“I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed, for where I am closed, I am false…”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
I’m going to say something utterly profound. Are you ready?
Here is it: if you want something about you or your life to change, you have to actually make the change.
Change isn’t going to happen by hoping it will happen. It won’t happen by reading that next self-help book. It won’t happen by talking about how miserable you are and how much you want to change.
How Does Change Happen?
Change happens when you take action—when you do something that’s different or unfamiliar, when you step out of your comfort zone and into the possibility of freedom.
- If you want to stop smoking, you need to not pick up the next cigarette.
- If you want to be more present, you have to stop listening to your mind starting with one second.
- If you want to trust yourself more, you need to turn your attention inward rather than obsessively look outside for approval and validation.
- If you want to lose weight, you have to not put that next cookie in your mouth.
I’ve been a psychotherapist for a long time and have studied many theoretical approaches. And in the end, it all boils down to one essential point. If you want to change, you’re going to need to do something differently.
I know it’s not rocket science, but it’s a vital truth you need to know.
So start contemplating: what small action can you make?
For many people, change is scary. We get used to our patterns—and stuck in them—even if these patterns bring us stress and unhappiness. Doing something different feels terrifying.
So let’s call this fear something else. It’s the excitement of stepping out into the unknown. It’s part of the path out of our perceived limitations. It’s the aliveness of truth and authenticity and the end of self-betrayal.
Right in this moment, you get to choose: being limited, stuck, and self-defeating or excited, real, and free.
Getting Practical—Do One Small Thing
I find it useful to think of small changes as experiments. You don’t need to change forever. You just change one thing one time and see what happens. You try something new and see how it goes. Simple, right?
My friend, Angie, constantly asks other people for their opinion. What should she wear? Should she go for a walk or see a movie? Should she eat now or later?
Her mind spins in whirlwinds of self-doubt. She’s lost complete trust in herself.
Of course, the answers to all of her questions are within, but how can she discover that?
She needs to do an experiment. Just one time, when she’s ready to pick up the phone to call someone for their opinion, she stops instead, and looks beyond the urge to reach out.
From a place of curiosity, she goes within and wonders if maybe she already knows the answer to the question she feels compelled to ask.
And that’s the beginning…
Come Up with an Experiment
If you want something to be different in your life, do an experiment. Make one small action, and see what you discover. Because when you do, you’ve just set the stage for wondrous things to happen.
Often, the best first action is a non-action, which is to stop. The patterns we carry out unconsciously are the source of our suffering. So the change is to not follow the pull of the pattern, and stop.
Stop and take a breath. Go within to connect with the wisest place in you. Take a look and see if want you want or need is already here.
Here are some more suggestions for one small action.
- Just once, do a familiar conversation differently. If you tend to tell the other person how right you are (and how wrong they are), be quiet instead. If you tend to put up walls, say one vulnerable thing about yourself or give the other person a sincere compliment.
- If you tend to judge—outwardly or within, put your hand on your heart and have a moment of compassion instead.
- If you engage in a compulsive behavior, stop, breathe, and connect lovingly with what is happening in your body. Don’t do the behavior, so you can see what is driving it.
- If you’re self-absorbed in your own mind or blocked and cut off, go to a café, and silently offer love to each person there.
Making one small action is a huge start. But for things to fundamentally change, you need to keep at it.
Make your happiness a priority…one action at a time.
What About You?
What action will you take? What experiment would you like to do that takes you outside your zone of conditioning? Feel free to say in the comments below. I’d love to hear…