Make SHIFT Happen – 5 Ways to Bring Change to Your Life
Can you see it? Can you feel it? Can you taste it and breathe it in? That sense, feeling, and destination of where you would like to be… where you would like your life to be…
Some say that the road from here to there is a long and arduous one, but I disagree. In my eyes, mind, and heart, I see that it needn’t be difficult nor overly burdensome if approached with the “right” mindset and an open heart. Here, then, are the 5 ways to bring to life the change that you want to see happen in a less daunting and more doable way, learned through living, loving example and brought to you courtesy of the letters S.H.I.F.T.
First and foremost, seek connection. Nurture your close friendships and relationships. Wherever you go, build the community you want to live among and the community you already have.
Friendships and relationships are everything. Truly. They heal, they support, they guide, they encourage, and the best kinds also accept, nourish, and unconditionally love.
The ability of our social connections to increase our happiness, protect us from the negative consequences of stress, and to influence our ability to adopt healthier attitudes and behaviours is unparalleled. The ability of our relationships to support us in becoming more like the person we want to be is unmatched, and the ability of our social support network to provide us with a sense of belonging– a sense of being part of something bigger than ourselves– is incredibly unique. Most valuable of all, the power of our connections to offer us respite– someone we can turn to when times are hard (and times are hard, from time to time, for each and every one of us because hey, shi(f)t happens!)– is rarely, if ever, found elsewhere in as genuine and true of a way.
Our social connections make every difficult moment easier and every good moment better. That’s why it’s first on our list. If you want to invite change into your life in a way that matters and sticks, look no further than the person to your right and to your left, the one who’s last on your “recently dialed” list, and the ones you gather with to learn, grow, be, and work towards change.
Hold yourself in self-compassion
As a psychologist, coach, and author, I speak and write about many attitudes and processes that support us in evolving into our best, happiest, most satisfied selves and if you ask me, none is more important than self-compassion.
A kind, balanced approach to your negative emotions and experiences in which you show genuine care for your own well-being– that’s what self-compassion is all about. Self-compassion not only leads us to be more open-minded, authentic, and accepting, but it’s the very thing that supports self-improvement and change from the inside out. Because it inspires a willingness in people to learn from their perceived weaknesses and failures and helps to engender a growth mindset (i.e., the belief that you can, in fact, change things that you perceive to be personal weaknesses), self-compassion is a life companion like no other.
The question at the very core of self-compassion, that I invite you to sit with, is “How are you relating to you?”
Go ahead and for just a few moments, think of something you would like to happen right now, that hasn’t yet happened, or somewhere where you’re struggling a bit and hoping it will change.
Take a moment with yourself, and notice your self-talk and inner dialogue. What does your mind say when life isn’t meeting your expectations or when you aren’t meeting your own? What kind of relationship do you have with you?
Then try one of these statements on for size as you listen to and increase awareness of your self-talk, and invite yourself to adjust accordingly:
“I am here with you”
“I hear you”
“I support you”
“I am curious about your life and thoughts”
“I am on your side”
“I would like to get to know and understand you better”
“You are interesting to me”
As you explore what it’s like to say these phrases to yourself, see which resonates the most with you right now. Choose the one that feels best, or create one of your own, and take it with you into your day. Self-compassion and self-love are built one moment, one internal conversation, and one day at a time. This is how we do it.
The “R” word… Resistance. What’s it got to do with making shift happen?
Well, it turns out (and most psychological experts who walk the talk eventually embrace and speak to this in some sort of way) that the emotional experiences that we commonly overlay on top of our actual experiences (things like judgment, shame, and blame) are what actually keep us stuck in old habits and patterns of thought and action that don’t support us in becoming who we yearn to be.
It’s not the actual events in our lives that keep us stuck. It’s these emotional overlays, in particular the resistance to the events themselves– whether ones that have already taken place or those that have yet to occur– that keeps shift from happening.
Now, don’t get me wrong– it’s incredibly normal and even expected that you will move back and forth a bit between resistance and flow and between judgment and acceptance. And it’s expected that your mind and body will do a little dance between blame and responsibility and between shame and confidence. It’s also not at all surprising that you’ll often feel nudged to feel fear in one moment and trust the next.
If you want to stay in the flow more and stuck in one of these extremes of resistance (e.g., judgment, blame, shame, or fear) less of the time though, how do you go about doing it?
You welcome and integrate the resistance.
Welcome and integrate wha…?
Yes, you heard me right. Welcome and integrate the resistance you feel. It may seem counterintuitive but anything that you resist or push against rarely goes away; it only gets bigger until you let it in, and that includes resistance itself.
