why we believe, think, or feel the way we do and that’s because those answers live in our unconscious mind.
Unfortunately, your mind doesn’t want you to know that it doesn’t know so it fills in the blanks and sends you marching with incorrect information. You might then believe that this insight into your behavior is inaccurate when it’s anything but. For example, you’re new to your job role and you snap at one of your employees. You immediately believe it’s because you aren’t cut out for the job, but what you don’t realize is you missed lunch because you were caught up in a meeting. There was a reasonable explanation for your reaction, but you have seized on a negative to tear yourself down. Your mind has filled in the blanks to provide you with an incorrect explanation because you have a secret concern that you aren’t cut out for the job. It’s incorrectly confirming your inaccurate belief and the cycle continues.
Likewise, if you have an inaccurate view of your core, then the insights you collect from introspection are unlikely to be accurate.
Don’t worry! I know it sounds negative, but you can nurture self-awareness with introspection. The easiest way to do so is to stop asking why and start asking what. The more what questions you ask the more answers you will find and the closer you will move to your reality.
You can also seek external feedback to build a more complete picture of self-awareness. The first thing you must understand is that self-awareness isn’t a single unequivocal truth. It’s a combination of your perception and the perception of others. It’s part internal self-awareness and part external self-awareness. You can have high levels of one type of self-awareness while lacking entirely in the other. However, if you want to find true self-awareness then you need both.
External feedback will help you create a clear picture. If it is done correctly, seeking external feedback allows you the opportunity to confront your internal perception versus the perception of others. The end result is a more accurate form of self-knowledge.
For example, leaders often overlook their weaknesses while overestimating their strengths. Their environment helps to reinforce the superior self-image they have fostered. However, good leaders counteract this by seeking feedback. It’s important that you ask good questions and make others feel safe and comfortable to provide you with honest answers. You should also review that feedback looking for patterns. If one person has written a nasty screed about you that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. However, if they have mentioned something in their feedback that has appeared in a few other pieces of feedback, then you know you have to take it more seriously.
If you want to achieve a high level of self-awareness then you will need to go far beyond introspection. With introspection exaggerating your cognitive bias you have to push for a more accurate version of self-reflection.
3| Be Honest with Yourself
Is there anything as painful and rewarding as honesty? When your honesty level reaches the level of your willingness to change, then there will be no stopping you. Honesty has a major role to play in self-improvement and grabbing hold of the power within you to change yourself and your life.
If you aren’t honest with yourself then you will never grow as an individual. You have to be prepared, willing, and committed to recognizing reality as it is before you can have any hopes of changing it.
When you are dishonest with yourself you see what you want to see, what you choose to see, but you ignore everything else. While this might provide you with happiness or relief for the short-term, it’s destructive and unhealthy in the long run. It might be painful, but honesty is a necessary aspect of long-term success, happiness, and growth.
Be honest and acknowledge the good and the bad that is present in your life. Without the hardship, it would be difficult to enjoy the joy. Turning your eye to hardship won’t fix those problems, it will only exacerbate them. When you aren’t honest about your problems they will continue to grow until they spiral out of control.
So, when you embark on a journey of changing your life you need to be prepared for radical honesty. We all have good things going on in our lives and we all have bad things going on in our lives. Prepare to accept both. Along with radical honesty, you should also be prepared for radical acceptance. Whatever happens to you, you have to accept it as it is instead of trying to pretend it isn’t an issue.
When you learn to do this, you will begin to see things as they are. This will put you in a better position to improve the areas of your life which you control.
You can start by spending five to ten minutes of your evening in self-reflection. Think about what went well with your day, what didn’t, how you could have handled things differently or approached them differently. This isn’t an exercise in criticism or judgment, rather it’s an exercise in honesty. It isn’t about tearing yourself down or harming your self-esteem, it’s about absorbing your day and using that information to make tomorrow better.
Reflection is going to play an important role in how you move forward.
Don’t be afraid to admit when you make a mistake. Making mistakes is uncomfortable, but rather than trying to protect your ego by blaming someone else or coming up with an excuse you have to take responsibility. You can be honest about your mistakes. You can be real about your failures. You can accept your shortcomings. It’s all a process and recognizing your mistakes gives you room to correct them going forward.
Your emotions play a central role in how you view and understand yourself. To be completely honest with yourself you have to first embrace your emotional self. Emotions are simply a signal to help you guide your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. They help you understand where it’s all bubbling up from. Your emotions can mislead you, but they are incredibly revealing if you are paying attention to them. You can question your feelings to determine where they are coming from and why they are triggering the reaction they do within you. This helps you learn more about yourself which is going to empower you to completely change yourself and your life.
You should surround yourself with people you can trust, people you can open up to and be vulnerable with. Those who inspire you to find your blind spots and move forward constantly. One of the drawbacks to changing your life is that you over-think things and start to blame yourself. Don’t get carried away, you don’t need to analyze every single thing that has ever happened to you throughout your lifetime. Rumination is not a positive step.
The more you know yourself the more you can trust your gut. Once you achieve a deep level of self-awareness the stronger your intuition will grow. It’s much easier to recognize when your emotions are guiding you in the right direction if you fully trust your intuition.
4| Desire and Motivation
We all question why you do or say the things we do. At this stage, you might not yet know what motivates your behaviors or actions. If you want to completely change yourself and your life, however, it’s important that you take the time to understand your intrinsic motivations. When you know what drives you, you can use it to your advantage. It’s much easier to make decisions that align with your ultimate goal if you know how to motivate yourself and you know how to get yourself going. What is the driving force behind you?
Motivation can be practically defined by saying it’s the drive that pushes you to action. It can be intrinsic or extrinsic with the former being a more useful tool for long-term motivation. You could also define motivation as putting all of your effort and energy into attaining a specific goal, pursuing change no matter the obstacle, the determination to resist unhealthy habits, or doing absolutely everything and anything possible to make big changes in your life. While they are all relevant, our focus is more on that last one.
Motivation is necessary because it will impact every aspect of your attempt to change. Motivation is necessary to prepare for those changes and the patience it provides to help you wait for the changes. It’s necessary to ensure you persist when temptation strikes, to persevere in the face of setbacks, to achieve the ultimate which is your designed change.
It’s easy for you to say you’d like to change. It’s an entirely different story to make that change happen. If you have that disconnect then you have decisions to make on how to tune into your motivation and use it to leverage your power to change.
These three d’s will help you find and maintain your motivation.
Direction. You can’t change unless you know which direction you are heading in, which requires a lot of pre-work because you can motivate yourself to move forward. You could continue on as you are now or you can take the right route to change, which is slow and intentional. The latter begins with improving your sense of direction.
Decision. You can decide which direction you’re headed. You might have a lot of choices, there might be more than one answer, it isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about understanding your options and knowing what aligns with your core and your goals. Your choice, however, will determine how much you change and how quickly.
Dedication. When you make a decision, then you are dedicated to it. Or you should be. If you decide to gradually make major changes, then your dedication will determine whether that happens or not. Your decision has to then become the biggest priority in your life. Only once you dedicate entirely to your direction and decision will you achieve the change to yourself and your life that you have been looking for.
So, do you have the power to completely change yourself and your life? You bet you do. It’s up to you to determine the direction in which you had and the veracity with which you chase that change, but you have the power to make any change you want in this life. So, what are you waiting for?