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How does a person completely change?

 

Is it overnight or overtime?

 

I seem to think it's overnight -- like a switch going off. You can't be gradually responsible, you either are or aren't right?

 

Of course, there's 'to change you must first become the change'.

 

Change is inevitable. You slack in school, you eventually fail. You quit your job, you'll end up broke. You don't pay your bills, you arrive in a place you wish you weren't. You neglect the ones you love, you lose them.

 

I think the real mystery is this, how do people who have suffered tremendous losses, whether actual or perceived, remove that from their mind and focus on real happiness. How do you forgive yourself for mistakes, for stupidity, for selfishness, and so forth?

 

Why do most people find interest and intrigue in the faults of others? Is it to feel better that that wow I'm at least not like them? How do well known people bounce back from publicity saturated meltdowns and misconduct?

 

If you are 20, or 30, or 40, or 50 how do you say, well for 99% of my life I've been this way, but today I'm going to change! I'm gong to resurrect a child-like curiosity and ambition and revolutionize my existence. I failed, I procrastinated, I squandered opportunity, I've lied, I've cheated, I've deceived myself and others, I've hurt, I've exploited, I've committed crimes but now, this moment and forever, I'm a complete new person.

 

Is it possible?

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There are two key reasons why people in a situation may not change:

 

1. Because they don't want to (culture inhibited)

2. Because they have something to loose (risk inhibited)

 

This applies to virtually anything, from a massive multinational corporation to a monkey in a cage.

 

There is a single difference between the people who succeed and the people who don't. Its very simple. And when I began applying this in my life, when I commited to the change. My whole life changed overnight. There are people who WISH and people who WANT. The people who wish stand around saying "wouldn't it be nice if...", and the people who want say "If I want it enough I will get it".

 

Change is about facing and accepting risk. It is about not being safe. Reasonable people do reasonably well. The person who has nothing to loose is in the best position to change. They have nothing risk.

 

Remember: If you want something, whether you get it or not will be determined by how much you want it. People scoff at this statement all the time... like "what about someone with no legs? Are you suggesting that they just don't want to walk enough?"... well... Mark Inglis climbed everest with no legs. He replaced them with prosthetics. Sometimes our perspective focuses us so we can't see the other possibilities.

 

Sometimes when I explain I am doing something, people say "but you can't do that". Why not? Because people seem to think that all the "good breaks" in life happen by chance. Well, maybe thats true. But you can either wait around for that chance to wander on to you or you can put yourself in every opportunity to run into that chance.

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A friend of mine used to say "Most people only change when they reach a point of maximum discomfort."

 

While it's possible for "overnight" change to happen, my experience has been that it's usually a slow, lengthy process. To an outside observer, a change might appear to occur suddenly, but for the person undergoing change, there's usually been a lot of mental preparation and subtle growth going on over time that lays the foundation for outer, visible changes to occur. The exception might be in the case of a sudden, unplanned catastrophic event (like a car accident or plane crash). Even in those situations, you find folks that have a hard time adjusting to life after the event because they're having trouble dealing with the sudden change.

 

I've been keeping a journal since I was 12. I'm 42 now, and I have kept the majority of my scrawling. It's very easy for me to go back and see where I have changed (and where I haven't) over the last 30 years. In most instances, it's a case of looking back over a time period (6 months, a year, 5 years) and being surprised by how far I've come because the changes -- particularly in my attitude -- have usually been very slow, subtle and gradual.

 

What I've noticed reading my journal, is that, while I remember traumatic events that happened to me -- relationship break-ups, the sudden unexpected death of a friend, booting my parents out of my life -- over time, the raw emotions connected to those events fade. It just doesn't feel like it felt when it was happening. I suppose it'd be different for someone who suppressed strong emotions at the time and never dealt with them, but I'm not really like that (thanks, mostly, to 10+ years of therapy). I feel what I feel in the present moment, and I'll throw myself into it wholeheartedly whether it's feeling happy, sad, angry or whatever.

 

I find the other thing that happens over time is that the frequency of thoughts about past events decreases. While in the midst of a break-up, I might think of the ex every day, in a year or two, the frequency of thoughts about the ex has dropped off to "maybe once a month" or "just at certain times, like his birthday."

 

I think the real mystery is this, how do people who have suffered tremendous losses, whether actual or perceived, remove that from their mind and focus on real happiness. How do you forgive yourself for mistakes, for stupidity, for selfishness, and so forth?

 

You stop focusing on what's gone wrong, and instead focus on what's gone right...and keep your focus and attention on the present moment and not the past. One of my favorite sayings is "Even the almighty God cannot change the past," so there's really no point in you ruminating over what's done and gone. It's a waste of time and energy to do so. Your power is in the present moment....but you'll never see that, much less act on it, if you're too busy looking backwards.

 

If you are 20, or 30, or 40, or 50 how do you say, well for 99% of my life I've been this way, but today I'm going to change! I'm gong to resurrect a child-like curiosity and ambition and revolutionize my existence. I failed, I procrastinated, I squandered opportunity, I've lied, I've cheated, I've deceived myself and others, I've hurt, I've exploited, I've committed crimes but now, this moment and forever, I'm a complete new person.

