At MYND MVMT we spend the vast majority of our time and energy on mastering purposeful change both for ourselves and, of course, for our clients. Each member of our team has, at one time or another, undergone their own deliberate, large-scale life improvement, overcoming what once seemed impossible. Fortunately for you, what we have discovered and continue to learn to master daily is the process of change, which, together with our various professional qualifications, means we truly have the ability to guarantee success – as long as you are willing to do the work!
My own personal journey has been quite the wild ride. I admit that some changes have been more difficult than others, but what I’ve come to learn is that deliberate life changes, big or small, require a concerted effort to consciously shift your behavior and your thinking. You see, that is where 90 percent of us who have tried to make these types of life changes, from weight loss to spending to bad relationship habits to substance abuse, have fallen short.
At MYND MVMT we call the idea that thoughts don’t matter the “Myth of Invisibility”, the belief that because our thoughts are invisible they are not important and don’t matter. Given what we know from studying change so closely, that idea is precisely where we’ve gone so terribly wrong. We try to change our behavior without changing our thinking, not knowing that it’s a total set up for failure. Change only comes when we make changes to our perception – and perception is a byproduct of what we think, feel and believe! It’s the sum total of what we’ve lived thus far and how we therefore think about and experience the world around us. If that does not change, nothing will change! It can’t. It’s not even possible!
Through blog responses and from the work we do with our clients, we’ve found that often the barriers people face when trying to make these changes are the same. There comes a time when we have to make a choice – that fateful day when the novelty has worn off. When the excitement over this new thing we’re doing is gone, replaced with the painful realization that the commitment we’ve made is hard, uncomfortable, and unpleasant, and it’s going to require real effort that we are not yet sure we want to make. That however is THE pivotal moment. That’s the moment where we have to really choose. Are we going to do what we’ve always done, or are we going to forge a new path?
Some of those turning points for me have included coming out as gay; moving across oceans, to different countries (twice); quitting smoking; battling stress, anxiety, panic attacks and depression; making major career changes (and quitting several jobs); making lifestyle changes such as changes to my diet and quitting drinking. None of them was easy and in some cases it may have taken multiple tries without a shred of evidence of success! With that in mind, however, I thought it would be appropriate to prepare you for some of the challenges you may face during the process that lies ahead. All of which are totally normal!
1. Your Environment Starts to Change
As you begin to build an awareness of your inner environment, your external environment begins to change. This is the result of you viewing the world through a different lens. Rather than having a “Problem Orientation” or a major “negativity bias”- a habit of the mind and body where you are constantly scanning the world around you for problems. Instead you adopt a “Solution Orientation” – beginning to see the obstacles in front of you as opportunities. This is when you’ll catch yourself in the midst of asking “why”, as in “why is this happening to me”, and instead ask yourself “what?” As in, “what am I going to do about it?”
2. Turn Inside, and Ignore the Outside
When committing to make changes it’s natural of course to want to see progress, but this is a terrible mistake that so many of us make. We find ourselves constantly keeping score. Evaluating where we are in the process of achieving our goal. You may find yourself asking, do my jeans fit better? Is my bank account changing? Is my relationship improving? Whatever it is you are trying to achieve, keeping score is the fastest way to slow down the process. Just know that the change is happening but that what you’re doing when you look for evidence of change happening is re-engage the desperate feeling of not having this thing you want so badly. Thanks to the nature of human perception, activating longing just activates the old wiring that got you exactly where you don’t want to be in the first place.When you catch this happening, and believe me it will, just say to yourself something like, I know the change I want is coming and I am enjoying the process along the way. Then quickly change topics. Move onto something else!
3. Practice Mindfulness
Hopefully by now you’ve recognized that meditation and or a routine mindfulness practice are the best chance you have for a successful change. Assuming you know this already you may notice mini battles taking place within your own mind. At times you may hear all the old players – the voices of self doubt, worry, anger self criticism, judgement only now you have the new voice too – your true voice – working overtime to tell those guys to” f*** off!” No you’re not developing multiple personalities. It’s all part of the process of learning to step more fully into the trust and faith that deep down you have in yourself. When this happens – stop fighting yourself! Just “take five!” Breathe. Ease off. Move your body mindfully, relax with a good book, throw yourself into a project, game, phone call, Netflix. A battle is just that, a battle! By definition it means you’re bringing resistance into the mix and that is never a winning proposition.
