Change can be a funny thing. A few of weeks into coaching with her, a client told me of her experience the weekend before while she was out with family friends: she’d found herself that day feeling so relaxed and happy laughing with them that she thought she must be pretending.
She’d been experiencing depression for several years and it had been so long since she’d felt good like that, it almost didn’t feel like it was her.
To be suddenly feeling so good was quite a surprise.
Another client commented recently on how much better she felt, saying “It’s a bit of a shock really”. For many people it is still a surprise to realise how we can change our less useful patterns. Presenter and trainer, Amanda Fleming, calls it ‘composting our crap’. We really are our own recycle system!
Such changes are often a delightful experience, of course, and sometimes they can feel a little unsettling. A friend once commented that she didn’t want to ‘lose herself’ if she dealt with some of her emotional issues. She was scared of the unknown, of not being who she knew herself to be. We can often think, ‘at least I know who I am’ (better the devil you know …!). Because who would you be without your stress, grouchiness or your eagerness to please?
That’s a damn good question to answer, actually. Who would you be?
So, where to start?
Ease your way into change. Anytime our status quo shifts and we move out of our comfort zone it can feel a little scary. I remember when I went sky diving for the first time: I really wanted to go, but that didn’t stop me freaking out when it came time to jump!
One way to ‘test drive’ an alternative You is to remember a time you were your Best Self – you know, you on a really good day. Take yourself back to that moment and notice how it feels, how you’re being. There is often more lightness of spirit, ease, laughter, warmth. This is closer to the real You than any moment of grouchiness, stress or sadness. It isn’t so scary, is it?
If you’re a client of mine you will remember test driving an alternative You when we were outcome setting – when you visualise yourself the way you want to be. This is another good way of warming up, getting used to how you want to be, whilst also fine-tuning it. In the visualisation process you can also check what else you want to factor in (it’s called ecology in NLP terms). For instance, the people-pleasers out there will want to make sure that when they are looking after their own needs more, that they can still give to others. You’re not removing your ability to say yes, you’re just not saying yes to everything and everyone anymore!
One step at a time, you know.
Visualising how you want to be also gives you a chance to get used to the idea and for your brain to start laying down neural pathways of the new way of being. Otherwise it can feel so out of reach or impossible that we don’t feel able to make the change. A woman came to see me earlier this year with a phobia of driving. She’d had this fear for most of her adult life – being able to drive herself anywhere, anytime, comfortably and confidently was a giant leap for her. So before we did any change-work I asked her to spend a week imagining and day dreaming about how her life will be when she could drive easily. As she got used to the idea it also felt more real and more possible. When we came to change the old fear response, she was ‘psyched’ for it and the change was easy.
Experiencing a new way of being – whether it’s more relaxed, confident, focused or happy – can be a bit like buying a new leather coat. You buy it because it looks good, feels good and you like it. However, when you wear if for the first few times it feels a little stiff and you’re really aware of it on your body. It still looks good and feels good, it’s just a little unfamiliar and maybe even clunky. Over time you wear it in and it begins to soften up and feel more comfortable. Soon you forget you have it on, it feels like part of you. So it is with changing patterns of beliefs, emotions and behaviours. We soon settle into the new improved version of ourselves.
And soon enough it’s what I call our ‘new normal’.
Yes, sometimes normal is good!