As the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Herbert Agar observed: "the truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear." So if you make only one resolution for 2011, consider this. Tell the truth - to yourself.
Almost all our new year resolutions are about change. So start by thinking of change this way.
Grasp a rubber band between the thumb and forefinger of your right hand and between the thumb and forefinger of your left hand. Now stretch the rubber band. Your right hand represents new ways of doing, being and having. Your left hand represents old or current ways of doing, being and having.
When you stretch to live your life in a new way, your left hand (your mind, your body and your brain) are pulling you back into old patterns - the reason 98% of the folks who resolve to change in the New Year fail by Valentine's Day. The pull back is just too powerful. The challenge of something new is trumped by their need to not change.
The truth about change
Change is challenging! If your life is more interesting, more satisfying and more worth living by not changing, that is your choice. But, you can't have it both ways. Saying "I hate my life and I don't want to change" is the definition of insanity. You simply can't do the same thing in the same way and expect different results. That's the truth.
Taking five minutes, ten minutes or thirty minutes consistently to act in a new way doesn't sound difficult, but it is! Being honest and serious about your life is difficult, because we've not learned how to express love for ourselves. The truth is, if you can't take time for yourself on a consistent basis, there's a 100% chance you won't be capable of changing the way you live.
Here are some truths that I and my coaching clients have faced over the years which have supported us to change and transform in ways that provide a greater sense of well-being. Facing these truths in an honest, sincere and self-responsible way can jump start your journey towards meaningful change and transformation.
Connect to your life force
Your life force is an energy that provides the qualities of self-love, compassion, forgiveness, strength, courage, will, discipline, steadfastness, wisdom, truth, understanding and action.
Connecting to your life force requires engaging in some type of spiritual practice, be it meditation (sitting or walking), energy work such as yoga, tai chi or martial arts, self-reflection, quietude or journaling. A spiritual practice is not about religion or theology. Some atheists have spiritual practices; many avowed religious folks don't.
The truth is, touching in on a regular basis to our deeper selves results in us experiencing a deeper sense of well-being. This supports us in time of challenge and gives us a sense of grounding, peace and calm with which to approach life and make healthy choices.
Live in a real community
If you live much of your life communing with "friends" on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and in virtual communities, there's a better than average chance you're real-world social skills may be eroding. You may be turning down invitations to "real" social events or feeling more uncomfortable when you go You may find your social skills when engaging with "real" people diminishing. You may find yourself "holding up" in your home more, and venturing outside less.
The truth is, a healthy sense of well-being comes from interacting and engaging in a real, not fake, community. Personal growth and positive mental, emotional and psychological health and well-being feeds on the nourishment we get from conscious interaction with others.
Eat to live; exercise for health
Do you eat to live or live to eat? What's your diet like? Most everyone knows what a healthy diet looks like. The health of our mind-body-spirit unit cannot maintain without a healthy diet.
I've come across countless folks over the years who exercise to extreme so they can "pig out" and eat unhealthily. In the morning, they run or go to the gym so they can do the same thing all over again. Then, guilt and shame. This is a mental, physical and psychological roller-coaster lifestyle that results in anything but a healthy sense of well-being.
The truth is that being in good physical shape, but with poor emotional and psychological health, is bound to lead to a life of self-loathing, unhappiness and frustration. Asking youself honestly why you diet and exercise - or why you don't - will help you move into a diet and exercise lifestyle that is conscious and healthy – physically and emotionally.
Is exercising and dieting about true and real health or something else? The "something else" usually leads to consistent emotional upset, frustration and failure.
Conscious intention, commitment and focus
The truth is, without being intentional and focused in every moment of change, old habits and patterns takes over and reduce change to "magical thinking" - illusion. Important questions to consider are: "Why am I choosing to change?" "Do I have any hunch or instinct I won't be able to keep my intention or change?"
The truth is many folks want to change to impress or please someone else. If this is the case in your situation, a deeper exploration of what's underneath your desire to please others is in order. "Why do I need to please others and have others' approval?" "What does pleasing others get me?" "Who would I be and how would I feel if I didn't please others?" "Do I love myself as I am, right here and right now?"
My mind is not me, but mine
If you are sincerely committed to change, consistently monitoring your thoughts can support you in you. When you want to run faster, longer, and harder (when you know it leads to injury or burnout), when you want to eat the whole bag of M&Ms (when you know you'll be upset with yourself afterward), when you want to spend the extra $100 (when you can't afford it), monitor your thinking and explore what mental messages you're hearing and consider how the old rationale is supporting your self-sabotaging ways.
