I believe you want to change for the better. I can help you with that. I am currently posting a series on how people change to help you understand how you can begin feeling more in control of every area of your life and reach the good things you desire for yourself and others. Today’s focus is on stage 4: action.
Up until now every stage of change I have been explaining is almost completely a hidden stage; others don’t really see you contemplating or preparing for change. They typically only notice things when you are taking action. That’s what we will discuss today, but it makes the contemplation and preparation really difficult at times. And when you reach a place and time when you start taking action there is a major difficulty: Others will often tell you horror stories and let you know how you are doing something dangerous and risky or they will simply discourage you by giving you helpful phrases like: You’ve finally changed in this area, now how about changing in these other areas!
What is action stage? It’s when you have come to a place where you are tired of what you have been doing and where you are in an aspect of life and are ready, after some preparation, to take a leap of faith in yourself and doing something about the change you have been thinking about. Action stage does not mean you are finished growing in this area or that it will automatically become a habit that ‘sticks’. Actually, action is simply part of the process where you are building toward long-lasting change. It is a time that can be very discouraging because of all the expectation you may feel from others and is a time when you really need the support of others around you.
A new skill is needed in this stage of change: Countering! When you begin taking action to change certain habits and behaviors you will quickly realize that there is a hole where the old behavior existed. For example, when I began changing the way I thought about my own value in relationships I became quite lonely for a period of time. I was seeking out any new relationships and I needed to learn what it meant to by strong on my own. When I began thinking about money in a very different way I had to fight my desire to give away everything I had at any given moment. This had been a habit, more more importantly it had become an identity. I was the guy that gave anything at the drop of a hat and would always meet other people’s need at the cost of my own. This was a major problem and something I needed to counter. So, what is countering? Countering is developing new responses when old desires and patterns pop up. When I feel lonely because I’m not in a relationship, instead of finding another girlfriend I began to engage with other friendships as well as learn to enjoy journaling and getting to know myself better. I also began working out and exercising more intentionally. These new choices filled the ‘lonely gap’. When I met someone who I believed simply needed a few dollars to get on their way or had an emergency and called on me. I not only needed the boundaries to realize that not everything that’s called an emergency actually is one… I also needed to find other ways to help people consistently in my schedule. But the new ways I found were ways I knew had a lasting impact on others. Something that I often come across with my clients is that they say they don’t have any money or any time and yet I see them waiting a ton of money and time on activities and material possessions that they don’t even want to be a part of. If you fall in this category, you will need to begin making active choices to not meet your emotional needs in the way that isn’t helping you. Instead you will need to focus on new behaviors to fill that emotional gap.
One great example of countering is simply diversion. If you become focused on desiring something you used to do… simply find a new activity that interrupts your attention for a few minutes or an hour or so. This can be a great time to begin new habits that you’ve been interested in for a while. If eating junk food is a problem for you, every time you having a craving you can go for a walk instead. In this way you begin teaching your brain that you don’t actually need the junk food, or whatever it is that you are addicted to (we all have emotional addictions that aren’t about drugs, alcohol, or gambling).
Another key skill you need to develop is control over your environment. If you know that family dinners are going to be a problem for you, or the bar, or whatever… Simply avoid those places for a period of time. If you know that 8pm is a time when you have junk food cravings, then book yourself in to something every evening at 8pm. Know yourself and begin putting in safety mechanisms to protect yourself. This doesn’t mean you will never again go to family gathering… It simply means that you are taking action to protect yourself in the ways you need to for a period of time.
Ok, last skill for this stage of change. Begin rewarding yourself. Here’s the key, though. You want to reward yourself for specific behaviors that will help you instead of the results. Reward yourself for exercising in the morning or for saying non to someone who asks something of you that doesn’t help you or them. As you begin rewarding yourself for actions instead of results your brain will begin making the connection between feeling great and doing specific things. Over time, this will change your habits and, eventually, your results. When I am training a salesperson I will always reward them for making the calls or taking time to think about their goals each day. It doesn’t matter whether they realize results now or later. If a salesperson focuses on simply doing the right things in the right way, they will eventually get the results. It isn’t a question of ‘if’, it is a questions of ‘when’.
What kind of support do you need in action stage? It’s all about having people who will encourage you and keep you accountable in gentle and supportive ways. Spend less time with people who are negative or question what you are trying to do. Spend more time with people who are excited about your goals and love you for who you are. There is danger in spending time with a person who either only states the negative and what could go wrong because it will affect your thinking and mindset. There is also a danger in spending time with a person who ‘takes your side’ in every situation and never challenges you in a compassionate way. You need the friend who will remind you of your goals while reminding you that you are an incredibly valuable person on this planet.
Questions? Thoughts? Feel free to comment on this or other posts. I’d love to interact with you and help you take positive action in your life.