One of the most profound discoveries I’ve ever encountered is the fact that people can change their lives. Think about how powerful that is–you can change your life! And you probably have a good idea of what to do, even before you read this article. Let’s see if any of these 6 powerful shifts resonate with you.
I was sitting in a 10,000-seat stadium one evening when this first sunk in for me–when I really got it. Changing your life seemed like an interesting idea for people with resources or education but was relegated to the fantasy realm for most people I knew up to that point. But here, thousands of regular people had travelled to spend the weekend being motivated and educated. Speaker after speaker urged and encouraged and painted a vision of what was possible. I was as pulled in as the next guy—this idea that change was a matter of choosing. It was a little glimmer of hope that change for every human was possible.
It has been a few decades since that night that quite literally pulsated with potential. And I have not been the same. I have held on to the realization that people can and do make choices that create their life. And for most people, including myself, there are a surprising number of things we have control over in our lives. Not to say that there aren’t also things that happen to us that can dramatically impact our lives, but even how we come through things like that are a choice.
Consider for a moment that you and I can change lots of things in our lives, and do—what we eat, what we read/watch/listen to, who we hang out with, how we spend our time, our money, the work we invest ourselves in. There are a lot of places for change. But change takes time, energy, and resources—shifts in what you do, what you have in your life, and how you are ‘being’ in the world. There is a certain amount of change that is inevitable as life moves along, and then there are the changes you choose that lead to a thriving life, exploring what we each are really capable of.
Why You Want to Change Your Life – Growth and Vision
We only change for two reasons—we want something we’ve never had, or we don’t want something we currently do have (or a future that looks inevitable). I think of these two reasons as the difference between surviving and thriving. We all grow and change—it’s part of being human. Even the person you think ‘never changes’ is at least growing into more of the same of who they are.
The question is what are we growing and changing to? Are we making changes because of the things happening to us in our lives (surviving) or are we changing our lives to be what we want it to be (thriving)?
In both cases, notice that what informs any change is the future we see. We move away from a future we do not want, or we move towards a future we do want. Change is creating action towards a particular future.
The very first step in changing your life is realizing that there is a gap between the reality of where you are and what you want. Think of every New Year’s resolution you have ever considered making—you had a particular thing you wanted (to get out of debt, to lose weight and get fit, change jobs, etc) and at the beginning of the year, you did not have it. And you knew something had to change in your life to have that new thing.
Vision informs change. It’s different then having a ‘dream’. A dream is a thing you want; a vision is something you have the will to take action on. To change. Once you know what you want and have the realization that you are willing to change things in your life to move towards that future you want, where do you begin?
Changing the Things You Can – Ownership
When we first realize that gap between the reality of where we are and the vision of where we want to be, it might feel like we must change everything in our lives. But there are actually a few nuclear places that will significantly impact ‘everything’ once we get our thinking clear.
One of these impact points is ownership: what is yours to control, and what is not.
When we get really focused on the things in our life we are responsible for and focus on those, it is strangely freeing. It was for me, though it meant disentangling myself from some things that were not mine to control that I was in the habit of trying to have ownership over. I learned that there was a difference between what I wished I could control (things I was trying to maneuver or impact that were in other people’s control) verses what I had actual power over. The thing I noticed was that when I was thinking or worrying about things that were not in my power to impact, I stayed pretty distracted from my own life and those things I could change to align with my vision.
The things that are taking up your time and mental resources—what do you actually have ownership over of those things? If we’re sober minded, we can get clear that it’s only ourselves we can control. If I find myself frustrated or complaining, it’s often something I am not clear about who has ownership of it—either I really don’t and am trying to, or it is a place of ownership for me and I am not stepping up. See if this is true for you and focus on impacting change where you have true ownership. And we only each have ownership over ourselves.
How you Change – Integrity
Integrity is doing what we say we are going to do, when we say we are going to it. Our integrity is the vehicle that will get change done. Interestingly, most of us think our integrity is higher than it actually is.
When I looked at what action steps I was going to want to take to decrease the gap between the reality of where I was and the vision of where I wanted to be, I experimented with a small integrity challenge—I committed to getting up when my alarm went off. No snooze, no setting 3 different alarms—just one and done. Alarm goes off, I get out of bed. I’ve been doing it for months now and it has led to some fascinating revelations.
First, it was curious to notice how often I let myself off the hook – to myself. I had created a habit of saying I was going to do something (like getting up when I planned to or exercising) and then not always following through because it was just to me.
