Mastering the Change Cycle

By Natalie Amsden

Nothing in life stands still. Science has shown us that the entire human body—every cell—completely regenerates itself within a span of about seven years. Brain scientists and psychologists have agreed that in each moment our brains are taking in new information and our minds are constantly assimilating this information into our neural network of thoughts, beliefs, and associations.

You cannot have a new experience without it literally changing your mind, and life cannot exist without continuous growth and expansion. You are actually changing as you read these words. You are moving, growing, expanding, and changing. It is no secret that the world around you is constantly changing as well.

We live in a time of unprecedented change, as technology expands our reach and capabilities, as global connectivity transforms our borders and cultures, and as more and more people find themselves feeling the effects of worldwide spiritual evolution.

There is no question: You are changing. The wonderful thing about this “Human Experience” is that you have the power and ability to direct changes in your life. In fact, what you feel, think, say, and believe about your life is constantly putting change into motion, regardless of whether you realize it or not. You are creating your life as you go along, so you might as well create it intentionally. All that is required is a choice. YOU ARE AT A CHOICE POINT. You can choose to continue on with your life as you currently are living it, letting the external world and your past dictate what you experience, or you can choose to create your life to be everything that you dream.

Understanding the Change Cycle

Most people find deliberate change to be a difficult process. Many well-intentioned people have changes they want to make in their lives, but they get stuck repeating the same “change cycle” over and over again.

1.    Discontent—You grow increasingly unhappy and discontent with an area of your life. You “hang in there,” tolerate, ignore, repress, or otherwise deal with the circumstance because it is comfortable and familiar, and you fear change.
2.    Breaking Point—Eventually your level of discontent builds high enough that you cannot take it any more. You reach a “breaking point,” either through exhaustion or due to a dramatic event occurring that triggers the break.
3.    Declaration—You declare that you will no longer tolerate the undesirable situation and you take the first step toward change, giving you a short-lived sense of hope.
4.    Fear—Usually, shortly after your feelings of empowerment you encounter your fear. You become uncomfortable and anxious about the idea of changing. You doubt your decision. Both options look bleak. You feel helpless, empty.
5.    Amnesia—The fear of change grows strong enough that it makes the original situation look much better than you originally thought. You perceive the original situation as less anxiety-producing than the change. You’re used to it; it’s comfortable; it’s familiar. Plus, it has become part of your identity, so you resist letting it go. You temporarily forget why you wanted to change it so badly.
6.    Backtracking—Most people choose to go back to or stick with the item they wished to change. You essentially talk yourself out of changing.

Inevitably, you soon will find yourself unhappy and discontent once again. Your level of pain will continue to increase until you reach another breaking point, this time even more extreme and more painful. This cycle will continue until one of two things happen:

1.    Extreme Pain: You have a breaking point that is severe enough to push through the change cycle that ends in backtracking. For many people, unfortunately, it takes an extreme circumstance to push them to evolve, such as major financial loss, job loss, loss of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, a severe accident, or a nervous breakdown.

You do not need to wait until a flood to move your home away from the shoreline.

2.    Self-Honesty: You have the humbling experience of realizing that there’s a part of you that doesn’t really want to change. You are comfortable with your habits, with what you know. You have a lot of fear that holds you back. You have many self-limiting beliefs. You receive some sort of benefit from staying where you are. You are unhappy because you want to be unhappy. You are addicted to the situation. You believe your pain is you; it’s your story. You can see your resistance to letting it go. Only after reaching this level of self-honesty can you truly choose to change.

Can you see how this change cycle has impacted your life? Are you ready for it to stop? Have you experienced change amnesia before? If so, you know that the more you move toward the changes you want the stronger your fear and resistance will become. Are you ready to swallow the pill of self-honesty, even if it is hard, because you are tired of being dissatisfied? Are you ready to take responsibility for your life and create the life you dream of having? Are you at the point where you will accept nothing less than what you truly want?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then why not make 2012 your year? There are a myriad of resources, in this magazine and online, to help you make resolutions to change for the coming year. As mentioned above, if you are ready to experience lasting transformation, you will need to start with a healthy dose of self-honesty.

Consider the following reasons you may have been allowing yourself to fall victim to this cycle:

You don’t want to change. You don’t really want the thing you think you want. You may be trying to convince yourself that you should change to appease others or conform to what you believe you “should” do. If you don’t want to change, accept it.

You don’t know what you want. You don’t know what you really want or you’re not allowing yourself to go for what you really want. Try imagining what you would want if time, money, and people did not limit you.

Your dream isn’t big enough. The reward isn’t big enough. You aren’t excited. Happiness is excitement. Passion is what makes you willing to endure to attain a goal. What would you do ANYTHING to attain?

You’re letting your fear be bigger than you. You don’t believe you can do it. You don’t trust yourself. You put everyone else before yourself. You’d rather tolerate severe pain than face temporary discomfort. Are you really willing to settle?

You are attached to your problem. Your ego and identity are wrapped up in your problem, and you fear that if you let go of your problem you’ll have nothing to talk about. Who would you be? Would it be better?

You’re benefiting from your problem. The benefit you’re receiving from NOT changing is bigger than your perceived benefit from changing. It gives you an excuse and something to talk about. It allows you to hide deeper issues from yourself and others. What are you holding onto? How does it benefit you to NOT change?

Failure no longer has to be an option. Neither does doing nothing and staying stuck where you are. Before you make another New Year’s resolution you probably won’t keep, take some time in self reflection and be brutally honest with yourself. Is your desire for more, for fulfillment, for happiness finally strong enough that you are willing to encounter the obstacles and endure the fear? If so, congratulations, you will succeed—you are ready to transform!

Natalie Amsden

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