It's time for a change

Making a Change for the Better

The realization last week that I need to accept my neighbor’s inconsiderate actions was pivotal. But just what do I do with that? As Goethe said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” Knowing that I need to accept his poor actions as truth, to release the anger that is hurting me, and to embrace strong boundaries are just mental exercises. These are knowledge but not change. To go from knowing to applying, we need willingness and action.

If you're reading this it's time for change.
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Willingness

We can know that eating a more vegetable-filled diet is good for us, but the willingness to forgo a juicy burger for a handful of carrots may not be there. Knowing what is good for us is not enough. We have to be willing to act differently. Oxford Languages defines willingness as “the quality or state of being prepared to do something; readiness.” Synonyms are readiness, disposition, inclination, wish, desire, eagerness, and enthusiasm. That is a powerful list. How many times do you know something is good for you, but you lack the readiness, disposition, or inclination to act? When do you go into a new project begrudgingly instead of with eagerness and enthusiasm? Before we can act and make real changes, we need to have the willingness to act.

If there are changes you want to make in your life but you are not moving forward, explore your willingness first. What do you fear will happen if you make a change? Will you lose something? Will you feel unsafe? Will others mock or leave you? Are you just uncomfortable in the newness of it? Are you more comfortable with the devil you know? After looking at your fear, look at the rewards. What do you gain through the change? How would your life’s experience improve? Is the reward worth the effort and risk?

Take your time exploring your lack of motivation and willingness. Don’t gloss over it. If you don’t spend the time getting buy-in from yourself, you will never move forward or stick with your new way of being.

Action

Now it is time to take it to the streets. Making a mental change of attitude and commitment means nothing without action. What steps can you take to move forward into the new? Stay away from all-or-nothing thinking. There is no need to make major drastic changes all at once. What is the smallest most comfortable step you can take in the right direction? What is that one thing you can do that is contrary action to what you were doing before? These little tangible steps lead up to the major change you are looking for.

In my case, I realized that my obsession with the inconsideration happening next door was taking away my joy. A major change could have been for me to move. That was not necessary. What I started with was noticing I was allowing myself to be disturbed by his actions, even when he was not around. I became ready and willing to release my obsessive thinking about the injustice when it was not happening and then I took action. The first easy action I took was counting. On the first day, I counted how many times my mind replayed the story of injustice. This did two things. First, it stopped me from feeding or fighting the story; all I had was objective awareness. Doing this took me out of the emotion of the story. Secondly, it gave me something tangible to work on. Sadly, that first day I disturbed myself over thirty times with my story of injustice. The second day that number was just over ten. By the third day it was less than five. My circumstances have not changed, I still have an annoying neighbor living next door, but my experience has improved immensely because I have changed my actions and behaviors.

What do you want to change in your life? Do you have the deep-down inclination and true desire to make the change? What is a small tangible step you can take today?

Wanting versus Willing

Throughout my life I have studied, analyzed, and comprehended. I expressed theories and best practices. I feel I have a good understanding of how to live the best life. Thinking, feeling, and believing are great. But none of those make me experience the best life, until I act. Taking action is a theme for me this year. I have written about how action can take us out of worry, and I have shared tangible steps to help someone take action. In this article I want to explore the step before action, willingness.

How many times do we want something, desire something different in our life but we are unwilling to do anything about it? We think it is too hard. We think we can not obtain it. We know it is good for us, but we stubbornly or fearfully don’t want to change. Wanting to change is not the same as willing to change.

Let’s go to Merriam-Webster to learn the difference. To want is defined as desire. Desire is an emotion, not an action. Willing is an action. Willing means “done, borne, or accepted by choice or without reluctance.” Willingness is a strong confident unwavering action.

Our want or desire is good because it defines for us the change we want in our life. If we don’t know where we want to go, we will never get there. However, the best visions and plans do not ensure we reach our goal if we never take any steps toward completing them. Here are a few stumbling blocks that may hinder us from moving from wanting to willing.

Overwhelm

A common reason we don’t move forward is that our goals seem insurmountable. Maybe we have so much on our plate already that we can’t imagine adding one more thing. Maybe we know what we need to do but the amount of time and effort needed is discouraging. Some of us shut down before we get started. We dream and imagine, but we are not willing to put on our big girl pants and make those first steps. It all seems like too much.

Worth

My usual stumbling block is feeling unworthy. I want better but I don’t believe I deserve better. Maybe I say others are worse off than I am, how can I be so greedy as to want more. Maybe I have resigned myself to a position of less-than and don’t believe I deserve to be happy. Being stuck in unworthiness can make our desires a fantasy we never give ourselves permission to explore.

