Willingness

hWhy willingness? I have the good fortune to be part of a wonderful weekly support group. Over time, I realized that I was resisting making the very changes I desired. Although I desired that change, there was something that I was not ready to give up. I wanted my life to be different, but I didn’t want to suffer through the process of change. A lack of willingness was, as much as anything, the result of the desire for comfort. I wanted change to be comfortable. I wanted to recognize whom I saw in the mirror. At the same time, I wanted to change.
Changing my beliefs about myself was, and is, one of the hardest things I have ever done. Willingness stripped me of my excuses. I wanted to change, but I was not sure I was willing to give up my former patterns. I would have to face my demons head on

The only way to do it is to do it.
There is no magic answer, no special pill, no tool, no word, no original technique that will make changing our lives easy. Reading a book, talking to friends, attending a seminar can’t guarantee us success. We’re looking for guarantees, but we will never get them. We cannot achieve our dreams through the work of others. There is never just one way to do something. We seldom have the comfort of a road map. Even when we do, the first move is always hard to take. You have to start at the beginning. You have to do something.
Change is hard. Often all we have is faith that it will work out. All too often, we are a little short on faith. We want to hold out for the sure thing. Seldom do things worth doing come easy, however. There is always the chance that we will fall down on our faces and break our noses. It doesn’t matter if we believe. To change we have to try. That can be the most frightening thing of all. There must be 1000 ways to say it, but in the end, the only way to do it is to do it.

So, you haven’t gotten started. Not to worry, most people haven’t. We are all full of excuses. It’s too hard. I don’t have enough time. I’m not strong enough. I’m not brave enough. I’m not smart enough. We will keep having excuses, until the pain of not doing something is greater than the pain of doing at. Excuses are irrelevant. When we are ready to do it, we will find a way, but as long as we listen to the excuses, as long as we shirk behind the fear, we will keep treading water.
We may say, “I don’t have excuses, I have reasons”. Yes, they are reasons, but they are also excuses. It may be hard, it may be painful, it may require great sacrifice, but when we get the point where we want it badly enough, we will find a way. The excuses are simply our reason not to try.
To “do it” we have to put ourselves out there. We have to be willing to look stupid. We need to be willing to have the people we love disapprove of us. We have to keep trying in the face of failure. Taking action makes us vulnerable. When things fall apart, it hurts. It can hurt financially. It can hurt our pride. It can do damage to our lives. When we live our dreams, we are showing people where to hit, if they want to hurt us. Making major changes isn’t for the faint of heart.
The problem with “the only way to do it is to do it” is that it is so easy no to do it. There may be a great show on TV, a new neighbor down the street we want to meet. Some people hide in an addiction. So long as we drink, or smoke, or obsess about food, or any of a myriad of vices we don’t have to think about what we really want. In fact, obliterating that addiction may be what we need to do. Just as long as we stay unwilling to give up time with the family, money from our pockets, or the same old comfortable way of thinking about things we stay stuck. Everyone would be his or her ideal self if it came with no cost.
What we need is permission. Permission to be selfish. Permission to fail. Permission even to try. We need to know we can’t be everything to everyone, and that is ok. We need permission to say no, sometimes. We even need permission to whine and complain, sometimes.
So, I’ll bet you’re thinking this sounds like a rotten deal. Why would anyone want to put themselves through all that mess? Once you realize that the only way to do it is to do it, you create a whole world of possibilities. From the very first step, fear becomes something controllable. Fear hides in the shadows, the unknown spaces in our heads. Fear tells us that first step is far too risky. Take the step, and you strip away that illusion. I won’t suggest that everything will be easy from that point forward. Because that is simply not true. But taking that step is the only way to create change. The only way to do it is to do it.
This concept will help reduce your regrets in life. Wondering what may have been can stay with us for a lifetime. Failing or being embarrassed, while not fun. Does not hold the same sting. When we face challenges in life, rather than procrastinating, making excuses, or finding excuse after excuse, we don’t have to wonder about what we could have done. It takes courage to take action. When we do, we answer the question “what if”. We can live life looking forward, rather than trying to forget what is in the past.
Often times we know we have to take action eventually. When we spend our time making excuses, we waste our precious time. When we (metaphorically) spend our time walking around in circles we tie up time and energy. We may take time away from our family or from fun activities. We may find ourselves up against a dead-line. We have to scramble and rush to meet our obligations. The quality of our performance may suffer. We may find we are constantly letting people down. There is no magic formula for getting started. The only way to do it is to do it.
All of this is nice and good, but how, really, does it apply to the real world? I am going to give you examples. Real examples from my life, in the hopes that you come to agree with me. These are powerful ideas. I must say I spend much time walking around in circles, learning and relearning these lessons. Life is a journey, and I learn more every day. I continue to relearn these concepts. When I live by them, I am happier and more productive. I was an expert at putting things off. Most of my life involved not feeling, not doing, and not facing my limitations. At times, I found the pain and fear of moving toward my goals overwhelming.
“The only way to do it is to do it” can be so empowering. For most of my life I suffered from terrible shame. It got to the point where I suffered from shame every time I was less than perfect. In other words, most of the time. This shame seriously hindered my efforts to develop relationships.
All of this is a lead-in to this brief synopsis.

Willingness

  1. It always comes down to “just do it”
    No matter how much support, stability, or relief you have. No matter how small the first step is, it still requires you to take it
  2. Realize you’ll have to make healthy choices over and over again
    What you intend to do, or have done yesterday doesn’t really count as progress today
  3. All you need to do is get it right more often than not
    Perfection is impossible. Setting a goal of getting something right at least 51% of the time enhances the power of the smaller, beginning steps. Progressing even very slowly is better than not at all
  4. Change can feel really bad
    Do it anyway
  5. You must give up something to grow
    Change will never be easy, painless, and have only positives. Often the cost of something becomes its value
  6. Actively challenge “absolutes”
    Pay attention to the language you use to define your own expectations
    “Can’t” usually means “won’t”
  7. Expect setbacks, back slides are part of the process
    They are a chance to practice
  8. Whose fault it is doesn’t matter
    Self-esteem comes from how you respond to what happens to you, not what happens to you
  9. It will never be easier then right now
    Maintaining bad habits only reinforces them
  10. There will never be a better time than right now
    Waiting for better conditions is procrastination
  11. Be selective about “support”.
    It is usually the people who challenge you (rather than the people who understand you) that most help you to change
  12. Insight alone does not create change
    Understanding can only take you so far. Eventually you must act