Traits and Attitudes that are Necessary for implementing change.
When attempting to make meaningful changes in our lives it is important to know that certain character traits and attitudes will either facilitate or inhibit the change process. In the previous posts I talked about a few attitudes and perceptions that are guaranteed to sabotage change, such as perfectionism and all-or-nothing thinking. Today we’re going to focus on the traits that are vital to adopt when creating meaningful, lasting change; they are: curiosity, compassion for yourself, self-care, practice, patience, and persistence.
Curiosity simply means wondering about, rather than judging, what makes you do what you do. This is a cornerstone of the way I work with my clients. Judging yourself is heading down a dead end street; it simply cuts off the access to your mind and your heart that is necessary for understanding ourselves. Curiosity, on the other hand, opens the doors to your mind and your heart and provides you with incredibly valuable information about your motivations and actions. The next time you find yourself doing something you would like to be doing differently, imagine saying to yourself, “Hmmm, that’s interesting. I wonder why I did that,” rather than, “I can’t believe I did that. I’m such a loser.” Do you see how one invites further curiosity and investigation, whereas the other just stops us dead in our tracks?
Compassion for yourself means never, ever saying something to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend or young child. You do not deserve to be called names or speak ill of yourself. You deserve to receive the same compassion, permission, and forgiveness that you afford to those you love. This does not mean that you should avoid being honest with yourself; we will never change if we cannot give ourselves a fair and square appraisal. Compassion means looking clearly at our faults and not thinking we are bad because of them. It’s the difference between, “I made a mistake,” and “I am a mistake.”
Self-care is a direct reflection of self-worth. The quality of self-care you practice is predicated on how much you value yourself. Generally speaking, if you value something highly, you take good care of it. Conversely, if you don’t think too much of something, you probably won’t put much effort into taking care of it. The four areas of our life that we typically need to dedicate time and energy into taking care of are: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Practice. Remember the marble analogy? The more times the marble rolls down the other side of the hill, the deeper the groove in the sand will get. That’s why practice makes progress (notice I did not say practice makes perfect). The more you think or behave in a certain way, the more ingrained it will become. The more you do something, the easier it will become, because your neural pathways are being reinforced every time you do it.
Patience is the quality that I see people most often write themselves off from. There is an idea that it is either something we have or we don’t, as if it were owning a house or some other object. But in reality, patience is a learned skill, albeit influenced by our biochemistry, and anyone can practice the act of patience. Patience basically asks us to sit with the discomfort of wanting. We tend to get impatient when we want things to be different than they are. We want the girl at the checkout counter to move faster, or the car in front of us to get out of our way, our partner to do the dishes, etc. I could write an entire post on the act of patience, but for now let’s just say that patience involves pacing yourself, lowering your expectations, and staying in the present moment.
Persistence is the ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how frustrated or hopeless you feel. Persistence does not mean focusing exclusively on your goal 24/7, or being perfect 100% of the time, that’s obsession and perfectionism! Persistence is knowing that sometimes it’s okay to take a break AND getting back up even after we stumble.
If you already possess most or many of the qualities described in this post, you will likely find it easier to create meaningful changes in your life. However, if you have few or none, you will likely have to work at developing these attitudes and traits along with forging ahead on your path of change. Do not be discouraged!
Underlying all of these traits that contribute to change, there is just one that we MUST possess…WILLINGNESS. You may not have a single one of these traits right now, but if you can find willingness to try getting curious or compassionate, employing self-care, practice, patience, and persistence, you will inevitably create an abundance of each of these qualities.