The one constant in life is change. It is all around us, in our personal and work lives and it is within us. From the time we are born until we die, our life evolves and we grow. Change is necessary and inevitable. However, we need to acknowledge that change is hard at an individual level. We are in fact hard wired to be resistant to change.
Our brain is wired to minimise threat and risks. We take the fight or flight response when we are in danger or feel anxious in any way. There is no doubt the release of cortisol and adrenaline has a significant effect on our bodies and brains.
It is interesting that the part of our brain responsible for thinking clearly and logically can shut down in times of anxiety. Our emotional and memory parts of the brain take over in these times. We have hardwired our past patterns and habits over many years.
Indeed, under pressure or in times of stress we have a tendency to revert back to old ways of doing things.
We can learn to accept change
However we are able to change through having the right mental framework and mindset.
Current research in neuroscience shows that our brains can change throughout our lives. The recent scientific discovery called neuroplasticity is overthrowing the centuries old notion that the adult human being is fixed and unchanging.
Our brain is able to change its wiring and function, even in old age. Change is possible even if we are resistant to making these changes. We can all remember times when circumstances we had no control over, forced us to make changes. We were stretched and we responded to the challenge. In fact, we found out we were capable of more than we originally believed.
Many of us move forward in our lives without really acknowledging to ourselves that in fact there are many times we made significant and lasting internal changes and therefore grew as an individual.
There is no doubt acknowledging this even if it is just to ourselves can be a very powerful strategy to increase our resilience and self-mastery.
A key to a meaningful life is having a purpose
One of the most powerful processes we can use utilise as we go through life is to consciously work out our own personal purpose and meaning in life, articulating a personal vision and then setting goals to achieve that vision.
Making a commitment to change helps us grow as a person. It is not just about achieving these goals but going through the process enables us to make powerful, internal and lasting changes, rewiring our brains. We learn more about ourselves and have a greater mastery of our emotions.
Through greater self-awareness we build our emotional intelligence and this gives us the potential to lead a more fulfilling and satisfying life. Daniel Goldman, in his famous books on Emotional Intelligence, acknowledges that EQ can be a greater determiner of success in life than IQ.
Articulating our life purpose and having conscious goals to work towards create energy for change and give us momentum. Often our goals can change through our life journey. Whether we achieve those particular goals or not, or whether our goals change, it is important to note “success is a journey, not a destination.”
Clarifying our purpose and meaning in life and setting goals to achieve this purpose can be a powerful, life changing and liberating process. We are challenging ourselves to reach our full potential.
But how do you actually set goals?
However, being able to set effective goals and work towards them is a skill and like all skills, needs to be learned and needs practice. Life gets in the way and our willpower can ebb and flow. At times it may seem impossible to break a lifetime of habits and patterns of behaviour.
Having a defined vision and keeping focused can help us have our own insights about changes we need to make. This will help us rewire our brain and thus embed new connections and neural pathways.
So what can you do to make lasting and inspirational change in your life? What can you do to be your own ‘coach’ in your life journey?
Below is a summary of 10 essential steps you can follow to create an authentic and meaningful life you love.
1) Let’s start the journey.
Articulating your life purpose and how you can lead an authentic life with conscious goals to work towards, creates momentum and energy for change.
2) Where you are right now.
This step requires you to complete a life satisfaction audit. You need to step away from yourself, objectively observe your current reality and clarify your core values, character strengths and intrinsic motivations. In essence, you are defining how you live a life true to yourself.
3) Create a compelling vision for your future.
The aim of this exercise is to clearly define and articulate what your desired life looks like in the future, and what will help you live a passionate and fulfilled life.
4) Write your personal vision statements.
In this step you choose up to 3 areas of your life you want to change to help you achieve your dreams
5) Write your personal action plan.
Your actions need to be clearly defined and achievable but at the same time challenge you to step out of your comfort zone. These actions need lots of perseverance, practice and reinforcement.
6) Take action and monitor your progress.
You need to commit yourself to reviewing your actions and monitoring your progress on a regular basis. Keeping a journal is a great way of doing this and in fact research shows journal writing can be a powerful tool for change and can be cathartic.
7) Make use of a range of valuable tools and techniques
This includes things like meditation and mindfulness, prioritizing, practising gratitude, self-compassion, resilience and forgiveness.
8) Celebrate your successes along the way.
It is vital you reward yourself for making progress, no matter how small or insignificant you think it is. We are all good at letting our inner critic take over at times and berate ourselves for failure at not achieving exactly what we wanted. The ability to rethink the way we explain circumstances in our lives and the way we choose to focus on failure or success can have a major effect on who we are and how we live our lives.
9) Evaluate and take stock.
This is a time of self-reflection on what you have learnt about yourself and how you have expanded your self-awareness and consciousness.
10) Where to from here.
You are the creator of your own life. By going through the steps above you have made deep and lasting changes. This journey can continue with defining new goals to work towards in your quest for a life you love.
It is the consistent reinforcement on positive changes we are making as well as our focus and attention on our future state that will help us embed these new connections in our brain. Articulating and consciously working towards our goals help us go against the path of least resistance we find it easier to go down in our life’s journey.
Life is all about change. The success in our life is determined by how we manage change at an individual level knowing through neuroplasticity we are capable of rewiring our brains. We acknowledge there are many circumstances and events in life we have no control over. Ultimately, what we do have choice over is our attitude to the way we live our lives and what our life purpose is.
This famous quote from Victor Frankl says it all. ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.’
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