Pause right there with me for a moment – I was willing to break my word to myself. Because it was just to me. Which led me to wonder why I kept it to other people. And then I wondered if I kept my word to other people because I was a person of integrity or because I didn’t want to look bad. This was such an interesting discovery because I have always thought of myself as a person of high integrity. But this lack of trust in myself had a ripple effect and I knew that integrity was a muscle I wanted to build up to be better at change in my life. If you haven’t grown in the direction you want to in some area of your life, check in on your integrity.
Second, by keeping my word in this one area of waking up when I said I was going to, I built trust with myself. I started to make commitments (to myself and others) more carefully, noticing if I meant to keep them before I ever made a commitment. Sometimes I decided not to make a commitment and sometimes I decided to be more mindful with the details, not saying what sounded good, but what I was willing and able to do.
Because I know my vision and am paying attention to what I am committing to, I have become much more strategic about what I commit to. This increase in integrity is absolutely moving me forward to who I want to be, what I want to do, and what I want to have, faster.
What you Change it with – Energy
There is a way we each walk through this world—our presence when we connect with people or come into a room. Our ‘being’. You might notice other people’s presence, or vibe, and it’s important to realize that this vibe is a choice, though we might not be giving off the one we mean to.
Because no matter how much we want to give off a certain energy or presence, what comes through is what is at the core of us. We cannot fake it—not very well and not for very long. If there is an energy of resentment we are trying to cover up with some enthusiasm, what will come across is resentment thinly veiled by enthusiasm. Not to say we aren’t enthusiastic—but that is not the only energy people will sense. And they will sense it. People are incredibly receptive to this and can articulate it shockingly shortly after meeting someone. We judge people all the time.
This becomes pertinent when you think about the person you want to be for your future. That person is probably a version of you that has grown and changed and is upgraded in some way–more positive, more powerful, more confident, happier, more peaceful.
And knowing that energy is something we have ownership over is awesome. Because we know that we can change it at the core of who we are if we want to. It is not faking it until we make it—it is intentional action to become that better version of ourselves.
What energy shifts do you want to make? I have been working to show up with more peace, especially with my teenager. I try to plan ahead and think about how I want to be with her as we drive to school. Do I want to be naggy and nit-picky? Or do I want to create a place of calm in the car with my tone and energy before she heads out into the world for the day?
I’m not saying it’s easy, but it helps me to know that the choice is mine. I get to decide how I am going to be. I am practicing listening to her (like I imagine a calm, peaceful person would) and not offering tips or help, just being with her in whatever she is talking about, or in the silence. It is coming from an honest place, even when I don’t do it well. Seeing myself as the parent I want to be to her is shaping my vision to make choices around my energy and the integrity I am bringing to things I am willing to try to change (like committing to a personal mindful moment and deep breathe before I get in the car).
Why Change is Worth It – Love
The most powerful kind of love we have for ourselves and others is not a feeling, it’s an action.
As I continue to learn and grow as an executive coach with Novus Global, I see this definition in clear action in the coach-client relationship. Love is one of the core values that shapes all we do at Novus and is included as one of the G.O. L.I.V.E values (Growth, Ownership, Love, Integrity, Vision, and Energy).
Love in action is defined as fierce advocacy—for yourself and others. As you think about these values and how you may be exploring your relationship with them, I encourage you to consider what fiercely advocating for yourself, your vision, and the impact you and it will have on the world around you.
What if you fiercely advocated to get a clear vision for yourself?
And had the ‘tough love’ you needed to move you through the newness of growth towards that vision?
Are you advocating for a vision that explores what you are truly capable of?
What if you took ownership of the idea that you don’t yet know what you are capable of?
How would you shape your life to explore that with curious, open energy?
Would you keep yourself on the hook for the things you have committed to?
Imagine this level of advocacy for yourself and then for others. What could you envision? Who could you be? What could you do? What could you have in your life that you don’t have now?
Change is possible. And just as I realized late that night in a stadium so many years ago, change is a choice. Not everyone wants to change. Not everyone wants to know what they are capable of. And that’s okay! Being honest about this is important.
But some of us, if given the opportunity, would really like to explore the power we have to change our own lives. To move dreams to vision to reality. To take ownership of ourselves, to strengthen our integrity, to show up the way we want to, and to grow our fierce advocacy for ourselves and others.
If you want to change your life, then you have to change your life.
(This essay was originally written as part of my final project work for the Meta Performance™️ Institute and my training to be an Executive Coach for the elite coaching firm, Novus Global. Recognizing how much I can control in my life was part of a big transformation for me as a human and coach!)