I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on change. Not a change of clothes or the change you get back from the vending machine.
Change. The kind that is true, lasting, and transformational. Change that is happening over time, with a series of decisions to support it, brought on with intention.
People get amped up towards this time of the year because they aren’t looking in their rear-view mirror. Instead, everyone shifts into “new year, new me” mode and looks ahead with wide-eyed optimism. Then, (not to spoil the story, but…) in a month or sometimes even less, everything seems to go back to the way it was and we promise ourselves that next year will be better. Or different. Change.
Maybe it’s the way we spend our money or the amount of time we spend on our devices. Perhaps it’s the amount we eat or workout or yell at our spouse. There’s always something we are longing to improve, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
A really wise person I know once told me that “Stagnancy is the first sign of death.” and I knew they were right because I’d seen it.
If we become so content that we’re coasting, or if we choose to live in a state of oblivion, we’re really just digging our grave.
Have you ever met an older person that is so full of life? The happiest and healthiest elderly people I know are not retired, sitting in a chair all day everyday. They are doing something, for someone, someplace, while using their gifts and talents or learning a new one.
So, the questions remain…
How do we change? How do we avoid stagnancy? How do we keep from having a repeat year?
First, let’s talk about change. (The kind that I mentioned earlier. It sticks like bubblegum in your three-year-old’s hair. You’d have to bust out the scissors in order to get back to the way things were.)
Change doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen by chance.
If we think that going to bed tomorrow, on the last night of 2017, and waking up on the first day of 2018 is going to be full of change just because we told ourselves, “this year will be different,” we’re sorely mistaken.
Telling ourselves isn’t enough. At least not for most of us, normal humans, who have a tendency to go back to our natural inclinations.
Here are the four steps I follow when I desire change in my own life:
- Be intentional. Decide what it is that needs to change. Write out what it looks like now and what you want it to look like if the change actually happens.
- Prepare. Don’t just leave it at step one. Do what needs to be done in order to prepare. Depending on what it is you want to change, you could ask someone to be an accountability partner, get rid of the junk food in your home, buy a tool necessary to make it happen, etc.
- Set benchmarks. Chances are strong that without these, even if you are intentional and have prepared, you won’t carry it out long enough to experience true, long-lasting change. Benchmarks can be in the form of calendar alerts, journal entries, appointment, etc. It all depends on what change you’re going after.
- Allow room for grace. Transformation does not equal perfection. And is change ever truly “complete”…? In my experience, no. Whatever bad habit you’ve set out to leave behind or area of life that you are so desperate to improve, you’re not immune to temptation or moments of regression. If you allow room for grace, you can pick back up where you left off and keep going. If you don’t allow room for grace, you’ll likely throw in the towel and it will be another repeat year.
To be frank, there isn’t a book, nor diet plan, on this earth that can claim to provide us with a life-changing experience. They can provide us with the steps or tools or inspiration to seize an opportunity and have a life-changing experience, but the power lies in our hands. We decide if we accept the invitation or not. It is always in our control. This leads me to my next point on stagnancy…
I talk to myself, a lot. Probably so much that my scale tips on the “medication recommended” side. But hey, it’s typically during these self-chats when an epiphany occurs and opportunity comes knocking. Recently, I was talking to myself and God about my writing goals and larger projects. I realized I rarely tried new ways of approaching these things, yet I expected different results. I was doing the same things on a daily basis, getting the same underwhelming results, and still wondered why nothing was changing. Then, it hit me: I was being insane. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. (Any of my friends reading this would roll their eyes because they know I geek out over that definition and use it way too often in dialogue over Starbucks.) Why was I remaining stagnant towards an area of my life that I wanted different results from?
Here are the four ways I exercise growth to avoid stagnancy:
- Stop playing the victim. If you constantly look at the world or others as being against you, that’s what you’ll find. The opposite is also true. Try asking, “What part did I have in this?” and focus on the one person you can control… yourself.
- Cut out excuses. Making excuses and justifying everything so that it makes you feel better is a temporary solution to a permanent problem. Try owning your mistakes and setbacks as much as you would your wins.
- Seek out and willingly receive feedback. This one is tough, but I’ve learned to appreciate it more than ever. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. If you won’t listen, you’ll never hear. Brace yourself and bite your tongue.
- Commit to never being satisfied with what is. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of being OK with something you want to change. We live in a world where it’s more common for someone to come to the conclusion that “it is what it is” rather than doing the hard work of changing it. Do the hard work. Don’t ever quit.
Don’t want a repeat of 2017? Me neither. Pick an area, or several areas, of your life that you are desiring true, lasting change and give those eight steps a shot! Remember, transformation is a multitude of tiny transforming moments. When you fail, His mercies are new every morning [Lamentations 3:22-23], so get back up and carry on.
Drop a comment below of what your current areas of growth look like, plus any strategies or tips you have found to work for true, lasting change!
All in love & the spirit of cheering each other on,