by Michael Lewin
Our lives can change for the better – we have to recognize this. We have to acknowledge, trust and work for this to achieve a deepening personal growth. A growth that can expand to benefit everyone.
Our lives can change for the better – we have to believe this. We have to think, feel and act on this otherwise we will just fall back and accept less than we could be. It’s a conscious, affirmative act of giving ourselves – of committing to a more enriching life.
Our lives can change for the better – we have to accept this. We have to nurture, nourish and embrace this idea. We have to draw on a self-confidence that tells us that we can become ‘ bigger ‘ than we are now. A self-assurance that can help us to exceed our personal boundaries, to encompass a better existence.
Risks are ever present in our quest for a better life – and that can be scary – but they are still present if we decide to hold back and become entrapped in fear. The life journey we take is our choice, very much a part of our own decision making process, so do we go for growth through self-empowerment and discovery or do we pull back to restriction and self-closure?
If we do decide to move forward (is there really a choice? ) it is likely – dependent on the magnitude of the change – that we will have to engage with a complex dynamic to achieve our goals. However, to help us on the way, to guide us on the journey, I would like to offer up six ‘ signposts ‘ that can contribute to our understanding of what is involved in achieving personal growth.
Before we can proceed on the journey to secure a better future we must first be awake to the need for change. But this is never quite as automatic and self-evident as it may seem. Often we can become so embedded in the familiar patterns of our lives that we fail to recognize the presence of pain and discomfort – and hence the necessity to move on.
In Buddhism the road to liberation and salvation starts with the First Noble Truth -recognition of suffering (Dukkha). At times this recognition is a slow boil, a simmering experience that suggests that perhaps all is not well. At other times it can erupt with volcanic force to explode all over our hitherto calm and accepting lives, creating havoc.
Even if everything is apparently going well for us, and we feel settled and content, there will still be scope for improvements and adjustments – new roads to travel, new adventures to pursue in the quest to lead a full and nourishing life.
At their best, the forces of change may present us with a ‘ eureka moment, ‘ a creative insight that takes us to a wholly higher level of presence where we firmly and decisively arrive at a new way of looking at things. But in whatever way we may experience the ‘ tap on the shoulder ‘ of change, one certainty is assured, it will be working away in the background with or without our consent. So shouldn’t we trust the process, give of ourselves in the spirit of discovery – despite all our reservations and uncertainties – to see what may emerge?
Before we can fully cultivate the new we have to spend some time in clearing the ground of the old. We have to neutralize past impurities that could influence or damage fresh growth. We could describe this phase as the incubation period where we can reflect and open up our thought processes before we welcome the new.
To aid us at this time it is preferable to create a context of solitude and silence that could provide a seedbed for evaluating life change strategies.
During this period we may have to seek guidance and support, from wise counsel, on some of the deeper proposed changes we are contemplating so that we can reduce, and minimize the risk of any likely failure, hurt or harm.
Listening is also very much a part of this process. A listening that goes deeper than the surface chatter that keeps telling us that we are limited and fixed in what we can achieve. A listening that opens us up beyond the presence of the strongest doubts we have about our potential. And in this listening, this deep and affirmative listening we can start to gain confidence in, and recognition of our inner strengths and abilities that can turn our lives around.
Insights can surface in this mode of being; fresh ways of seeing that will guide us to a better future. They may not be detailed blueprints for precise action but they will offer up ways forward to escape from a previous impasse.
PLAN OF ACTION
After the muddy waters have cleared, and we have gained greater clarity of vision, we are in a position to start thinking about drawing up an action plan for proposed changes. It may very well be provisional, open to revision and alteration, but there is an imperative to engage, to set something down. The Bible states that: “ A people without a vision perish.” And so it is with the individual. If we lack a vision to realize, goals to achieve, then we are effectively holding ourselves back and missing out on opportunities for personal fulfillment. Our imaginative and creative energies need to be harnessed to some cause; otherwise they will dissipate and eventually die. This, we must never allow to happen. We all have within each and every one of us a huge potential for shaping and reshaping our lives so we must acknowledge this gift and never let it fade from sight.
