What's the secret to lasting change?
When I started my personal development journey, I wanted big long-lasting change and I wanted it now. Except I was sporadic with my efforts. I’d always been all or nothing.
I’d throw myself into the latest solution that was going to fix everything, but usually the 'solution' wasn’t sustainable, and eventually, I’d give up or lose my way, unable to maintain the momentum consistently and long-term. I’d half-heartedly try to change things and then get p****d off when it didn’t give me the miracle I was immediately looking for.
I started to think that change wasn’t possible for me and, to be honest, that thought almost broke me, until I decided to try something I’d never tried before. I decided to see what would happen if I committed to change in a slow, steady and gradual way, if I committed to doing just one thing differently, consistently showing up and putting one foot in front of another, no matter how long it would take for things to change.
(Im)patience is a virtue
At first and on the surface, this option seemed far less exciting and much harder work. In the past, I would’ve gotten bored easily, or lost interest, but because things were ‘bad’ enough for me at that time, I had to keep coming back to my end goal, to that thing I wanted, and stay focused on that.
I had to keep asking myself - 'Is this going to get me closer to what I want?'. I found very quickly that part of my resistance to consistency was that it brought up discomfort for me, as I was forced to sit with all the reasons why a 'quick fix' is much more pleasurable (but won’t create the change I was after) and the feelings of frustration because I couldn’t just magic my way to things being different.
We live in an 'I want it now' society, where everything is at our fingertips immediately. As well as the instant gratification that you get from this, it can also cause us to avoid asking ourselves deeper questions, and often our commitment begins to waiver at the first hurdle.
So how did I overcome this?
I looked within. I became curious about the resistance I was experiencing and what that was really telling me. I became curious about the things I was trying to avoid with a quick fix. I looked to myself for the answers, instead of placing my power in the hands of others.
I’ve learned time and time again that no matter how much I look outside of myself for lasting change, I simply won’t find what I’m looking for unless I’m willing to take full responsibility for making the necessary changes myself. The new job, the pay-rise, the new house, that holiday that’s going to fix everything... they can’t offer lasting solutions - they can only ever offer temporary relief from your reality.
And that’s ok, if temporary relief is all you’re after, but if you’re like I was and want lasting change, then it’s important to realise that although we can rapidly shift beliefs and mindset around certain things in our life - real change; the kind that shifts the path you’re on from unbearable to unstoppable, will only really happen when you’re committed to doing the work, o showing up and following through consistently.
The irony is that the consistency accelerates the change process, but we often don’t stick with things for long enough to see the lasting results. Instead, we externalise our desires and we seek comfort in things that are external to us because it’s far easier than looking within (or at least on some subconscious level that’s what we believe).
We may tell ourselves it’s too uncomfortable to look to ourselves for answers, or in some cases, we may never have been told that we’re the ones who hold the key to our own happiness. It’s in part why I (and maybe you too) avoided it for so long, but once I had built a stronger relationship with myself and my own needs, consistency became a whole lot easier. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I really could guide myself to better things.
This was an incredibly empowering experience.
When life has been tough or I’ve faced significant challenges or setbacks (including those out of my control), the thing that’s made the biggest difference to both my outlook and my ability to keep moving forward, has always been my commitment to change.
The big changes that have happened in my life have only ever come as a result of learning to keep moving, staying committed and never giving up on myself and my dreams, but I couldn’t have made the changes necessary if I hadn’t trusted that I could get myself to where I needed to be, and trusted that I could find a way over any hurdles that might enter my path.
It's not all moonlight and roses...
Whilst moving forwards gradually, step-by-step doesn’t sound as glamorous as the promise of instant change that many people these days claim to be able to offer, ask yourself how many quick-fixes you’ve tried that were never really cemented into your life? How many instant solutions never really offered the lasting change you were hoping for? How many patterns keep playing out repeatedly in your life, even though you know you want something different?
The thing about gradual change is that whilst it’s not as exciting, it does allow room for you to create new habits, new patterns of behaviour and new beliefs, subtly and without you even realising it, and this builds an inner foundation that cultivates strength and resilience.
The kind of resilience to be able to weather any storm and overcome any challenge. The kind of strength that gives you an inner compass for where you need to go next.
Slow and steady helps you to realise that you really can be, do and have anything you desire because you start to have the physical evidence to prove it to yourself and you know that you created it. More than that, the changes last because you look to yourself for answers, knowing that no one else knows what you need better than you do.
Eventually, when you look back on the journey from where you were to where you are now, you see just how far you’ve travelled and you know that you navigated the journey your way, rather than following someone else’s blueprint.
I’ve learned that I am capable of overcoming even the most difficult of experiences, as long as my steadfast commitment and my willingness to do the work on myself matches my desire for things to be different.
The same can be true for you.
Are you ready to do what it takes to make change a long-term reality?