Do you long to claim your own unique life and to make the changes you want instead of being tossed about on the waves of change like a bobbing cork?

I know I do. But making changes take time, hard work and reflection. And usually pain to be willing to make the changes. 

Here are six simple steps that others have shown me over the years. Simple, perhaps, but not always easy to follow:

  1. Become aware of the need to change (most of us need pain).
  2. Identify what you can and cannot change (yup, the serenity prayer again!).
  3. Build your support network and ask for help (harder to do than it seems).
  4. Increase your witness so you can watch the struggle 
  5. Commit to being in your life and loving yourself while observing 
  6. Let go of the outcome while reaching for the goal

As we come up against our own resistance to change, we can increase our awareness of the resistance and increase our observation of ourselves. Eventually, our pain becomes enough to allow the willingness to change (or not, and then that’s a different story).

  1. Become aware of the need to change.
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Pain makes people change

As your pain increases, sometimes you can feel the yearning to change rise up powerfully enough to move you. That’s the moment to capture yourself and begin to move. For example, over the last few years, I’ve been having increasing symptoms of allergies: migraines, weepy, swelling eyes, runny nose and a foggy brain, as well as increased digestive issues. 

  1. Identify what you can change

How do you even know what to change? With my allergies, first I went to a local allergist and she helped me identify some external irritants through testing. Then I cleaned up my home environment (Confession: kind of a casual housekeeper so had to clean up my act there).

Next, I went to a naturopath. She said, Try six months with this food plan. She also gave me remedies to support the process.

  1. Create a support network and ask for help

Asking for help is frigging hard. When I was driving home from the naturopath’s, I wept with despair. How could I follow such a plan: No gluten, no dairy, no sugar, no caffeine. So I asked four of my tribe if they would support me as I found my way (one for each substance?? Nah, just a coincidence)

One friend reminded me that this was more about the feelings and less about the food. I had a “Duh” moment: how could I not know that?

I was tackling the idea of a food plan like a wrestler, trying to force it into submission. But I learned that I had to allow the feelings to emerge and trust the process. While staying committed.

  1. Build your witness so you can watch the struggle

This is likely the most important one. I had to increase my meditation and perspective and allow the struggle to work itself out internally while staying calm and in observer when I could.

One day I went hiking with some friends and after we hung out, glowing with post hike delight. As my friends ground fresh coffee beans, and the house filled with the potent, savoury aroma of coffee, they were worried about me. No, I’m good, I said. As we sat chatting, a tsunami of feelings washed over me of being left out. I reverted to an angry, sullen adolescent internally. I know that I cannot drink coffee without hefty repercussions; I reminded myself of the end goal; I supported myself for my decision and my capacity.

Blessedly, my witness kicked into full gear and I moved through our time together with some grace, and sulking only in a corner of my mind, not in real life.

  1. Commit to being in your life and loving yourself while observing

 When you move into change, the kickback comes from self and others. For me, the self-doubt moves in first. Why am I doing this again? What is the benefit? Desire wants what it wants.

So I write things out, sometimes sticking up little notes to remind myself of the end goal, and the steps I need to get there. And calling on my tribe for help.

I continue to go out to restaurants and to friends’ for dinner, often dragging my food around with me like Linus with his blanket. People are pretty great about it.

And sometimes I see aspects of myself that I wish weren’t there.

I bought a bag of baked sweet potato chips last week, which are on my food plan. But I pulled them into bed and ate the whole bag in moments. I was like Gollum with his precious ring, snuffling strangely into my bag like someone was trying to snatch it.

  1. Reach for the goal but let go of the outcome

This step seems like a paradox, but it’s not. One of my spiritual teachers, Dharmanidhi, was really into this. Setting goals, being really passionate about reaching for them, while at the same time staying acutely present to the process and watching for shifts.

I found some gluten free crackers and my beloved made me cashew cheese and sugar free apple butter. I ate one cracker with the treats on it. Then two more. Yum.

The next morning I woke up with a migraine, swollen and weepy eyes and a hangover.

I was so pissed off. (Emotional reactivity too?) Corn had started to rise on the radar as a possible allergen. And, guess what? I found corn starch as the first ingredient in these delicious, salty, thin crackers.

I had to let go of the idea that I knew what the goal was here. I needed to follow the plan and see what unfolded. Gluten free crackers is not the solution. Seems so obvious now.

I need to surrender over and over again to my commitment to change.

Amanda Snow explores how to stay on track in her article Balanced Living. She quotes Winston Churchill: “Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.”

Continuous effort, but in a relaxed, light hearted way–as often as I can. Not wrestling and driven. Instead, staying in the constant bitter sweet flux of change.

How do you commit to yourself and move forward in claiming your own life? 

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