Fear

Fear is usually the base culprit of our inability to move forward. We may be afraid we can’t reach our goal and will be disappointed. We may be afraid that our goal is not the right choice for us.  We may be afraid we will reach our goal and there will be backlash from others if we do succeed. Fear comes in many forms and no matter how it shows up, it can be paralyzing.

Make the Switch

How can one flip the switch from wanting to willing?  The answer is by removing all of the dishonest beliefs that are holding us back. Look at the excuse keeping you from willingness. Is it overwhelm, unworthiness, or fear? Is it real or imagined? If it is real, can you solve or address it? If it is imagined, which it usually is, stop feeding it. Stop replaying the what-ifs. Stop telling yourself again and again how this is insurmountable. Next, build proof that the story you are telling yourself is false. By listing tangible examples about how our dishonest beliefs are dishonest, it makes it easier to be released from their grasp.

What do you want next in your life? If you are stuck in wanting but not willing, break down the lies you are telling yourself and use the truth as building blocks to your willingness and eventual action.

start here sign

Actions speak louder than words

I am a thinker. I am a writer. I am unafraid of pondering the tough issues in my life. In fact, I spend most days running through scenarios of what I did, what I could have done, and what I should do next. I think. I think a lot. And it is good. My self-awareness is strong. My knowledge of forward-thinking and spirituality is vast. What I have learned however is that all my thinking and all my knowledge does not make any changes in my life. Nothing changes until something changes.

All the thinking in the world does not change anything until we actually take action. Saying that the world would be more peaceful if we were kinder to each other doesn’t change the world until our actions are actually more kind. Simple concept, yes? Like much of self-improvement, simple concepts are the bedrock of improvement, but the execution of those concepts is where things become more difficult.

How many times in our lives are we replaying the same story day in and day out? We say the same things, do the same things, and then are upset that nothing changes in our lives. Why would anything change? We are on autopilot. We are hoping and wishing for change, but until we take some action for change, our stories will simply repeat.

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Start Small

The good news is that we don’t need to take big actions to start change. If we are unhappy with our job, we don’t need to quit it right now. The first change we can make is to admit our unhappiness to a trusted confident. We can find one small thing about our position and change it. We can start networking to find a new position. We can dust off our resume. We can take any little action to make our current situation better or to move toward the new. It is like the answer to the question of how do you eat an elephant – one bite at a time. We don’t need to eat the whole thing. Just one small step will move us in the right direction. It is amazing how a tiny little step forward initiates a chain reaction of other movements. We don’t have to do it all. We don’t have to do it all right now. We don’t have to do it alone.

Start Today

As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, and the second-best day is today. If you catch yourself hoping and wishing for change, stop replaying the story. Stop beating yourself up for not doing something sooner. Stop hoping for change. Be the change. Have the courage to do something today to start the process. Do you want to write? Buy a notebook or create a file on your computer. Do you want to lose weight? Research what is healthiest for you. Whatever you want to move toward do something today, right now, that is alignment with your dreams.

Change Your Routine

Our fear can keep us in a rut. If taking a small action toward your dream feels overwhelming, do something – anything – that is different than usual. Drive a new way home. Style your hair differently. Rearrange the furniture in your house. Making changes elsewhere in our lives can also start the momentum to making the big changes we desire.

Write down the change you want to make in your life. Place it somewhere you will see it every day. If you don’t know the change you want to make, take some time to identify what is not working in your life and then write down the opposite. Each day read what you want to change and make some small effort toward that goal. The journey of a thousand miles, begins with the first step.

act sign

Action Not Worry

Learning a second language helps me see the world in a new light. I have known a phrase in Spanish for a while, “no te preocupes,” which means “don’t worry about it.” What blew my mind was learning that it is based on the word “ocupar.” Let’s break it down.

“Ocupar” means to take up space, to spend time, to take a seat, to fill, to invade, to hold, to live, to be placed in, to keep busy, to hire, to seize, and to utilize. When made reflexive, “ocuparse,” it also means to tackle, to deal with, to be in charge of, to take responsibility, to look after, and to take care of.

“Preocupar” means to cause concern, to worry, to be concerned, to be interested in, and to bother about. The reflexive, “preocuparse,” means to get anxious and worry.

