How to Change Your Life
We are often told that change is uncomfortable and difficult, that it inevitably involves pain, and that to change your life is to struggle and fight against the status quo. But there is another way. Change can be gentle, spontaneous and natural – effortless, even. With the right approach, big changes can occur without the upheavals we might normally associate with such shifts.
You create your own experience of life
It seems to be a rule of nature that similar things conglomerate. People from a similar social or cultural background are drawn together by a shared worldview; the rich and famous socialize within their own circle; similar scientific ideas which seem to arise at around the same time. The familiar saying, ‘birds of a feather flock together’ arises from this observation.
In the same way, our thoughts tend to attract the conditions we experience. In his now famous book, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, Joseph Murray writes,
“Everything that has happened to you happened because of thoughts impressed on your subconscious mind through belief… The habitual thinking of your subconscious mind establishes deep grooves… If your thoughts are harmonious, peaceful and constructive, your subconscious mind will respond by creating harmony, peace and constructive conditions.”
Our experience of life is a reflection of our inner world. The landscape we paint with our minds becomes the one we walk through every day. We are the architects, the creators of our world. Many people are unaware of this, thinking that life ‘just happens,’ that events occur by chance, and that they are forever at the mercy of random occurrences. If you want to change your life, you will need to take responsibility for creating your experience. Your thoughts draw experiences of a similar quality into your life, so it is vital that your thinking be constructive, positive and affirming.
Feeling good is the key to change
Whereas most people create the conditions of their life by default, the practice of deliberately directing your attention can change your life enormously. This need not be a difficult or complicated process: mind control, meditation, visualizations and endless affirmations are not needed. Nature has provided us with a navigational tool: our feelings.
Bad feelings should not be ignored or suppressed – they are telling you something important. When you feel bad – anxious, worried, afraid, depressed – something is wrong and you are being given a signal that your thinking is not drawing the experiences you truly desire into your life.
They should be acknowledged, accepted and dealt with. Again, there is no need for complicated methods to eliminate such feelings. Whenever you become aware of them, you know that your thoughts have drifted off onto the wrong track; gently direct your thinking back to the positive and the empowering.
When you feel very bad, it can be hard to see a way out, and it is important not to expect too much of yourself. Feelings of relief, hope or optimism are often the easiest things to reach for. Relax, accept that all is well and that, when you stop fighting so hard against your problems, life tends to support you. When a drowning man stops struggling, he floats. Thoughts of this nature – and the better feelings which go with them – are what you need to find.
Change takes time
Sometimes, revolution occurs. As a result of a sudden change in our mental landscape – a paradigm shift – our lives can change enormously in one fell swoop. After years of trying, one day I quit smoking. I just gave up, and I’ve never had a cigarette since then.
These shifts, however, are not the ordinary course of things. Most change takes time – it grows and matures. The tracks etched into our minds by years – or decades – of habitual thought are not wiped away instantly; they become fainter for lack of use, just as new tracks become established, slowly but surely, as we build them step by step, and soon become well-worn highways.
Trying to force the pace of change can lead to disaster – trying to pull grass to make it grow faster only kills it. A river rarely takes a straight course, meandering instead through the natural shape of the landscape, keeping to the lowest points, moving around mountains and hills. But the water keeps flowing and, eventually, reaches the sea.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished ” – Tao Te Ching
You need to be persistent
A new path can only be established by persistently being walked on. The new tracks you are making in your thought patterns will take time to become established, and at first they will be weak. Your thoughts may keep drifting back to the old, negative patterns. No matter – keep going and, in time, you will look back in amazement at how far you have come.
All journeys proceed one step at a time, and to change your life is to acknowledge that the process is important. Relax, enjoy the ride, have fun.
Change can be uncomfortable
As we set out on new pathways, the unfamiliar routes our minds need to take can seem strange and, as such, a little disconcerting. Can you recall a time when you found yourself in an unfamiliar situation? Perhaps you started a new job or moved to a new town. At first, things were uncomfortable. Soon, you got used to the new situation and you started to feel better.
The reason for the uncomfortable feelings was, as always, a result of your thinking – you probably worried about what could go wrong, about not being able to manage, about not doing well, and so on. You can reduce this ‘fear of the unknown’ by gently guiding your thoughts in an affirming and supportive direction. To change your life is to refuse to shy away from new situations. Even at such times, you can feel good. Remember: You are loved; all is well.
Action does not lead to change; change leads to action
It may seem counterintuitive, but effort does not result in lasting change or success. If it did, everyone who slaves away at jobs they hate day after day, year after year, would be successful and happy. Orchestrating the kind of life you desire is not about effort – it is about the right kind of thinking drawing experiences into your life. To change your life is to stop focusing on effort and start focusing on enjoying yourself. Action is how we enjoy the life we create; it is not how we create it.
Go with the flow
The key to lasting change is to go with the flow of your natural wellbeing. There is no hurry. The stream of life is taking you.
“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning.” – Tao Te Ching
Water is an apt analogy. It seeks the low ground and always yields to resistance. Yet water can, over many years, wear down sharp rocks into small, smooth pebbles and carve wide, deep channels through a landscape. This is how change takes place.
To resist the natural flow of life is pointless. We can easily become obsessed with acquiring something or getting somewhere, but to want something so badly is to push it away. To change your life is to work on ‘following your bliss,’ to move with the current. Let go, relax, fall into life. It may take you to wondrous new shores.
A thirty day challenge
For the next thirty days, begin each morning with the intention to be aware of your feelings. When you become aware of any kind of negativity as you go through your day, gently change your thoughts towards something that makes you feel better. The ‘better feeling’ doesn’t have to be extreme – we’re not talking about ecstasy, jumping for joy or falling in love (although this would be fine!) Just reach for something slightly better – a feeling of relief, being grateful for something, looking forward to something – anything that shifts your focus from ‘what’s wrong, what I don’t want’ to ‘what I like, what is good.’
* * *
At first, it might be hard. The old patterns are strong and they take time to fade. After thirty days, you will notice a difference. Things will have improved – more of the good stuff will be showing up, and you’ll be less bothered about the bad: it won’t matter so much.
Creating a new way of thinking can take time but, as with anything, gentle and persistent practice is the key to success. Many drips fill a bucket. Perhaps changing your life isn’t so hard.
Photo by vonSchnauzer
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