Making major life changes seem daunting and overwhelming at times. One way to make it feel a bit more manageable is by treating change-creation as a shift in perspective. It does not necessarily have to mean dismantling and decommissioning the old program and installing an entirely foreign new operating system. It can be about simply restacking your priorities, and flipping the order of operations among competing programs you already have running. Here are four flips that will help you create meaningful change in your life.
Awareness over Ego
Awareness is more than simply looking up and looking around, making sure you don't get hit by a car crossing the street. That kind of awareness is good to have of course and is necessary for our survival. We are talking about deeper level of awareness. It's possible to mix up the idea of deeper awareness with the popular concepts of mindfulness or presence. Having an awareness of our ego's agenda and being able to call it out in the moment does definitely require presence. But we need an awareness that goes a step further.
What I mean here is the ability to notice and observe our own personality patterns. Those routine and automatic responses we have to our environment that are always there, telling us how to interpret and react to situations. It means knowing ourselves and our triggers, our concepts of how the world works. It means having self-knowledge and self-compassion to be able to say to yourself, lovingly, “oh there I go, doing that thing that I do again.” I see my ego showing up, without judging the fact that ego is there, trying its best to protect us. We want to be able to notice when we feel the pull to employ our automatic response, and then stop to pause and consider for a moment whether or not that is our chosen response.
Awareness is that moment of pause, between stimulus and automatic response. It is that tiny fraction of a second where conscious choice can be interjected.
Belief over Fear
Fear is the jet fuel for the ego. It is one of the biggest reasons why these patterns and programs that we run automatically are so darn persistent. We often put them into play without questioning whether they're really serving our higher needs because we are simply afraid to do anything different or engage in something unknown.
Belief (as opposed to faith) is something that anyone can access. You don't need to carry a membership card or go to church or pay merits in order to have a belief. Belief is simply a thought you choose to have… something you know on a deep level because of experience or exposure. It cannot necessarily be proven scientifically, but you trust it nonetheless. You can have a belief in yourself, or belief in human kindness, or belief in karma, or belief in climate change, or belief in Bill Nye the science guy... You can have belief in anything really.
When we allow fear to direct us, we can become stressed or anxious or doubtful. This leads to playing small in our lives, not taking risks, not learning, or not growing. In some cases, we let fear paralyze us completely and we don't play at all. Whatever you believe in has a positive field that pulls you forward, stronger than the negative field of the fear that holds you back.
Compassion over Greed
If you truly want your life to shift in a big way, then don't do it for yourself, do it for others. This may seem counterintuitive. As Pema Chodron teaches, compassion is truly the moral engine of positive change in the world. Change is often hard to make happen, and even harder to make stick. But if you hook your personal life transformation into serving a good that is greater than yourself, you will find energy that's there for you when your own reserves are low.
Greed has long been the centerpiece of career building and corporate empire building and country’s economic growth plans. There are winners and losers, in a zero sum game of getting resources and rewards. That “get more” attitude has led to the demoralization and destruction of people, planet, and spirit. We have examples like Enron and Exxon to show us the impact of greed and unconscious growth. It's damaging and it's not sustainable, not at the individual level, not at the global level. Work burnout is now at an all time high.
If we put compassion at the core of what we are creating, then our efforts will last longer, reach further, and serve to nurture us, as well as everyone else we touch.
Desire over Habit
What is it that you want for your life? What kind of world do you want to live in? What are the positive changes that you want to create or contribute to? This is your north star. Getting clear on your deepest desires is a critical part of creating meaningful changes in your life. If you don't know the answer to your deepest desires, then you won't know why you are bothering to change at all. And if you are lacking that desire, your habits will quickly creep in and stamp out whatever momentary inspiration or motivation flares up.
It can be tempting to give up when you're trying to make a major change in your life. A lot of times, it feels easier to just fall back into our old comfortable ways of being and thinking and doing things. When that happens, desire is what will get us up off the couch of complacency and get us moving again. This is the core principle behind Danielle LaPorte’s popular Desire Map book and seminars. Desire is what moves us. When we feel tired or lost or discouraged as we stumble along the way, desire is what will remind us why we started this journey to begin with, so we don't turn back when we are having a tough day.
Ultimately, our ego, fear, greed, and habits are not the enemy. These are all symptoms of how we have learned to cope and survive in the world; this is something that we needed as children, and is often still useful to us as adults. We don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. What matters is being able to catch ourselves in the act, and know when our less conscious self is up to something. When we invite awareness, belief, compassion and desire to guide us, then we are off the track and on the path to a purpose-aligned life. From this place, we understand the way we function in the world is separate from our true self, and that space is what gives us freedom to make a different choice and change our lives.