What does it mean to change yourself?
Well, we don’t want to get into the philosophical discussion about whether you should change yourself or accept yourself. That’s not the point.
The point is, since you’re reading this article, chances are you have something that you’re not happy with. A flaw (whether perceived or real) that you hate.
We all have our own flaws and imperfections. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. But when those flaws start damaging our lives, we better start working on changing them. Not doing that is something to be ashamed of.
I know I’ve been in many situations where I had to start changing something about myself or my life.
If you’re a regular reader here, you already know that my approach is based on a specific change formula. A formula that’s based on fundamental principles instead of tips and tricks.
This change formula is what I want to discuss in this article. It will help you kick off the change process (whatever you want to change), and it will give you clarity about what you need to do.
It consists of 4 elements, 4 phases to be exact. Those 4 phases contain fundamental principles and ideas which you can apply to create the change you want. They are:
- Awareness: This is when you notice the problem. It’s deeper that you think it is. More about avoiding the obliviousness of your own problems.
- Emotional drive: you need a fuel and energy to be able to get through the change process. Emotions are the ultimate fuel for the humans.
- Actions: yes, nothing changes without actions.
- Growth: the time needed for change to happen. It won’t happen right away; it won’t happen when you want it to happen. You must let growth happen, and this is where most people fail.
This might not be the “tips and trick” article that gives you few actions to take. But this is the article that will give you insights and principles about how to change whatever you want to change.
Let’s explain the 4 phases in details. After that, you’ll have an idea about how to put them into action.
The 4 Phases of Change
Phase #1: Self-Awareness
This is where you realize that there’s a problem, there’s something in your life that is causing you troubles.
You start to notice that there’s something wrong, you start to see that your current behavior won’t make you happy on the long-run, and you start to notice that there’s something sucking the joy out of your life.
And this stage is extremely important. Many people don’t have the guts to look at themselves in the mirror and admit that there’s something wrong in their lives.
Most people try to pretend that there’s nothing wrong, and that’s why they never start a change process; they don’t even think there’s something to change or improve.
Since you’re reading this article, it means you have a good level of self-awareness. You’re not totally oblivious. You just have to work a little bit more to increase your self-awareness.
Where do people struggle? Many people don’t want to admit there’s something wrong with their lives, here are some possible reasons:
- They have a low self-esteem: they don’t want to “appear” weak in front of people, so they act like they have it all.
- They’re arrogant: they think that they’re too good to have flaws or “things to change”.
- They’re afraid: Fear of change, fear of failure, fear of being judged, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of being judged, fear of disappointment …etc.
- All of the above, or a combination of it.
What you need to do: Remember that change will only start if you admit that there’s something wrong that you need to change. Becoming aware of the negative pattern/behavior is the first step.
Be honest with yourself. Don’t bullshit yourself. Be willing to be slapped by the truth instead if being kissed by the lies.
Articles to help:
- The Truth About Negative Emotions
- Feeling Stuck? Apply These 5 Tips Right Now
- I Hate My Life: Here’s How to Hate it a Little Bit Less
Phase #2: Emotional Drive
This is the backbone of the entire change process.
Before you start doing anything, you first need to make sure you’re totally convinced that you want to change. As simple as that.
You need to realize what will it cost you to stay the same, and that needs to be so strong that it makes you want to turn things around right now.
Do you really want to change? Do you really hate where you are and you want to be in a better place? Why do you hate where you are more than anything in the world?
You have to have your own emotional reasons that will drive you.
You need emotional reasons that will make you jump and say, “That’s it!” and emotional reasons that will keep you going when things get tough.
To understand this, think of a mom who will do anything to take care of her sick child.
If a tiny part inside of your brain wants to stay the same, then there’s no force on earth can help you to change, period.
Though my job is to help people change and become better, the harsh truth is that I, or anyone writing/working in the field, can never help you if you’re not convinced that you must change.
Possible reasons people don’t want to change?
- They’re not aware of the problem (they haven’t gone through stage#1).
- There are afraid of change.
- They don’t think they should change, because they feel comfortable where they are.
- They don’t accept responsibility for their lives and playing the victim’s role (they’re waiting for someone/something to magically fix their lives).
Where do people struggle? Most people want to change their life’s conditions without changing their behavior, thinking patterns, environment …etc.
Or even worse: some people are comfortable with where they are, they don’t really want to change. For example, someone who wants to go out there and develop his social skills. He wants to become more social and outgoing and destroy his shyness. But he never does that.
Because yes he wants that, but not bad enough. It’s not a matter of life or death for him yet. It’s not very important to him yet. It’s not something that his life depends on it. He might feel good if it happened, but he’s OK if it didn’t.
This person isn’t ready to change yet. It must be a matter of life or death to him, like his life, happiness and growth depend on this change.
What you need to do: You have to understand that it’s your responsibility to create that emotional drive.
If you don’t believe that the bad habits you’re doing are hurting you, and you actually enjoy them so much, change will never happen.
If you feel comfortable where you are, or if you’re afraid of being uncomfortable while working on change, things will stay the same (and get worse over time).
How to get yourself to want to change?
It’s your own life, and it’s your own mind. Only you know how you can create that “sickness” feeling which will lead you to say: that’s it, I must change.
Ask yourself “why?” why it hurts so bad that you can’t stay the same anymore?
Here’s an article that will help you:
Phase #3: Action
When you’re aware that something is wrong, and when you really want to change that thing, it’s time for taking action.
