Every New Year, there is an inevitable increase in the number of people who make resolutions. How many of these resolutions, though, result in long-term change?
The New Year isn’t the only time we want for change. For many of us, there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t wish our lives were different–a lower number on the scale or a lower cholesterol level, a bigger number in our bank account or a higher number of friends on our Facebook page. We witness people who have these things in their lives, people who are happy and fulfilled, and we are inspired to believe that we, too, can have them.
We set out with the best of intentions–with goals, plans, budgets, and schedules–and we sometimes succeed. We adopt healthier eating habits and spend more time doing things that we find meaningful.
Even will all this planning, we often do not succeed. We get too busy, one catastrophe after another seems to fall into our lap, or we just appear to lack the willpower.
So why is that some people seem to have all the success when it comes to making lasting changes in their lives? What’s so different between the times we succeed and the times we fail?
Of course, there may be many factors at work here, but there is typically one simple, critical factor that cripples our success:
Imagine heading out for a 30-day backpacking trip without any preparation–no packing lists, no maps, no compass, no guide. How likely is it that you will succeed in making it to your destination, or staying alive for that matter?
Sure, some people might make it–those who are already skilled in the back country or who are gifted with an abundance of dumb luck–but the vast majority would find themselves in way over their heads.
What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself. ~ Abraham Maslow
This is how many people dive into their resolutions–without any type of real preparation.
But what about those who do make lists, lay out specific action steps, create budgets, and even hire someone to help them, and STILL fail?
Read also: Easy Tips To Build Self Discipline
They are still unprepared, but in a different way.
Creating lasting change does not come from making a resolution. It does not come from writing out goals and action plans.
It comes from being prepared–mentally and emotionally.
In other words, we succeed in creating lasting, meaningful changes in our lives through SELF-DISCOVERY and SUPPORTIVE RELATIONSHIPS. This brings us to a little thing called…
Intentional Change Theory
Richard Boyatzis, a professor of psychology and organization behavior, developed a model of lasting change by integrating these two important elements–self-discovery and supportive relationships.
He called this model Intentional Change.
The theory of Intentional Change has shown that we are more likely to succeed in creating lasting change when we actively strive to make the following five discoveries about ourselves and in our lives:
- Our IDEAL SELF — This is the person we would like to become (complete with changes and resolutions accomplished.)
- Our REAL SELF — This is who we already are, including our personalities, character traits (such as strengths and weaknesses), and life story, as well as how this compares to our ideal self.
- Our LEARNING AGENDA — This is what we would need to do or change in order to close the gap between our ideal self and real self.
- Opportunities for EXPERIMENTING and PRACTICING — This is experimenting with new behaviors, activities, and habits and practicing being your ideal self.
- Our SUPPORT — These are people who can help us and challenge us as we work to create lasting change in our behavior.
Boyatzis saw this as an iterative process, a cycle to be repeated. In other words, the more you experiment and practice, the more you will come to know both your real self and your ideal self. Your strengths and weaknesses will become more apparent, and you will come to know how to flex your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
Your vision of your ideal self will become much clearer. You will begin sculpting an ideal you that is true to the real you. Essentially, you will begin to see the difference between the ideal you want for yourself and the ideal others may have created for you.
After all, your life is not Iabout who your mom or dad want you to be, who your teachers want you to be, who your boss wants you to be, or even who society thinks you should be.
Life is about discovering all that you are and becoming all that you are capable of becoming.
Some may choose to walk this path alone, but as Intentional Change Theory shows, we come to best know ourselves and create meaningful change through the love and support of others and by loving and supporting others.
This means soaking up the wisdom others have to offer and sharing ourselves with loved ones, but it does not mean letting them choose the paths of our lives.
It can be so much easier to turn to our family and friends and ask, “What should I do?” or even to plead, “Tell me what to do!”
But the path to true happiness and a meaningful life is the one we choose for ourselves.
And we get there through an ongoing process of self-discovery and experience.
It’s amazing how much there is to know about you–maybe even more than you could possibly discover in a lifetime. What’s even more amazing is that all of the knowledge about yourself is already within you. All you need to do is discover it for yourself.
Aspects of Self Discovery
1. There are some aspects of ourselves that are really easy to get to
We can usually get to these by answering and reflecting on a series of questions about ourselves. Questions that help us get to the core of who we are–such as our talents, strengths, and weaknesses, our character traits, what we value, what we find most meaningful, and what our passions are. I’m currently working on a free guide that will help you do just this by guiding you through a series of key questions for reflection. More to come on this very soon!
2. Other areas can be reached through more sophisticated tools and assessments
3. Still other areas are buried deeper into our consciousness, or even subconscious
And can only be accessed through activities like meditation or working with a psychologist. Many of these aspects are not unique to ourselves, but are shared with nearly all humans. This is the realm and undertaking of evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and neurologists, as well as anthropologists. There is so much insight to be gained about ourselves by diving into written works in these areas.
4. There are also areas that are only possible to get to through experience
By experimenting and practicing. How can you know if you have a knack for underwater basket weaving unless you have tried? The more things you try and play around with, the better you will come to understand what you are currently capable of, where your current boundaries lie, other areas you would like to explore, and ways to push yourself. You will begin to gain a better understanding of what works for you and what doesn’t.
5. Finally, there may be aspects of ourselves that we may never truly know or understand
These are the realms of the mystics, the spiritually enlightened, or what Maslow deemed the self-actualized. There is certainly much more to be said about this area, but for the time being, I will leave that to those who claim to understand or have found the higher planes of the self.
So you see, on one hand, self-discovery is a life-long journey and an iterative process. On the other hand, there is much we can learn about ourselves and begin to benefit from right away. You don’t need to wait until you know all there is to know about yourself to begin implementing lasting changes.
By beginning to understand some key essentials about yourself, you can begin experimenting, practicing, and moving towards lasting change NOW.
Self-Discovery and Creating Lasting Change Resources
There are SO many great resources (books, blogs, guides, assessments) out there to help you get started on the path of self-discovery (or to go even further if you’ve been on this path for awhile).