Creating Life Change
by Robin L. Silverman
I once attended a workshop led by a psychologist who wanted to teach us why people have trouble making changes. He asked each of us to choose a partner and look at what our partner was wearing. Once we had memorized this, we were to turn around and make five changes to our
own appearance. The audience immediately started removing external things like blazers, sweaters, shoes, socks, belts, watches, earrings, glasses and hats.
Next, the facilitator asked us to make 10 more changes to our appearance. At this point, many of the men in the room sat down, and so did some of the women. Finally, in what seemed like a ridiculous
request, he asked us to make 15 more changes to our appearance. In less than one minute, no one was left standing.“I didn’t tell you to take off your clothes,” he said. “I said to make changes to your appearance.” He walked over to one of the men and held out his own watch. “Want to swap for a few minutes?”
Then he went to the podium and picked up a piece of paper. “Voila! Another change to my appearance,” he announced.
“There are over 200 people in this room,” he said. “We could have kept this game going all day. All you had to do was keep swapping things, picking up or putting things down. There were actually an
infinite number of changes you could have made to your appearance.”
He continued. “But you just experienced why people don’t make changes. To most people, change equals some kind of loss, not gain. That’s why they resist it.”
I always tell this story when I facilitate leadership programs having to do with change, particularly those that precede or follow some kind of profound change over which the participants may or may
not have control. Once I have presented it, I ask my groups to give me at least 20 reasons why people don’t change, and I write them on a flip chart. You probably know them:
1) It’s easier to keep things as they
2) If it isn’t broken, why fix it?
3) Change is expensive.
4) Change takes time.
5) Change takes you out of your comfort
6) Change can be embarrassing.
7) Change involves risk.
8) There’s no guarantee that things
will be better if you do it.
9) Change is difficult.
10) Change requires effort.
11) Change redefines who you are.
12) Change involves giving up something.
13) Change usually involves the unknown.
14) Once you do it, it’s hard to go back to
the way things were.
15) Once you start changing, it’s hard to
know when to stop.
16) People may not like you if you change.
17) You might not like yourself if you
18) Rapid change is too startling; slow
change is too painful.
19) Change affects more than just you.
20) Sustaining change is difficult.
Once the list is made, I turn to the group and ask, “How many of you came to this program on your tricycles?” That usually brings a laugh, so I add, “OK, me too. I drove here this morning. So how
many of you drive?” Usually, everyone nods. I then turn to the list and say, “Well, let’s think about this. When you rode your tricycle or bicycle, things were pretty good for you. Your parents chauffeured you everywhere, and you didn’t have a care in the world. But you
wanted to make the change and learn to drive. Aren’t all the things on this list reasons why you should never have gotten your driver’s license?”
They start nodding, so I add, “and if you’ve ever started a relationship, ended one, gotten married or divorced, had children or raise them to leave home, you didn’t care about anything on this list.
The list also didn’t matter when you moved or bought a new home, took a new job or went back to school. In other words, if you thought the change was going to be good for you, the list didn’t matter.”
OK, they say, this is true when change equals gain. But what about the changes no one chooses—losing a job, having a spouse or a lover abandon you, getting a bad diagnosis or other personal or
professional disaster? Doesn’t the list matter then?
No, I say, because in these cases, the list isn’t something you can choose to ignore. If you’re going to survive and thrive again, you have to ignore it. Once you no longer are who you
were, you can only reinvent yourself. And that’s what’s happening to many people now in our shifting economy.
It happened to me, too, in 1997, when a major spring flood devastated our town of Grand Forks, ND. Overnight, I—and 60,000 others—lost everything we used to define ourselves. Our homes were either
gone or in harm’s way. Our neighbors, friends and coworkers dispersed to all 50 states; wherever they could find reliable shelter for an unknown length of time. Our jobs stopped, with no guarantee that they would or could return. Many of us—including my husband and I—sent
our children away to live with relatives for their own safety and until we could stabilize our situation. Volunteer work, gone. Savings—likely to run out or be used up in the rebuilding process. When we left town, there was no way of knowing when or if we’d be back, and
what we would find upon our return.
On the one hand, it was terrifying. On the other, it was the most liberating moment in my life. For the first time in adulthood, all expectations were off. I didn’t have to be, do or worry about
having anything. So I decided to make the most of it, and not only reinvent myself, but see if I could find a reliable way for others to do it.
