Once we are aware and accept that we are where we are, we must then act and there in lies the most vital step to not only changing our circumstances, but transforming ourselves and our lives.
The entrance into personal transformation always begins with noticing, becoming aware of how we view the world, how we are wired, what triggers us and the beliefs we hold, consciously or unconsciously, that either honor our values or become obstacles along our journey.
Once we are aware, we begin to notice when we resist and when we accept the people and circumstances in our lives. And just as we cannot accept what we are not consciously aware of, so too we cannot act on what we resist. Acceptance enables us to take our foot off the break of resistance and accelerate forward. In doing so, we often come face to face with the limits of our comfort.
No matter our displeasure or discomfort with where we are, moving into the unknown and uncertainty that lies on the other side of our comfort zone challenges our resolve and moxie. It takes courage, faith and tenacity to change behaviors that have been with us for most of our lives and no longer benefit us.
I had one client who was so tired of being used and abused by his spouse; he noticed his part in his circumstances as he looked back on years of infidelity and his choice to ignore or minimize it and instead believe empty promises and keep taking his wife back. He accepted that he had a part in the dance that led to their divorce and the many years of loneliness and unhappiness he endured.
When we began to look at his current relationships, the same pattern showed up. He needed to say yes and please the people he loved. We looked at what it would be like for him to change HIS behavior. His fear and discomfort in setting boundaries stopped him in his tracks. Even a baby step of saying 'no' to something he did not want to do or setting a boundary with his daughter led to such severe discomfort, that he choose to leave coaching rather than push through his comfort zone.
I can relate to his resistance and I bet you can too. When it is someone else's story or someone else's comfort zone, it is easy for us to judge. And yet the truth is we each have areas where it is ALMOST easier to stay in the old familiar unhealthy behavior than to push through and be different by doing something different.
Fear comes racing to the surface...
What if they reject me?
What if I fail?
What if she is angry at me?
What if I am left all alone?
What if I cannot afford...
What is I am not good enough...
The list is endless. The common element is the unknown. The unknown stokes our fears. Our mind's job is to figure things out. When we are faced with the unknown, our mind tends to focus on worst-case scenario, squared. We enter change with trepidation because our mind is telling the story of the gloom and doom that might be awaiting us on the 'other side'.
According to Henry Cloud, author of the series on Boundaries, "We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change." The pain of changing is hardwired to our fear, which is a creation of our mind.
The opposite perspective of fear is possibility, "a chance that something might exist, happen, or be true." When we know that what we have been doing has not been working, the likeliness that our choice to "be" different and in turn, "do" things differently opens up possibility.
How do I take a leap of faith when I am so very uncomfortable and afraid?
The answer is baby steps. We all move at our own pace. Do not judge where you are or what your baby step looks like. Accept and Act.
Find the smallest possible step you can take... how does that feel?
What do you need to act on?
What support do you need?
How important is it for you to experience a change?
What is your greatest fear around acting?
How true is that fear?
This is a critical question because our fears are often unfounded or at least grotesquely magnified, inciting fear and paralysis.
You know what you want to do, what your fears are around taking that step and how much of your fear is based in reality. You have elicited support, confirmed your motivation and now it is time to act.
Don't judge yourself. See what thoughts and emotions come up. When you do act, notice how great it feels. Don't judge it... what may seem like an insignificant step to one person is a leap for another. Celebrate! You will feel accomplishment, liberation, and excitement. You will have gotten a glimpse of possibility.
As you continue to step out of your comfort zone, you will realize that your comfort zone is a prison of make believe walls designed by your mind to confine you to what is familiar. Follow these steps and walk at your own pace into the future you desire.
1. Trust your intuition
2. Taking a leap of faith
3. Create a support network (gentle and encouraging)
4. Have an accountability partner (non-judgmental)
There is nothing comfortable for any of us in change and stepping out of our comfort zone is facing change head-on and pushing through our fear of the unknown. It requires faith and boldness AND the rewards are brilliantly liberating and immensely pleasing!