Is there a change you want to make in your life but you’re stuck and stymied by it? Perhaps you’re at that point in midlife where you long to find something entirely different to do with the rest of your life but you’re not taking action to discover what that might be. Maybe you already know what you want to do in the next chapter of your life but you’re not doing it. You might want to exercise more or eat healthier foods. Whatever the change is, it’s one you’ve not (yet) been able to make. Sometimes change comes easily and naturally; we explore, experiment, learn, improvise, adapt. Sometimes change is difficult; we try and try and try to change — and we fail. When that happens, we may blame and criticize ourselves or just give up or tell ourselves we don’t really care anyway. We begin to feel hopeless, helpless, and powerless. It’s Not Just You In his book, “Change or Die” Alan Deutschman cites studies showing that even when patients are faced with death if they don’t make changes (such as stop smoking, exercise, eat healthier) only ONE in TEN is able to make the necessary changes. That’s when the choice is change or die! So, if you’ve been unsuccessful in making changes in your life, you’re not alone. No need to beat yourself up; you’re just being human! Numerous studies and our own personal experiences tell us that facts, fear, “shoulds” and “ought to’s” don’t help people change. What does help? In his research, Deutschman uncovered a number of situations (with heart disease patients, career criminals, factory workers) where change seemed hopeless yet it happened. From this he identified three critical keys that will help you make important, positive changes in your life: relate, repeat, and reframe. Three Critical Keys to Change RELATE “Build a new relationship that will inspire you and give you hope,” Deutschman recommends. Find a person (or community) who believes you can and will change. They “sell” you on yourself so you believe that you have the ability to change. They persuade you they’ll be your partner in the change and that their methods will work for you. Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step programs do this. They offer a community of people who believe you can change using their methods; they know it worked for them so it can work for you. This inspiration and hope has helped many, many people to change. Depending on the kind of change you wish to make teachers, coaches, personal trainers, nutritionists, naturopaths, and many others all could play this role. REPEAT Deutschman says, “The new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills you will need.” Making a change requires new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. It can take a lot of repetition to master and integrate these new ways of being. Your person or community “trains” you, providing guidance, encouragement, and direction until your new behavior becomes automatic and natural. REFRAME “The new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life,” notes Deutschman. Over time, as you continue to relate and repeat, you see the world in a different way, a way you couldn’t see before, a way that supports you in making the change a permanent one. Experiences with the Three Keys Have you had experiences that fit with these three keys? Times when relate, repeat, and reframe gave you new hope, new skills, and new thinking to make an important change in your life? And also times when you didn’t have these keys in place and the change didn’t happen? I certainly have. As I’ve thought about this in the last few weeks, I’ve revisited numerous examples in my own life. I’ve tried four or five times to learn to play the piano. I’ve never gotten close to the level of playing I wanted. I’ve criticized myself as lacking discipline and persistence. But maybe I just haven’t found the right (for me) teacher and method of instruction that would give me the belief I could succeed, the encouragement and guidance as I learned new skills, and the new view of myself as a piano player. Here’s an example of success I’ve had with the three keys. When I wanted to change how I was living my life, I chose Cathy Hawk to help me. She was my coach, mentor and teacher to learn to live “lights on.” She completely believed I could make this change, inspiring me and giving me hope. She guided and encouraged me again and again along my bumpy path as I learned new, dramatically different skills for navigating my life. Eventually I had a new view of myself and my life that allows me to live with much more joy, ease, passion, and purpose. It’s fun for me to see that these three keys also apply to my own work with clients. When the fit between us is right, I’m able to inspire them, give them hope, and help them believe they can create lives filled with pleasure, passion and purpose. I teach, guide, and mentor them as they practice new ways of living. They develop new ways of thinking about themselves and their lives. With these three keys to change in place, they are able to make the life changes they want to make. In Your Life Do you have a change you’d like to make and, so far, have had difficulty making? Here’s what I suggest. 1) Identify what you want to change, something you’d like to be or feel or do differently in your life. Be very clear and specific about what you want. Of course, if it’s something you’re “lights on” about (a vision, dream, or desire that energizes and enlivens you), that’s a significant boost to the process of change. 2) Find a relationship that will inspire you and give you hope. This relationship is the foundation upon which your successful change will be built so pay close attention to who you choose. You want an individual or a community with people, methods, approaches, and strategies that light you up, that you’re energized and enlivened by, that you’re drawn to. 3) Give yourself permission and the time to learn, practice, and master (with guidance, direction, support from your new relationship) the new skills that will enable you to make the change you want to make. 4) Allow your view of yourself, your situation, and your life to be changed as well. Yes, some changes can be difficult to make and that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. When you’re having difficulty making a change you’d like to make, try using the three crucial keys to change: relate, repeat, reframe. Your new hope, new skills, and new ways of thinking will allow you to make significant, important changes in your life. Enjoy!