Try it with me.
Thinking back to that experience you want that hasn’t yet happened, or that place where you’re struggling a bit and hoping it will change, ask yourself: What story of resistance, judgment, shame or fear do I hear around it in my mind?
Then see if you can give it your full attention and respect, without trying to figure out how to make it go away… Be willing to experience it, intentionally. Stay with the experience of discomfort to the extent that you are able to, and watch the protective mechanisms that are used to keeping you in safety and belonging ease up on their own as you allow the resistance, in whatever form, to make its way through you.
It may feel odd at first, but I promise, as your body and mind get used to the experience of integrating rather than distancing from your various nuanced emotional overlays, it will get easier.
As human beings living in a world of so much, we are brought up to be intimately in touch with the many people, possessions, and possibilities that are a possible part of our future. It’s wonderful, isn’t it, that we can dream so big? The problem arises when we are disproportionately, if at all, taught to be intimately in touch with the people, possessions, and possibilities that are very much a part of our present day experience. What happens for a majority of us, then, is that we are typically running away from our current experience into an imagined future of greater and better possibility, and calling it living. But telling ourselves (often unconsciously) that “I have to feel less-than-good until things are going my way” or “I’m committed to feeling bad until I have what I want”– is that really living?
In truth, we can only get there (where we want to be) from here (where we currently are). And the most sincere of goals for any one of us is to be happy now, to train ourselves into present-moment joy, and to encourage ourselves to choose, in each and every moment, to focus on the blessing rather than the burden.
I invite you to join me to practice for just a moment.
Think back to that experience you want that hasn’t yet happened, or that place where you’re struggling a bit and hoping it will change…
Where are your current thoughts and emotions about this leading you? And where might you be missing an opportunity to be just a little more grateful?
Ask yourself: Even if there are currently people in the situation who are making me mad or sad, is there also someone around who makes my life easier? And, this situation that appears at face-value to be a problem– is it also possible that somewhere in there lies an opportunity?
Out of all of the moments that make up this day, will I choose to focus on the negative ones or the positive ones?
The reality is that you can accept this moment, this situation, and this life exactly as it is right now and simultaneously want and hope to see change. What happens when you do this is that you become less attached to the outcome of your life experiences. And by not attaching yourself to a specific outcome, you not only free yourself of the stress and worry that attachment brings, but you also free yourself up to journey through endless possibilities and to learn all that you can with an open mind along the way.
Where is the magic of life found, then?
It’s right there, in that sweet spot… in that balance between “I fully and completely accept who and where I am” and “I choose to work towards improvement and change.”
When you hear “Take responsibility for the life you are creating”, what is your immediate response? Is it one of burden and pressure or one of relief and ease?
I bet it’s one of pressure and burden, isn’t it?
Why am I so sure, you wonder? It’s because in the world we live in, the word responsibility carries such a heavy load and almost immediately implies a significant amount of burden. That is, until we look at what it actually means…
Responsibility aka response-ability is your ability to respond to any and every situation in your life, no matter what it is. Because we are human, we are each response-able. That, in fact, is the beauty of being human (vs. mammalian, for example, with no ability to engage in reason or logic). And if you can respond to any situation, that means that you have power to influence any situation. You have power to ponder and act on personal decisions. You have power to say “I am no longer going to act out of automatic instinct and past habitual patterns. I am going to make conscious choices about the future direction of my life.”
Now if that’s not full of freedom and opportunity, I don’t know what is.
When presenting participants in a recent workshop with that freedom and opportunity by asking “How do you want to respond to life?” I heard some of the most life-giving, intentional, and beautiful responses– some said their goal is to live more honestly, lightly, peacefully, lovingly, or mindfully. Others expressed that they yearn to respond to life positively, graciously, thoughtfully, and openly, and others voiced that presently, kindly, empathetically, passionately, and intuitively are the ways in which they will live their life.
I invite you now to do the same.
Engage your greatest gift– your response-ability– and ask yourself “If life is based on how I respond to it, then how do I want to respond to it?”
Choose one word or one phrase that best represents this for you. Then take it with you into today, tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that. Let it be your mantra and the guiding principle by which you lead your life.
When faced with a challenge, difficult decision, or uncomfortable conversation, you don’t need to know exactly what to do right away. All you need to know is that you want your response to this situation and to all of your life to be guided by this principle that you have chosen.
The beauty here is that even if nothing else changes, you can shift the outcome of the events in your life by responding to them in a new way. All of a sudden, external circumstances matter much less and have much less power, while you’ve got lots more of it.
How are you making S.H.I.F.T happen? And where is your newfound power leading you? Let us know in the comments below.