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12 “Truths” About Personal Change and Development

Try saying yes to the mess.

I expect that everyone has a story of some personal change they are trying to make.  Here’s a short list of stories I hear about most often . . .  

  • Want to lose weight
  • Want to stop smoking, drinking, using drugs
  • Want someone close to me to stop smoking, drinking, using drugs
  • Dislike my job and/or the people I work for and with
  • I’m lonely and not sure what to do about it
  • Don’t like where I live and don’t know where to move to that I would like better
  • Feel stuck and unhappy with myself, my life, my work and everything in between
  • Tired of feeling like a doormat – always saying yes to things when what I want to say is no
  • Burned out – I can’t find my way forward and don’t want to stay where I am or where I’ve been

Making a personal change and making that change “stick” is not for the timid.  For most of us, change is hard work, and it’s messy.  I’m a gardener, as you can see from the video link above.  I see a lot of parallels between what happens in the garden and what happens within my life.  Finally tackling that garden project last fall was huge for me. I had put off working on it for at least 3 years.  Like that garden, my life at the time was overly full and crowded – lots of beautiful things in there but in serious need of a clean-up and a re-start.  Saying yes to the mess helped me finally begin.  I made progress on the personal change piece as well.  With spring finally here and my re-worked garden in bloom, it seems like good timing to share my thoughts on personal growth and development.  Whatever your story is and whatever you’re working on changing, try saying yes to the mess.

My 12 “truths” about personal change and development

  1. When you’re working on changing yourself or your life, things will usually look worse before they get better.
  2. Even with the changes you choose to put into motion, there will likely be unforeseen consequences that make you question the choices you’ve made.
  3. Making changes in yourself or your life is not a journey with only forward steps being taken.  There’s a lot of two steps forward, one step back action that ends up happening with personal change.
  4. You will probably be surprised by the people in your life who push back against you and the changes you are working on making.
  5. You will probably also be surprised by the people in your life who step up to support you and have your back.
  6. No matter how many times you “fail” and fall back into old habits that serve you poorly, until you die you can choose to start over and begin again.
  7. Beating yourself up and calling yourself weak or a loser because you haven’t already changed pretty much guarantees that you will stay stuck longer.
  8. Forgiveness supports the work of personal change and is always an inside job.  In order to change, I think we first need to forgive ourselves for whatever we have done or not done that brought us to this point of trying to make something be different.
  9. It’s a good idea to be choosy about the people you tell of the personal change work you are doing.  Working on changing yourself or your life can put you in a vulnerable spot.  Not everyone can or should be trusted with your vulnerability.
  10. The external appearance of having made a personal change does not always “fit” with how you feel or the way you see yourself internally.  Change takes time to integrate. 
  11. Personal change happens one step at a time.  Knowing your bigger “yes” for making the change can sustain you when you are tired and feel like giving up.
  12. Accept that the personal change process is often chaotic, exciting, unnerving, and frightening – sometimes all at once.  It helps if you can let go of expectations that change will be a smooth, happy ride from start to finish.  If you can say yes to the mess and stop trying so hard to control the outcome, I think you’ll find that everything gets easier. 

Ginger Ward-Green

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