Usually, this is where people begin their journey towards change. And it’s common sense; things won’t magically disappear/appear in your life, you need to work.
This is when you go to the gym and workout, this is when you sit down and study, this is when you start learning new skills, and this is when you start taking risks and chances.
It’s an essential stage, change won’t happen without actions.
Where do people struggle? They procrastinate, they hesitate, they make mistakes and never dare to try again, they lose hope, they sabotage their progress, they give up, they don’t do their very best and they don’t persist.
But most important, they fail to go through the 2 previous phases. They fail to develop enough self-awareness (so, they work on the wrong problem). Or they fail to develop enough emotional drive to push through the discomfort of taking action.
Taking action for a while then stopping won’t do it.
What you need to do: first, don’t fall in the trap of procrastination, hesitation, fear or whatever that stops you from taking action, be consistent and never stop taking action.
Regardless of your motivation levels, regardless of whether you’re getting results or not, keep taking action, cry if you must then get back up, have faith and keep on moving.
Second, that, this kind of persistence, won’t happen if you ignored the 2 first phases we talked about. Especially if you ignored the emotional drive.
So, get your emotional reasons to push you. Whenever you stop because you’re afraid or tired, make your emotional reasons more intense.
Articles to help you:
- Pain and Fear are The Biggest Liars
- The Truth About Uncomfortable Emotions and the Comfort Zone
- What to Do When You Run Out of Motivation
Phase #4: Growth phase
This is the most important stage/phase and, unfortunately, the most painful one.
The growth phase is the time you need to grow. The time you need before you can see results. In short, the time needed for change to happen.
Changes don’t happen overnight, and you need to take action consistently in order to grow and complete this phase.
What you do during this phase is extremely important. Not just the physical action, but also the mental habits and ways of thinking.
And we have absolutely no control over this phase, I mean how long it’s going to take? No one can answer this question. All that you can control is your actions.
All you can do is work and take action every single day. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was built every day. The time from laying the first brick until we have a huge building is called the growth phase, and you can’t skip it.
You won’t overcome shyness instantly, you won’t build confidence overnight, you won’t create a successful business out of the blue and you won’t change your body shape in one month.
There’s a time you must spend, tears that you must shed, a price that must be paid, and sacrifices that must be made.
It’s a test of how bad you want what you want.
Where do people fail? Instant gratification is all about the urge to skip this important phase. We don’t want to pay the price of going through this phase. We want things to change right away.
Growth phase is painful, period. You will face discomfort, anything from rejection, disappointment to shocking setbacks. That’s why when most people start going through it, they give up and stop, not knowing that it’s a must to go through that painful phase.
Also, lack of persistence will hinder your growth, that’s true in the gym and it’s also true in the change process; if you want to grow you need to be persistent, and most people don’t.
What you need to do: Understand that going through this phase is a necessity, not an option, period. It takes time to do anything, things don’t appear out of blue.
Kids don’t grow from 5’3 to 5’10 overnight, there’s a growth phase. Your life is not different.
In fact, change is a very slow process, especially huge changes. And you may not even notice any difference right now. You may not even notice any changes the next month. But after one year or three years, you can look back and find yourself in a totally different place, if you have been consistent.
Let it take its time, yes work very hard and do your very best, but let the natural growth process occur and see your life unfold afterward. Anyway, you can’t skip it.
Articles That will help you:
- How to Handle Failure and Mistakes – A Realistic Approach
- 4 Facts About Your Life Problems That Will Help You Solve Them
Why Change is Hard?
The real difficulty of change lies in two of its phases.
Awareness. I can’t stress this long enough, it’s the key for change. A lot of people are oblivious to their problems. A lot of people are lying to themselves about the existence of their problems.
It takes a certain amount of courage to become aware of your problems. To admit them, you need courage. To recognize them, in the first place, you need to go out there and seek answers. That, too, requires courage.
On the other hand, we have the growth phase. It’s the most difficult phase.
Because we’re wired to seek instant gratification, we don’t like this phase. And because we’re fond of instant rewards in our today’s world, we don’t even expect the existence of this phase.
Impatient, lack of consistency, and instant gratification are few enemies you have to fight on a daily basis.
Self-discipline, resilience, dealing with failures and disappointments, and staying optimist are few skills you must learn.
Those are not easy things to do. And it’s why most people give up during the phase of growth, not grasping the fact that the pain of growth can be the euphoria of glory someday down the road.
Finally, as you can see, you need specific traits to be able to go through these 2 difficult phases. Anything from resilience and courage to being able to wrong yourself sometimes and admit your shortcomings. Change is going to be painful, and you need to adjust accordingly.
However, since you’ve read this far, allow me to assume that you already have some of these traits somewhere. You just need to leverage them.
Where Are You
Are you starting to become aware that there’s something wrong that needs to be changed?
Or are you in the critical step of convincing yourself that you must change?
Maybe you realize that you must change, but you’re not taking action as you should.
Or maybe you’re not being patient enough for the growth phase to complete.
These 4 stages will help you see where you are exactly, and then you can easily decide where you need to go, what to expect, and what must be done.
See where you are and what you need to do to get to the next level. Each phase has its own requirements and mentalities.
Understand each phase solely, but put them all together in one module that you can use. Consider them as pieces of puzzles that you need to put together.
So, there you have it. Fundamental principles that will help you change yourself or whatever you’re trying to change. Use them wisely.
If you liked this article, then I’ve written an entire book based on its concept. It dives a lot deeper and paints a realistic paint of the change (and success) process. Check it out The Art of Change