There have been times in my life when I’ve wanted to make a change in my habits or behaviours and like a lightning flash that change has happened literally overnight, in that moment, immediately – and stuck often for years and longer. On those rare occasions I and others around me marvel and wonder…’ why isn’t it always like that?’
Most of the time, the changes we want to make – as leaders, as partners, as parents, as friends, as human beings – require a much harder slog than that. We often find ourselves continually confronting the inner talk of ‘I will, I must, I can, I can’t…’. We take steps, we fall off the wagon, we become demoralised and maybe even depressed that the changes we know will be better for us and the people around us, won’t stick.
Perhaps then what’s needed here is a change of mind-set. No, I don’t mean giving up. I mean to see change, new learning and the building of new habits as a ‘practice’.
When we want to learn something new and get good at it, we typically have to put in the practise – learning to play a musical instrument, a new language, how to build a house, how to lead a team. The problem comes when we see this as a zero-sum game – ‘yesterday I couldn’t do it and by tomorrow I will be able to do it’.
However, if we approach our changes as a lifelong practise with no end date, how might that marshal new resources for us? In this approach no matter whether we have a ‘good’ day or a ‘bad’ day as far as our desired behaviour or skill is concerned, we treat it as information and moment by moment know and trust that we will do it better in the next moment. And even if we don’t, we learn and recommit ourselves to the next moment. In other words, we don’t catastrophise, we don’t give up on ourselves, we simply accept that any practice, any ‘new behaviour’ is a lifelong journey requiring us to recommit ourselves time and time again – which we do joyfully.
Certainly, we can still celebrate milestones along the way but really establishing a practice is about engaging the inner will and establishing a mind-set that registers that new behaviour as part of who we are already…we are simply discovering it step by step as we consciously and knowingly hold it in our awareness.
So as you reflect on what type of leader, friend, parent or person you want to be, remember it’s all within you…your job is to discover it by actively and consciously looking for those behaviours and actions in the choices you make now, today and every day. And even when it’s tough and the behaviour eludes you, know that’s all part of the journey of practise…and positively recommit again.