When making changes to our lives we need to know what stage of change we are in, our readiness to change. The stages range from complete ambivalence to preparing ourselves mentally to actively changing behaviors. One way to help find out if we are honestly READY to change is to Reflect on where we are and how we got there, Explore the realm of possibilities, find Acceptance for where we are starting from in the present moment, Determine what we are actually willing to do to make changes, and to ask ourselves whY change matters. I call this getting READY, a tool to help gauge what stage of change we are in and use to inform our confidence, competence, and our willingness to actually take action.
“The unexamined life is not worth living” –Socrates
When preparing to change our path from where we are now to where we want to go, there comes a time when we must take stock of how we got here in the first place. Reflecting on our lives can bring up thoughts, feelings, and emotions that can inform us about what we like, what we don’t like, and what we absolutely want to avoid. Reflection on the past is often the first step toward changing our path forward.
Reflection is looking in the mirror to see who we are in this present moment, and looking back to see how we got here. Who really is that man or woman in the mirror?
Remembering our agency and role when rewinding, seeing ourselves with radical honesty, and choosing which of our stories could use a revision. What narratives have we held on to and allowed to inform our identity and behaviors? How can they be rewritten truthfully in a way that better serves us? How can we update our stories to include the wisdom and the lessons we learned from the experience?
The past can be an anchor with a chain connected to us. It can hold us back from making the forward momentum necessary for growth, it can increase gravity’s pull on our being, weighing us down as we try to push forward, and – if we are ready to move beyond – it can also teach, inform, and allow us to move forward with less friction. We must make peace with our past, we must resolve that which remains unfinished, and we must let go of what we are holding on to that is not serving in positive ways.
Reflecting and examining ourselves require radical honesty. It demands truth so see the our authentic selves. We must ask ourselves about the origins of our narrative we tell ourselves and the stories we tell others. Are the stories really true? Or do they contain any falsehoods or lies?
A lie is a drop of dark energy that creates a false reality and forms a wave that ripples backward. It can continue to grow, building and building with great power, and washes over you and sometimes crashing back down in seconds, hours, days, years, and decades later. we must atone for falsehoods to set reality back on its true path from that we altered. If we fail to atone with truth, the dark wave will indeed crash and pull us back into its undertow and seating the anchor deeper into the ground.
Reflect on experiences that brought you pain, guilt, or shame? What lessons did those experiences provide? Reflect on experiences that brought joy, enthusiasm, and delight. What was it about those things that made them enjoyable? What actions swelled your heart with love? How can you translate those memories, feelings and emotions into what you want for your future pursuits? What experiences from the past can inform how to proceed into the future?
I loved swinging on a swing set as a child; the feeling of floating, of freedom, of control, the speed, heights and exhilaration stays with me and makes me smile thinking about it. I can’t say I actually want to go swinging now, but I can think of ways to recreate that thrill in future pursuits such as sailing, zip lining, or riding a rollercoaster (okay, perhaps not the rollercoaster).
Examine your highs and lows, reflect on what made you into the person you are right now, in this very moment. What remains to be resolved? Are you ready to move forward?
When light: possibilities, potential, excitement.
When dark: sadness, embarrassment, regret.
Go deeper: Revisit a moment in your past that elicits a negative self-image or emotion. Write about how it makes you feel, then write about what lessons you learned from the experience. Now looking through the lens of wisdom, what would you have done differently?