The truth is, you are in control of your mind, not the other way around. If you stay "awake" and ask yourself: "Why am I choosing this…?" "Is this really supportive of my choice to change?" "Am I choosing to sabotage myself and why?" you'll come to a deeper understanding of your self-sabotaging behaviors and be able to wean yourself from old patterns and limiting beliefs that keep you from changing .
Consistency and specifics, not extremes
The truth is, change comes in small steps. The name of the well-being game is constancy – moving forward on a conscious and consistent basis.
One obstacle that interferes with change is making the mistake of "moving away" rather than "moving towards." Focus on what you want, not on what you don't want. The energy of moving toward a goal is far more positive, exciting and motivating than the energy of moving away.
Another obstacle is acting in extremes: exercising every day, rather than, say (at least) three days a week; meditating for an hour (rather than starting with five minutes and increasing slowing); reading the whole book (rather than beginning a chapter, or reading a chapter every few days).
The problem here is that our ego gets in the way and our ego's need for perfection to impress ourselves or others dooms us to failure. The truth about achievement is to start slow, be gentle with ourselves, and move forward incrementally and consistently. How does a mouse eat a round of cheese? One small bite at a time.
Finally, use the word "choose" instead of "want" or "need". The energy of choosing is self-empowering and gives you ownership. The truth is, change is about feeling light and emotionally free, not about feeling needy or seeking others' approval.
Consistency allows the brain to create the new neurological pathways that have to be ingrained for new ways of doing and being to become habitual. No consistency, no change. Extremes lead to failure.
If your life is out of control, you don't have enough time in your day to get things done, you waste your time watching TV or hanging out online, the truth is you're doing a poor job at self-management.
Time management is NEVER about time. Repeat, NEVER! It's about self-management. Time is the symptom - "me" is the problem. When we work on self-management and self-regulation from a conscious, proactive (not reactive) place, time then ceases to be an issue.
The truth is, our values (or lack of them) play a large role when making choices as to what to do, how and when. When our choices are based on values that are murky and misguided, our efforts lead to confusion, mistakes and chaos. With respect to priorities, the truth is, many folks ask the wrong question, i.e., "What's next?" instead of the right question, "What's first?"
Lack of self-management skills and clear values produces a lack of clarity and direction, so everything is next and now. And that leads to inner and outer upset and disease.
I know of very few people who have been able to change and transform by themselves. Most successful folks have a support system of some kind. A support system helps us overcome the immune system many of us have towards change.
- Who are you? (and try not defining yourself by what you "do")
- How do you feel when you define yourself?
- How do you feel when you define what you want?
- Where are you in your life at work and at home and why are you there?
- How do you feel when you describe where you are and why you're there?
- What are the "truths" about you and your life?
- How do you feel when you speak the truth of your life?
- Do you have a spiritual practice?
- Is time your friend or enemy? Why?
- Which end of the rubber band drives most of your life? Why?
- Is your social community more real or virtual?
- Are you optimistic or pessimistic about your life in 2011? Why?
- On a scale of 1-10, where are you when it comes to experiencing a real sense of well-being?
- Can you visualize moving consistently toward personal change and transformation?
The truth is, going it alone hardly ever produces real and lasting change. Who is your support? Are they nonjudgmental? Are they affirming? Do you feel safe talking about your life with them? Do they help you gain clarity?
Living with awareness
Self-awareness helps us discern what serves us from what does not.
The one major element that we can truly control is self-awareness - the awareness that says "I'm the master of my life," the awareness that brings meaning to our journey on this planet, that supports us to move forward along the right path.
The truth is, without self-awareness, chaos rules our lives and with chaos comes unhappiness, unfulfilled dreams, unmet goals, confusion, overwhelm and stress.
So, what's the truth about you and your life? What's the truth about the stories you tell yourself about why change is so hard and frustrating? About your definition of "insanity?"
The final truth
Most people are free-falling through their lives, ping-ponging from one crisis to the next. Living in this type of spiral leaves no room for conscious living.
The truth about lasting change and transformation is that it can only be achieved through self-awareness and a healthy integration of the body, mind, spirit. Change is a reality that can happen in every moment of our lives, – but only if we are aware of it and see the truth of "who I am" and "how I am" as I live my life.
Why so much emphasis on the truth? Simple. The truth shall set you free.