Ever feel as though you’re at a crossroad—a place in which you try to convince yourself that if you have the patience and the courage to make some changes in your life, you might just break through to a better you? I’ve written before about crux moments and how whenever they appear in our life, they are steeped in fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt. Being exposed to uncertainty, we admit to ourselves that we may not have all the answers. This leaves us open to new possibility and new directions we might otherwise have ignored. The best way I can describe the disorientation associated with a crux moment is by saying it’s like being swallowed up by huge wave that tosses and spins you around. You open your eyes and you’re not sure which way is up, so the only option is to thrash away until you gain some equilibrium.
Something else I’ve noticed about being in the midst of a crux moment is my feelings of disconnection are accentuated because typically, those closest to me, aren't sure how to react to me as I get used to trying on this new skin. In fact, you may encounter huge resistance because your willingness to change may be seen as a threat to those around you who are dealing with their own insecurities about their inability to make a change in their life. Just the other day, a friend sent me a great quote by Dean Jackson that so eloquently describes this dissidence within your social circle. “When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings.”
No matter what significant change you’re contemplating making in your life, there will come a point when you’ll have to dive into uncertainty—let go of that sinking raft floating out at sea, and start swimming for shore. When I look back on the most transformative times of my life, they have always come when I had the faith to let go of what I’d always thought was right in the hope that I’d find a better right. Simply willing change in my life is not sufficient—there are a few critical habits I have to foster so that this transformation can enter my life.
1. Kill the destructive self-talk.
William James, known as the Father of American psychology, said: “The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” I can’t stress how important this philosophy has been in my life during those lucid moments when I have been able to silence the negative self-talk in my head and replace it with a much healthier guiding principle: “What would I do if I weren’t scared?” There is no need to sabotage myself by being my own worst enemy, when simply by changing my perspective, I can become my greatest advocate for change.
2. Don’t allow your perceptions to become your beliefs.
It’s helpful to note the distinction between “feelings”, which are personal reflections, and “emotions”, which are states of being. Understanding the difference between these often confused terms can have a direct impact on the way I interact with the world. In order to make “sense” of our life, we have to assign an emotion to everything we come into contact with as a way to make meaning out of what we encounter. We assign emotions like, love, anger, jealously, or even indifference as we knit our unique interpretation of our reality. Emotions trigger our awareness, physical change, and ultimately action. When the same emotion is continually repeated, is carves a groove in our subconscious and eventually becomes a “feeling”. Your feelings are a direct reflection of you; whereas, your emotions are your interpretation of what lies outside of you—They are your reaction to that external realm. Because “feelings” are embedded and serve us long-term, we want to nurture and rely on these rather than on the transitory “emotions” that left unchecked, can cause us pain on many fronts. Consider the following distinctions: fear is an emotion--worry is a feeling; lust is an emotion--love is a feeling; happiness is an emotion--contentment is a feeling. Therefore, if I’m to dive into the uncertainty that change will bring in my life, I’m better grounded if I govern my behaviour based on feelings rather than on emotions.
3. Build your fighting-chance roster.
The older I get, the more I realize the necessity of jettisoning the naysayers from life and replacing them with a close-knit team of people who nurture my soul. The three most important types of people in my life are mentors, believers, and dreamers. If I’m going to “dare greatly” as Brene Brown invites us to do, I want people in my life I can model myself after, people who believe in my core goodness and strength, and those people who dare to “dream” in a life that may at times be unconventional.
4. Clear a landing zone.
Meaningful change has little chance of entering my life unless I make room for it. In the words of inspirational speaker Danielle Laporte, you need to “make space for your future to show up.” The literature of Alcoholics Anonymous refers to this as “clearing away the wreckage of your past.” Leaving this space open in you can be an incredibly vulnerable feeling, so I think that’s why so many of us cram as many things as possible into our daily agenda. If I’m too busy, I don’t have to think. If I don’t have time to think, I don’t have time to feel.
I’d like to leave you with this quote from the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, who reminds us that opportunity for change may be fleeting and we best be prepared to dive into greatness: “When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”