Writing down positive affirmations, to support us through difficult periods, can be a good way of sustaining our enthusiasm and belief in the journey. Simple and direct, we can refer to them in order to stay focused and motivated. But a word of warning: they are no substitutes for action plans, which are pragmatically driven. Action plans that are: specific, goal orientated, set within time frames, open to evaluation and realistically achievable.
A vital aspect of the process that keeps everything on track, fired up and sustainable over time, energy wise, is passion. A passion about the merits of what we are trying to achieve – a passion about our commitment and ability to work hard to secure our desired ends.
Passion is a heartfelt feeling, a ‘ promise ‘ to our selves (consciously realized or not) that we can effect positive change in our lives. Many people have dreams and inspirations but fail to realize their potential because, deep inside, they somehow lack the power of passion, the power of intent to bring them to fruition. Realistically and honestly assessing these personal qualities, for undertaking any particular task, is an essential prerequisite that avoids wasting our time and energy. It is pointless to start on some goal or objective we have in mind, if we know that we will never complete the task. This could undermine our self-confidence and self-esteem knowing that we have ‘ failed ‘ yet again. Better to revise our thinking about what we can sensibly complete, and stick with that. Success breeds success, so if we just take one step up the ladder, successfully, then the next step not only becomes easier, it becomes a welcoming necessity.
Without our full-hearted engagement, our passion and commitment, we can expect little by way of successful outcomes. We rarely ‘ drift ‘ automatically into any real success; it is only really ever achieved when we apply ourselves fully in a determined manner. And once we do, once we fully give of ourselves, authentically and true, the universe will step in to support us. But you have to take this on faith, confident enough to believe that it will happen, then you must go one stage further and try it……
In order to deliver long lasting, effective change we need to monitor progress throughout – make soundings to see that we are on course.
Blind adherence to any plan or objective, without any form of on-going evaluation, could lead to us into serious trouble. All plans have to be adjusted and modified in the light of ever-changing conditions. At best they are only provisional guides that help lead us to where we need to be they are never, per se, a final destination.
Over time our aspirations and ambitions – that were once absolute and rigidly fixed – can start to become fluid and no longer important to us so our plans and objectives, which grew out of them, must also change. We may need to talk things over with a close friend who understands what we are trying to achieve. Seeking a wise, second opinion is always of value if we are to maximize our efforts. Then, if the advice we receive is truthful and reliable we can consider changes; for it is easier to implement alterations in the early stages of our plans rather than pushing blindly ahead to goals that no longer inspire us.
Running along side all our efforts to keep on the right course, maintaining our goals, reviewing our progress, is the dynamic of perseverance. That quality of ‘ never say die ‘ which fuels us on the home straight and further – the extra mile. This vital ingredient, which resides in all of us will ensure our eventual success – believe that, feel that, know it to be fundamentally true. “ Victory,” as Napoleon said “ belongs to the persevering.”
The past is not the future, we must constantly remind ourselves of this. Each new moment presents us with new opportunities, fresh chances to start again. So do we continue to chose our old, personal history that brings the same, tired results or do we chose a different, brighter future?
Belief in our selves and our latent abilities, belief in a benign universe that will undoubtedly support our best efforts, is so important if we are to gather in a rich, full harvest. However if, even at this advanced stage, after all the planning and implementation, self doubt still creeps in then we should just ignore it. This is often when the inner voice screams loudest: “ I can’t do it! I can’t do it! “ But this is just the last, residue expression of fear before it dies to the new and we take a step into a more positive future.
The strength to overcome, to reshape our future, grows out of the struggle and as this struggle intensifies so does our ability to grapple with it. We have so much to give, so much to do, if only we can leave behind our self-limiting view and embrace our latent potentiality for future expansion.
“ When struggle is grasped, miracles are possible.”