4. Stay Above The Fray
I often hear a saying in my head whenever I feel myself getting sucked into nonsense drama, “stay above the fray!” One of the major down sides of life improvement is leaving those you love behind. I have found this to be the hardest part of all! Just because you made the commitment to major life improvement does not mean those around you will too! In fact, as happy as your loved ones are for you, you may also inspire a spark of jealousy, shame, guilt – a feeling that they “should” be doing it too. One way or another we have got to find a way to protect ourselves from the pressures, opinions, and negative “vibes” of others. It may mean stepping back for a while. Sure there will be the outliers who are so inspired by the changes you’ve made that, at some point, maybe now, or maybe later – they will follow in your footsteps. The painful truth of the matter is don’t count on it! Just because you’ve been inspired to change your life, doesn’t mean others will share in your enthusiasm. Making matters worse friends and family who have known us a very long time will always see you the way they always have. To our friends from 6th grade we are still that person who passed notes back and forth in Mr Passetto’s homeroom. To our friends from college we’re the person playing beer pong, and doing Jagermeister shots at 3:00 a.m., and to our parents and family…well, you get the picture.
Recently, a friend of mine told me about an experience he had during his “dry January” this year. He was at a dinner party with his wife and a group of friends and the host of the party, an old friend, kept pushing him to have a drink. “Come on buddy, have a drink with me! It’s new year’s!” Despite him clearly stating multiple times that he did not want one, his friend persisted and could not let it go. Anyone who has stopped drinking knows just how hard it can be and having someone continuously push you to drink, just makes it so much harder.
It’s not only that those from our past see us how they remember us best, the more dangerous part of this is that when we spend time with them, they pull out of us who we were then too! This is what can make change feel nearly impossible, particularly in the face of family and old friends! Now, that doesn’t mean you should run home and break up with everyone you’ve ever known. It does, however, mean that some distance and time to yourself can be a really helpful first step. If you just stay the course, no matter what, these things have a way of working themselves out.
5. Find Your Tribe.
There is a saying that if you want to know the character of a person look at the five people who they spend the most time with. As you change and grow, trust that those five people will change and grow too! If you’re not sure where to find your new people, pursue what you’re interested in most! Check out a meditation or mindfulness workshop! Take a 12 week class in something! Try your hand at yoga, financial planning, or anything you’ve always wanted to know more about! New information is a key part of the change process. Building community only solidifies the change you want to make, and make the process more enjoyable. One client I had, who was agnostic at the time, decided to do a spiritual survey of sorts. He began studying different types of faith and would take “field trips” to various places of worship. In doing so he made friends and discovered after a while that another world existed he had known nothing about. Trust that whatever you do, you will find your tribe. With a new and fresh outlook on life, what your old friends and family think and feel about you changing is no longer of much concern.
6. Being Happy Can Feel Overwhelming and Scary
Especially if you are not used to it. Recently, I have had some experiences where I feel overwhelmingly happy for a prolonged period of time and it’s terribly uncomfortable! It’s just weird and unfamiliar. You just don’t realize how often you are keeping yourself from being happy by pointing out all the ways in which things are not the way you want them to, or think they should, be. Many of us are convinced that if we’re too happy it means something ‘bad’ will happen. We have trained ourselves to look for the “shoe to drop”! First of all, if you keep focusing on that bad thing that might happen, it will definitely happen. However, this has more to do with your state of mind than it does with circumstances. Secondly, if you are in a state of happy and allow yourself to stay there, you are much more likely to deal with circumstances in a positive way (see point 1). Don’t fear happiness. Allow yourself to linger in it. The more you do, the quicker you will see the change you want.
About the Author
About the Author
Morten Jensen Is a Nutrition & Health Coach & Consultant with MYND MVMT. MYND MVMT uses an integrated, health & wellness model where mindfulness, nutrition, fitness, and long term goal attainment are built into the rehabilitation process. Mind Mvmt specializes in the treatment & recovery of depression, anxiety, substance use & abuse, behavioral addictions, and working with those who struggle to feel fulfilled in their lives.