Adding “pre” or “before” to “ocupar” makes it “before taking responsibility and dealing with something, we worry.” Mind blown. Before we take action, before we tackle something, before we take responsibility, we are worried and anxious.

act sign
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Maybe it is necessary?

Maybe being worried is the impetus of our action. Like anger is an indicator that something is wrong and needs to be dealt with, perhaps worry is our call to action. As there is good stress and bad stress, perhaps there is good worry and bad worry. I am currently planning an international trip. I am concerned about the new protocols due to the pandemic. This worry is making me act; to research what is needed and taking the steps to have my paperwork and testing in place. Worry is helping me navigate the world. It is a call to action. It is helping me focus on what needs to be resolved. This is good worry.

How much is enough “pre”?

When worry falls into the bad or unhelpful category is when we get stuck in the worry and we never act. Are we consumed by worries day and night? Are we replaying scenarios which may never play out? Have we made our worry so large that we don’t think we have the power to act? Are we so focused on the problem that we can’t find the solution? Are we missing out experiencing the moment because we are focused on our fear, worry and concern? A little worry may be a motivator. A lot of worry can stifle us.  

Using action to stop worry

Lately I have been learning how to defeat my worry by taking action. When I notice myself focusing on my worry, I make the active choice to act. Sometimes it is taking action against my worry – doing research, asking a friend for advice, doing something to resolve the issue. Sometimes it is taking action, any action. I wash the dishes. I walk the dog. I meditate. I do something, anything, except worry. I find that my movement and action break me free from worry.

What is your relationship with worry? It is a helpful indicator? Does it keep you stuck? Does it give you a reason to act? Where is worry helping or hindering you?

the journey is on

It is the journey not destination, but how?

I hated the phrase, “It is not the journey, it is the destination.” I was all about the destination. It was all about achievement. I was all about making things happen. Overtime, I have learned the power of focusing on the power and purpose of the journey. I am learning that how we reach our destination is as important, if not more important than the destination itself. How we play the game of life – our strategies, each move, each interaction – is what makes the game worthwhile. It is where and how we learn. It is how we grow and improve. And it is where joy comes from.  It is not that we shouldn’t have goals. It is not that we shouldn’t celebrate accomplishments. Nothing is wrong with having a target destination. But the key to life is in how we take the journey, not where we end up.

And it ain’t always easy. When life is filled with rainbows and unicorns, managing life can be easy. When we are met with challenges, we really discover who we are and who we can be. Every day can be a struggle as well as a chance to grow. Certain challenges we may resist because we are not ready for the change. Every week I share big picture ideals with you. What happened lately is that life has shown me that ideals without action serves no one. My own hypocrisy slapped me in the face when I noticed myself getting aggravated with my neighbor, just after writing a pithy post about the world needing love. Let’s walk the talk Melissa.

Photo by Clemens van Lay on Unsplash

Here are a few tools I realized I needed to really make the most of this journey.

This Moment

As I take my own journey, I constantly remind myself to return to the moment. I want the checklist and the well-worn path to follow. Unfortunately, a definitive how-to of life is not available. Instead I am realizing that in every moment I am meant to choose and learn, resist and accept, release and grow. It is not about following a path but having the courage to cut my own path. It is our journey that creates the destination, not the other way around. This concept helps me to focus on making this moment peaceful and to focus on being the best me right here and now. I steer away from my desire for the big picture knowledge of how things “should” be and instead focus on the trees. Focusing on the moment is the only place I can affect and experience life.

The First Time

Another aspect of being in the moment, is seeing every issue as if it was happening the first time. I had shared before how my neighbor’s smoking had been an issue. I was thrilled that just after that article, she moved. Unfortunately, the new neighbor smokes too. For me this is the 50th-million time this is an issue. For the new neighbor, it is the first time. When I can let go of my previous experience, I can let go of my anger and resentment so I can approach the challenge with less stress and a more open mind.

Take an Action

In a funny episode of How I Met You Mother, Barney shows Ted how he thinks too much and how he should just do. I don’t recommend what happens in the TV show, but I do agree with the concept. Don’t think, just do. Lately when I get stuck in an issue, when I am angry, confused, not sure what to do – and I catch myself trying to think myself through the issue – often replaying the same scenarios I have for decades, I stop thinking and do. I find one small action, usually one new action to take – and then I take it. Einstein is quoted as saying that we can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created them. I agree. By taking a new action or at least getting out of my brain and doing something, I stop the old way of being and open up to new opportunities.

As you go about your day, be in the moment, treat every moment as if it was the first time, and stop thinking and start doing. Enjoy the journey!!