I shared my/our situation in articles on the Internet, and started hearing from people who were generous enough to share their stories of profound change with me. And in time, I could see
commonalities—inner gifts that we all tend to use when we either want to make change proactively or get ourselves out of trouble. I called these The Ten Gifts, and they include:
1) The gift of faith—our ability to
unconditionally surrender trouble or opportunity to a higher power
2) The gift of love—our ability to see
and nourish the good in others
3) The gift of dreams—our ability to
imagine, visualize and manifest what we want
4) The gift of courage—our ability to
take the first step towards something new, pleasurable and fun
5) The gift of unity—our ability to
create something together that is far greater and more wonderful than anything we can do separately
6) The gift of joy—our ability to live
in the moment and savor what is right here, right now
7) The gift of trust—our ability to
identify, listen to and respond to the “still, small voice within”
8) The gift of character—our ability to
choose our roles, reinvent ourselves, and act in accordance with our highest nature
9) The gift of thanks—our ability to
demonstrate abundance by giving away what we have in excess, including things like time and compassion.
10) The gift of intention—our ability to
align our hopes and dreams with our thoughts, words and actions. Walking our talk.
Since the flood, I have used the ten gifts to become an author, to live through my husband’s crisis with depression, to navigate the voluntary closure of our family’s retail business, to start my own
business and support our daughters through college. I have also used them when we moved to a new city, set up a new home, joined a global corporation and went back to school. Although I used all ten gifts in the process, there is one that seems especially important in times
of loss, and that is the gift of dreams. If we don’t use it, the loss we suffer creates a void that often gets filled up with more negative experiences and energy. This just leads to more suffering and ultimately, more loss.
In addition, when times are hard, it is easy to get swept up in a tide of negativity. This not only affects your thinking; it affects the energy vibration of your physical, etheric and other energy
bodies. Put simply, every thought becomes a feeling; every feeling becomes a vibration with a character, tone and intensity. Ultimately, vibration is what creates our next experience in the zero point field that surrounds us. So while we may want better things to happen,
they simply can’t because energetically, we have not and cannot create them.
The gift of dreams includes ten questions that can help you determine what might work next in your life. Here are the ten:
1) What would make me happy? Consider
the whole of your life, not just the piece that’s under siege at the moment. And try not to make it the lack of the pain you’re suffering. In other words, rather than saying “I don’t want to be out of work,” say, “Having a great job where my contributions are useful and
2) Why do I believe this will make me
happy? If you discover that what you’ve chosen only covers up a fear or resentment that you haven’t faced, it will likely fail or be taken from you over time.
3) Why is this important to me now?
It’s ok to want to pay your mortgage or be out of pain, but you’ll need to know how this defines “the new you.” If all it does is keep you on the treadmill of worry, doubt and fear, it’s probably the wrong thing to visualize. Keep asking “Why?” until you get to a root
cause. For instance, “Why is this important to me now?” “So I can pay my mortgage.” “Why is that important?” “So I can keep my credit rating.” “Why is that important?” “Because I’ve worked hard to make it good.” “Why is that important?” “Because I like to see myself
as a responsible adult.” “Why is that important?” “Because responsible adults get respect.” “Why is that important?” “Because I want others to look up to me.” “Why is that important?” “Because it says that I’m a good person.” “Why is that important?” “Because then
people will love me.” So in the end, is it really the mortgage money that you want, or
is it that
you want to feel loved?
4) Who am I if I have this? All change
redefines you. Who will you be once you manifest what you’re choosing to create?
5) How do I act towards others when I
have this? This will tell you the role you think this is creating for you. Try acting that way now, in advance of any changes, to ensure that it’s what you want.
6) How will others benefit from this?
If it’s only good for you, it will likely fail eventually. Make sure that what you’re creating is win-win all around.
7) Who else do I know who has this? (Or
a variation of it). This assures you that what you want is possible, and erases doubts.
8) Who do I accept, forgive or love as
a result of this coming true? Hint: it might be yourself.
9) When do I want this to happen? Be
optimistic, and realistic. Try a few different scenarios to see what feels best. Tomorrow? In a month? Right this instant? Five years from now?
10) Where do I end up as a result of this
coming true? This is what Steven Covey calls, “Beginning with the end in mind.” It is also the essential element of any visualization. Picture the end game. The day you finally have it. Do you like not just what you see, but how you feel? If it’s anything but peaceful,
you may want to rethink the entire vision, for only peace creates lasting results.
How do you know it’s time to change? I once heard a speaker give this advice: “When the horse is dead, get off.” Change when you’ve outgrown something. Change when there’s no hope. Change because
you choose to. Change because it’s fun. Change because you want to gain awareness of who you truly are. Change because you have to. Change because everything changes, for better or for worse. Why change? Why not? You’ve been doing it all your life.
© Copyright 2009 Robin L. Silverman. All Rights Reserved.
Robin L. Silverman is a frequent contributor to SoulfulLiving.com. She is the author of “The Ten Gifts: Find the Personal Peace You’ve Always Wanted from the Ten Gifts You’ve Always Had.” She is currently making more changes in her life, and getting a degree in Change Leadership with a specialty in Energetics, the science of using the human biofield to make changes more easily. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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