Change your (my) life in ten steps

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Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves.
~ Mahatma Gandhi

Buddhist Image Gallery — Facebook
Buddhist Image Gallery — Facebook

From time to time I read my old journals. When the moment strikes me, I choose a journal at random from my bookshelf.

This time it was the beautiful green and gold one my mom had given me in what must have been September of 2010, because the writing chronicles my life from September 20, 2010 to January 1, 2011.

Basically, it is my perceptive exactly two years ago.

I had just started my second year of grad school and was a month into an internship at an outpatient drug and alcohol rehab facility.

I loved what I was doing and was really good at it. With conviction, I had found my passion.

During these documented months of my life, I was also:

  • Catching myself being “in my head” and too hard on myself.
  • Feeling angry with my parents after identifying the residual effects of theparenting I received, and then forgiving my mom for not understanding how tofoster my spirit.
  • Exploring my birth chart, seeing a psychic (or two), and using meditation and DanMillman’s ideas to find my life purpose.
  • “Practicing” with men and dissecting the happenings of all my past romanticrelationships.
  • Recognizing self-sabotage and self-deprecating tendencies and making an effortto change my self-talk (what I say and how I converse with myself when alone).
  • Beginning to understand that my thoughts affect my behavior, which impacts thecircumstances of my life.
  • Learning how to love myself, faults and all, and how to be my own partner so Iknow how I want a man to treat me.
  • Practicing presence — trying to stay in the moment.
  • Asking myself the hard-to-answer questions that I had previously been skilled atavoiding. Example: Why is my heart closed-off?
  • Investigating vulnerability, yet still feeling unable to attempt it in any real way.
  • Trying to set personal goals.
  • Starting to have close, meaningful relationships with intelligent, curious, andmotivated women for the first time in my life.
  • Acknowledging guilt I felt about making my life what I want it to be.
  • Struggling with verbal communication and assertiveness — what I needed to say topeople in my life.
  • Starting to see what love really means — the action, the verb, instead of anoun
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Image Gallery — Facebook

Reading my words from two years ago at a completely different stage in my life has allowed me to see the complex undertaking of change from a new viewpoint. I had two thoughts in reading them:

  • I need to stop every now and then to thank myself for doing this difficult personal work and give myself credit for what I have accomplished.
  • While I am still working on many of the things on the list, I have come a long way.

We are a constant work-in-progress, never a finished product, but without recognition of milestones and bravery, what’s the point of all the hard work and change? What am I working so hard for if I can’t enjoy the benefits of being an ever-evolving, flawed creature of the human race?

After giving myself a pat on the back, a hug, and a homemade smoothie, I remembered that there was a second thought …

I am curious about how change actually happens. What does changing really entail? What on my list have I continued to change? How did I change that which has changed? What on my list did I stop working on changing? What hasn’t changed that I wanted, and still want, to change? How can I determine progress? Overall, what is change and how is it accomplished?

Since documenting my life, I can see cyclical patterns in my thoughts, behaviors and relationships. I have worked to create what can serve as a successful 10-Point Protocol for Change:

1. Assess how things are now. What do you see in yourself? What are you doing? How do you operate in a given situation? What consequences (good and bad) are you experiencing because of what you see yourself doing?

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Buddhist Image Gallery — Facebook

2. Accept yourself as you are. Today, right now in your life, this is who and how you are. Decide that you love yourself no matter what.

3. Take responsibility. Be honest with yourself and take responsibility for all that you are doing and not doing (good and bad), and the effects your actions have on others and yourself (good and bad).

4. Identify what you want to change. What do you want to change about yourself? What actions or behaviors are you demonstrating that are not helping you? What would be a better option for you in each identified situation? What do you want to do differently?

5. Commit to making that change. Make the decision to do the work and to make the change(s) you’ve listed. Form an agreement with yourself in whatever way is helpful to you (written or otherwise) so that you know you will do what you say you want to do.

6. Educate yourself. Seek internal and external resources to gather information on how you can make the change(s) that you just committed to making. Be honest about your past so that your can use your own set of experiences to break patterns that no longer serve you.

7. Set goals. Make the change process tangible and measurable, to an extent. What can you do each day to get yourself closer to who you want to be? Write down, from little to big, the goals you will achieve.

8. Take action toward your goals. Every day, honor your commitment. Act with an awareness of the changes you are making. Do things and engage in behaviors that are congruent with your goals.

9. Have compassion for yourself. It is said that it takes 30 days to change a habit, so be patient and kind to yourself during this journey. Express to yourself for doing the work. Love yourself each day so that you believe you are worthy of the change(s).

Buddhist Image Gallery — Facebook
Buddhist Image Gallery — Facebook

10. Take time to reflect. Take the time to assess your progress. Love and praise yourself for each bit of change you are making. Revise your goals or any other part of this protocol, as you deem necessary. Learn from what you’re doing, or not doing. Do the best you can. The things that started being important to me two years ago are still things that I am working to sustain everyday. With this system in place, by doing the work I can continue making the changes that are best for me. My life circumstances two years later are different.

I’m not doing what I believed to be my passion at that time. I’m taking action on an even bigger dream that couldn’t have realized and committed to if I hadn’t opened the door to my own curiosity and started this journey of personal change.

Are you ready to make the changes you’ve been contemplating for days, weeks, months, or even years?

I hope this system provides you with the structure you need to change and evolve!

(This column was first posted on