Contrary to what some believe you don’t have to hit rock bottom in order to decide to change. I encourage you to reject any mindset that tells you suffering has to be the origin of a heartfelt desire to change. Mindful living is about choosing the path of greatest grace and ease. Like anything else, change is a process that begins internally and is eventually visible to the outside world. There are levels to this change game! Let’s talk about the stages of readiness and you can assess where you are. These stages can be applied to any situation.
In stage 1, the pre-contemplation stage, we can feel hopeless. We’ve tried minimizing and rationalizing our way out of the situation but the only solution we can see is if other people would change. At this point our vision is limited and we have abdicated our power. When other people talk to us about our problem they see we are unable to “get it”. Holding on for someone else to change in order to make things better is never wise. We can only control ourselves. The pre-contemplation stage can last a long time and is marked by frustration and pain. This is the time when hands are thrown up and the adage about hitting rock bottom is bantered about.
The contemplation stage is equally as frustrating but indicative of progress for the readiness of change. At this point we can see something has to give and we have played a part in creating our current reality, BUT we’re waiting on a “sign” that now is the time to do something different. We find catharsis through talking about our situation. To put it simply, we get off on analysis. Friends and family sigh and say things like “don’t talk about it, be about it” because they are spending a lot of time thinking about the situation and debating what to do.
This is the time when we prepare ourselves for our next big move.
Eventually the paralysis of analysis wears off and we enter the preparation stage. Here we start planning for our change. We clean out the cabinets, and stock up on good foods for the diet that starts on Monday. We start creating a budget and looking up the details for that dream trip we almost gave up hope of taking. The details vary but the preparation stage is crucial for success once we move into the final, action stage. This is the time when prepare ourselves for our next big move.
Working through the other stages gives us the opportunity to change the environment or problem mindfully. When the action stage arrives we move with clarity, focus and certainty. There’s no longer any question about the why or how. When we refuse to act out of fear, pain or desperation we are more likely to make good choices and decisions. For this reason alone it’s wise to reject the idea of floating along until we hit rock bottom. Rock bottom triggers survival mode and that short circuits critical thinking. The goal is that once we are at the action stage, we are to move with wisdom toward a new normal.
Resistance to change is natural.
Unfortunately, old habits die hard, which is why the action stage is not the final stage. Taking action doesn’t inevitably mean permanent, complete success. Life ebbs and flows. Some aspects of our change may stick right off the bat and some may require adjustments and repeated attempts to stick. Letting go of our old way of living and fully embracing our new reality is challenging. Our commitment to change may waver so we try to move forward in a new direction with old behaviors. Taking two steps forward and one back is still progress, albeit slower than need be. This tendency to recycle is not indicative of failure it’s a natural part of the readiness for change process. Resistance to change is natural. Labeling recycling as failure makes it failure. Treat yourself with compassion and gentleness. Label it what it is, part of the journey. Mindful living means you see and call things what they are.
If we are blessed, life is a long marathon. It is dynamic, unpredictable and glorious. Give yourself the gift of expansive vision. Broaden your understanding of successful change and how you get there. You can choose to flow with ease and grace or to try to put yourself back together after you crash and burn. The choice is yours.