How do you change?


One of the most important questions you can ask yourself

How do I change?

I would say this is the big question for a huge part of humanity.

While I can only provide a framework that will hopefully create a map of options for you, not only is the work down to you, but the map may need tweaking in order to meet where you are and what you are going through right now

One thing to take with you no matter what you find on this path – change is always possible

While you can find an overview of SMART goals below, I would say a better approach is that from James Clear in Atomic Habits. One of the best books I have read in the last 10 years and it focuses more on creating system than having an isolated goal. Who you become and how you achieve it is often more important than the goal.

Some of the best advice I can give you and I have given to every client, coach and mentioned on almost every podcast I have done is the importance of the observer

Purely to land us on the map, the victim is reacting to what is, often angry and their lack of control and hardly ever present as they identify with a radar that is constantly looking for problems and very good at finding them

The observer zooms right out and looks at the radar, rather than being the radar – they observe themselves. This allows you to see patterns, outcomes and the cause and effect of reactions and well-wired behavioural loops and automatic responses. Once you can operate at this level you begin to gain clarity on what pushes your buttons, why it happens and also what leads to how you feel and why you do what you do

All change comes from awareness and awareness comes from studying self. Knowledge is power and in this instance it gives you the ability to make gradual changes to your responses and the actions that largely cause your suffering. Very rarely is it the thing - unless someone attacks your kids, or tries to burn your house down. Most of the time it is how we feel about the thing that is then added to it and how we now feel about the person that made us feel this way, even though most of it was our reaction. The pot is on boil, the bubbles spill over and at some point we lose it, or say/do something we really regret

What often follows is we are angry at how we feel about what we just did and then blame the person because of what they did and how it made us feel. In truth (trust me, I know this is a difficult pill to swallow) we are the architects of most of our suffering. Stay with it as it gets easier. Very often we pick up the hand grenade that never had our name on it, or we add ourselves to the guest list of the tragedy. Awareness is realising the consequences of the options available to you and the difficulty is almost always the same. When your buttons are pressed, your stress response is pretty much the same across situations. Think of it as the classic knee-jerk from the hammer just under the knee cap. The hammer hits and the knee moves. Something happens and you react, but you react in ways that do not serve you as you are angry for some time afterwards and saying to yourself repeatedly – I can’t believe I did that!

Knowing you have a well-oiled default stress response is one thing, creating additional responses that are better for you is another. My advice here is to pause. Take the pot off boil and place it on the side. What happens here? Buying yourself time does two incredibly powerful things –

1 – Just like the boiling pot – when you do not immediately react the anger will simmer and reduce

2 – The more important one – time will allow you to conder alternate responses which lead to different outcomes and these are never present if when the ball lands you return it before you even realise what has happened

Breathe, pause, walk away and do whatever you need to do to let the energy and emotion of the situation drop. This will give you the clarity to respond in a much better way and almost always with more options than are available when you are angry and the higher parts of the brain are slightly impaired