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Issue 93

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In this issue ~~

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What Does It Take to Make a Change?

There are many times in our lives when, by choice or necessity, we make a change. The change may be an exciting one or a challenging one. Either way, we're creatures of habit, and often change can take some effort.

In today's world, change is a given. It's often thrust upon us, whether we like it or not. Many of us change jobs every 2 to 3 years, if not more often. The store that we've shopped at consistently for decades suddenly closes, and we need to find new outlets. With each change, our routines are thrown into upheaval, and we need to adapt.

There are also times when we want to make a change. We may know we want the change, but not what direction it should take. Even if we know, maybe we don't know how to go about it, or it's scary. With the constant change we face these days, we may simply be in "change overload."

With so much change out of our control, it seems we need to be ready to change directions at all times. When it's possible, choosing change before it's thrust upon us, and preparing for the change, can alleviate much of the fear and uncertainty.

Here are a few steps you can take when change is on the horizon:

  • Find the passion.
    Perhaps you hate your job, but you don't know what else you could do. Finding something you're passionate about is great fuel for change. If you're going toward something that's meaningful and exciting to you, you're more likely to weather the ups and downs of change.

  • Tap into your courage.
    Any change, whether chosen or imposed, takes courage. You're moving into new, unknown territory. Even if it's an exciting change, there will be unknown factors and new challenges. Remember, courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to face the fear and move ahead anyway.

  • Get clarity and focus.
    It's important to be clear about the change you want to make and the direction you want to go. Many people want a new career, to move to a new location, or to enter into a new relationship, but they're not clear about what that will look like. If you're not sure what you want, chances are you'll be more frightened and even reluctant to take steps in the direction you think you want to go. When you've done the soul-searching and the research, and you're clear about your direction, you're much more likely to move forward with confidence and motivation.

  • Be willing to take a calculated risk.
    Any change requires some risk. In order to swing to the next trapeze, the trapeze artist has to, at some point, let go of the first one. I'm not advocating taking a blind leap. If you do your preparation and feel confident that you're moving in the right direction, it's easier to take a well-prepared leap of faith.

  • Create a new habit.
    When we do something repeatedly, we create pathways in the brain, similar to the ruts that wagon wheels make in dirt roads. When you make a change, you're creating new pathways. Left to our own devices, we'll generally default to the familiar "ruts." Creating new habits takes conscious, repeated effort. You need to become conscious about reinforcing the new habit, and then do it over and over until it becomes the new default path.

  • Be willing to change yourself.
    Many people want big changes in their life, but they don't want to change themselves or their lifestyles. If you want your life to change, you need to look at what you need to do differently and how you need to be differently, in order to bring that change into your life. You need to, as they say, "be the change you want."

  • Be patient and persistent.
    Change takes time. It may be awhile before we achieve our objectives. We may fall back into our old, familiar habits before the new habits take hold. Keep up your efforts on a regular basis for however long it takes. If you "fall off the wagon," dust yourself off and get back on track.

  • Let go of the past.
    To make a change, you need to create out of who you're becoming, rather than who you've been. Your change may not make sense – becoming an actor after spending time and money on law school isn't logical, but it may be exactly what your soul is calling you to do. Keep your eye on your vision, rather than your history.

  • Try new things.
    Be willing to experiment. Each experiment may not succeed, but you'll learn from each one and have more clarity about where you really want to go.

  • Create a safe haven.
    If you have a lot of change in your life, it's reassuring and grounding to have at least one area that remains constant. For me, it's my apartment of 30 years, which has been my anchor through many career changes. For you, it may be your job, your family, your friends, your hobbies or your spirituality.

  • Just start.
    You don't have to know where you're going to take the first steps. Once you get on the path, new pathways will open up to you that you couldn't see when you were standing at square one. It's helpful to start out with a game plan, but give yourself the freedom and flexibility to explore those new opportunities, rather than rigidly sticking to your plan.

Change can be both exciting and challenging. Try some of the strategies above. Be patient and persistent. In time, you'll surely get to enjoy the fruits of your work!

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Action Challenge

In what area of your life would you like to make a change? Take some time to write or journal your vision – the new reality you would like to create. Now, look at the article above. Which of the strategies is most challenging for you? What can you do to strengthen yourself in that area? Where can you find support?

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Wise Words

"We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are."

~ Max De Pree, Leadership Is an Art

"People can't live with change if there's not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value."

~ Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

"Each of us is born with two contradictory sets of instructions: a conservative tendency, made up of instincts for self-preservation, self-aggrandizement, and saving energy, and an expansive tendency made up of instincts for exploring, for enjoying novelty and risk – the curiosity that leads to creativity belongs to this set. But whereas the first tendency requires little encouragement or support from outside to motivate behavior, the second can wilt if not cultivated. If too few opportunities for curiosity are available, if too many obstacles are put in the way of risk and exploration, the motivation to engage in creative behavior is easily extinguished.

~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,
Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

"Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Bookshelf

(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)

Between Trapezes: Flying Into a New Life with the Greatest of Ease . . . Gail Blanke

Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves . . . Sharon Begley

Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work . . . John C. Maxwell

Making a Change for Good: A Guide to Compassionate Self-Discipline . . . Cheri Huber

Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life . . . John McCain with Marshall Salter

The Courage to Create . . . Rollo May

The Courage to Be . . . Paul Tillich

bookIdentifying and Managing Project Risk: Essential Tools for Failure-Proofing Your Project . . . Tom Kendrick

bookSmart Women Take Risks: Six Steps for Conquering Your Fears and Making the Leap to Success . . . Helene Lerner

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© 2007 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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