You can’t change without changing. Now that seems a bit obvious. I started using this phrase with clients though because I was discovering a phenomenon of sorts. The desire to change was there, or sometimes even just the realization of the necessity to change and yet they were stuck. I started witnessing this with friends in their personal lives as well. But really, let’s be honest. I started noticing this in me.
“Oh that’s not how we do things here.”
“That’s not me.”
“I can’t do that.”
“I don’t know how.”
“I would if I could.”
“It’s not working.”
It is natural to want to start making changes slowly and subtly while still hanging on to the comfort of what we know even if it is the very comfort that we wish to leave. The brain is an efficient organ that survives on recognizing familiar situations and putting the familiar responding circuit into action. Therefore, it actually experiences something new as a threat, or in the very least, something what it is: new! A new response is called for and this is outside of the majority of the tasks that the brain performs. Remember that we also have brain cells in our heart and our gut, which can explain the pangs of knowing that we get when you can “feel it in your gut” or your “heart is telling you to do something.” It really is a full body experience to change. So we need to break these old circuits to create something new, if you want to look at it from a neuroscience perspective.
I also like to look at it from a more emotional and/or spiritual perspective, and that is to say that we have to create the space for change…sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally, sometimes in our minds. At a minimum we need the space in our awareness.
Stuckness: I have been dreaming and planning a move abroad, and I am ready, but I have this house and a mortgage. It would be great if the house could be a form of savings for me. It won’t rent for enough money; it won’t sell. This has been going on for months and months. I am stuck.
Letting go: The house represents my ego and my old way of being and is keeping me anchored to my old life. For what I am about to do, it is best for me to let it go and sell it. What do I need to do to get this house sold? Who can help me? It is possible. (and it was)
Now this is a personal example and I’m just giving the minimal details. It took me a lot of work to decide that was the right decision for me. As I sat and cried while writing out the check for the amount of money I lost. I thought, “Am I absolutely crazy? No, I just believe in my dream this much and I am taking the leap.” And imagine how tough it was one year later to hear of friends buying and selling houses within hours. When I tell people I meet here in Argentina, “I sold my house and moved abroad,” they often say something along the lines of “That’s incredible, but I just don’t understand why you sold your house??” I don’t know the Spanish yet for how to say, “Great question! Well, it represented my ego, my old way of living, an old failed relationship and I was ready to let go and create space for new!”
So a few simple thoughts to help trigger the unsticking process:
Play the “what would it look like” game. Let yourself dream and create a vision. When you make the change, what will it look like? What will it feel like? What will you be doing and how will your situation and people around you respond? How will you know when you are there?
Then look at what is standing in your way. What is in your control and what is out of your control? Be honest about this. Great news! You can’t change something out of your control so you can cross those items off of your ‘to do’ or ‘to worry about’ list. Rather, look at any road blocks and barriers you see and focus on how you can navigate them. Sometimes you can break them right down. Sometimes it involves much more work and you might even feel you are getting away from the original point. Go back to your vision exercises. Don’t try to skirt road blocks; they’ll show up again. That’s a promise.
“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know” – Pema.
When taking the leap, acknowledge the role in your life that the state you are leaving has played. Creating space for new can often feel like a mini death of sorts. It is important to acknowledge what was good, what you can take with you and to grieve the loss.
Reach out to others for help.
Be honest with yourself.
I like to use the analogy that I had to use to try skydiving for the first time. Just jump out of the plane and then let the rest happen…let the view zoom by, let the parachute do its job and trust that it will, enjoy the float back to solid ground. You have to let go though. Now I’m not saying we should just run and jump out of a plane the second we realize we want a change. Rather, letting go and fully saying yes to the change is often the last part, the hardest part and what can keep us stuck. So get yourself ready, jump and enjoy the ride.
This can apply to tangible situations like I described for myself (selling a house), but also to growing yourself as a person, relationships and other less tangible transformations.