 

Is it possible?

 

It takes time to build up to the point where one makes a realization that change is necessary/desirable. And making the declaration that you're going to change takes a moment, the actual nuts and bolts of going from SAYING it to BEING it is another slow and gradual process. It's made up of changing one's attitude first, and then following through with changes to one's behavior and choices based on the new outlook.

 

I fell off the recovery wagon from my eating disorder about a year and a half or two years ago. Part of the process of getting back in recovery has been evaluating my attitude toward exercise. What I'm aiming for is looking at physical activity like a child does -- something fun, something you want to do on a regular basis because it feels good....and taking physical activity out of the context of -- something I have to do to lose/maintain weight, something I HAVE TO do if I don't want to get sick and keel over dead with a heart attack.

 

Which attitude is going to make me more likely to get to the gym or my yoga classes or just off my couch to go outside for a walk? (Hint: 20 years of "YOU MUST DO THIS OR DIE" attitude hasn't exactly made me the poster girl for being physically fit)

 

I've been looking at exercise as a necessary evil for, oh, a good 20 years now...so basically my entire adult life. I've been actively working on changing that attitude AND my actions for about 4 months. Has there been progress? Yes. Do I go to the gym every day and love it? Nope. There are some days my "YOU MUST DO THIS OR DIE" attitude is alive and well. But, there are days when I'm more focused on the joy of just moving...and those days are getting to a point where they're equal to the "YOU MUST DO THIS OR DIE" days. If I keep up with my efforts to change my attitude and actions, at some point the "YOU MUST DO THIS OR DIE" days will be a rare occurrence.

 

That is the nature of change, though...adopting a new attitude/outlook, then following it up with corresponding actions, choices and behaviors.

 

Our minds have incredible creative power...and many people will never choose to harness that power to create the life they want because their fear of change and focus on past events will keep them stuck.

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I think the real mystery is this, how do people who have suffered tremendous losses, whether actual or perceived, remove that from their mind and focus on real happiness. How do you forgive yourself for mistakes, for stupidity, for selfishness, and so forth?

 

They decide to, it's as simple as that. Although I don't believe someone can change overnight, I do believe they can change their attitude over night and thus their life in a matter of moments.

 

KEEPING that frame of mind is why people say no one can change overnight. When you believe you can't, you're right. When you believe you can, you're right.

 

"When you believe it, then you will see it."

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I love this topic, as I am currently going through the huge upheaval of a big emotional shift in my life. It's been loud, messy, painful, and even a bit frightening. But I'm beginning to see daylight at last, and boy, what a ride it's been! I'm almost sorry it's ending.

 

I don't think anyone completely changes. I've had to do alot of thinking about the nature of personality, and my understanding is that personality is at least in part genetic, so completely changing isn't actually possible. But we have choice as to what aspects of our personality we will bring out, and which we will try to leave behind. So, in changing, what we are actually trying to do is imagine or find within us our best possible selves, and express that in our lives -- in our interests, work, relationships, etc.

 

It's not always a bad thing to be able to identify the failings of others; granted, it's a real cheap self-esteem boost, but it is at least a sign post defining a direction we don't want to go in. We read about the big celebrity divorce, and think, hmmm, no infidelity for me, thanks! As long as we can keep our comments to ourselves, it's no harm done. But it's important to recognize that other people are human, and so are we -- and that bad events, or decisions, do not define someone's worth or potential. It is critical to remember that.

 

One of the characteristics of resilient personalities is the ability to determine that they are going to choose how to react to events in their lives. A resilient personality would be determined that the past could be left in the past, and a new future created by actively making choices to progress in that direction. I know this is possible because many people have done it. Most abused children do not become abusers; most children of alcoholics do not become alcoholics, and so on. Yes, people bear scars, they are wounded, but for resilient people, it is not their woundedness that defines them, it is their strengths and the dreams they pursue.

 

Change can start with seemingly insignificant things. A year ago this December, I decided to celebrate the anniversary of meeting my first "true love" by doing things he & I had talked about, and might have done together if things had worked out. And from that whim, amazing things have come....

 

I wish you all good changes.

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Chage for me is a life long goal. It comes from seeing so much dysfunction ( alcoholism, abuse, neglect, shame, bad anger, destroyed relationships) in my family that enough was enough.

I moved away geographically, I put emotional distance between myself and my mom, I didn't date for a long time, I went back to therapy. I started excercising again.

It's a day by day decision. Somedays I am wiped out by all the change and need to rest. But I know even on those days I have got the ball rolling and it won't roll backwards.

I keep looking ahead. I keep focused on finding what is satisfying to me.

I started a new relationship and have kept up my standards of complete honesty and openess . ( which have not honored in the past)

It's hard to be honest with my partner about who I am , when I have so many misgivings about who I am to begin with. But I need to be loved for who I am really am, not the illusion I would create of me by lieing.

It's a slow , gradual, day by day change.

And I am doing all of this before I have kids, before I am married and in a rut. I want to set myself up for happiness. I want to create a life situation that is as little stress as possible. I want to lay a foundation for family, stability, good choices, responsibility, health in essense.

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