Why is change hard and what to do about it…
Jackie Lesser with Pat LePera
In coaching, we help people to understand that they have the power to change. But often, I noticed that the change was temporary. I wondered why. If my clients were capable of seeing the change they wanted to make; if they were able to separate themselves from old behaviors long enough to see that new meanings were possible, then, why didn’t that change take root? Why didn’t it stick?
In the process of answering that question, I realized that I was gestating a new model for making personal change – a transformational way of being and doing that I call The wHolyShift, a psychospiritual process that helps people create sustainable change. It is a model that I have used successfully in my life and have shared with my clients as well.
The wHolyShift emerged from the data I have collected over a long career — in the clients I saw, the countless workshops I have attended, the ones I led, and the more than 1,000 books I have read on spirituality, the human mind, and change. I have been an insatiable student. I knew there was a thread running through all of this data. I wanted to synthesize my insights and experiences into a model that I could use for myself and with my clients.
But the journey is as important as the destination. It turns out that a crisis in my own life served as the catalyst that allowed me to crystallize The wHolyShift – to take the threads of an idea that were emerging and weave them into a process with complete clear steps and outcomes.
The wHolyShift: a process for realizing lasting change!
So – how exactly does The wHolyShift work to achieve lasting change? Let’s go back to the basic idea of making meaning. As human beings, we are wired to make meaning. Events and circumstances in and of themselves are neutral. And experiences happen in the mind. Here’s an example.
Let’s imagine a family – a mother, father, and two children, a newborn and a six-year-old child – and this family wakes up one morning to a foot of snow – much more than predicted. In and of itself, snowfall is a neutral event, but each member of the family responds differently. The father, the family’s sole breadwinner, was due to fly out to pitch an important piece of business and he is angry because his plane is cancelled. He frustrated that he might lose a critical opportunity. The six-year-old is ecstatic because school is closed, and he can go sledding. The mother is fretting because she has planned a nationwide event that she can’t get to plus deal with an anxious husband and a wired six-year-old. The newborn, of course, is totally oblivious. Each member of the household responds differently to the snowstorm, depending on their own frame of reference, their idea about themselves and of how the world works.
We assign meaning based on what we perceive to be the truth about ourselves and the people and circumstances with whom we interact. These perceptions form for all sorts of reasons – the way we were raised, things that happen to us growing up – circumstances cause us to develop certain beliefs that solidify over time into truths. We then make choices based on what we believe about ourselves and others. But if we could change our perspective, we could ascribe new meaning to events and look at life differently. If we could change our perspective – about ourselves and our relationship to others and the outside world – we could make new choices that were not previously available to us. Based on those new choices come new actions.
We know that habits are networks; they are neural pathways. We don’t have to think consciously about tying our shoes – or breathing – or driving to our office every day – because we have wired our brains to do those things automatically. Our habits can be notoriously hard to break, because when we attempt to create new meaning and adopt new behaviors, we step over that part of ourselves which made the meaning in the first place. That part of ourselves that had come to believe that the stories they made up about themselves and others were absolute truths, and we have ceased to question them.
For example: someone who has had long term struggles with weight, who has tried and failed many times to lose that weight, may think of themselves as undisciplined, lacking in willpower, lazy, or a product of their genes. If we can work with that person to change his or her perspective from a person who needs to lose weight to that of a healthy person, the world begins to look differently. Healthy people don’t go on diets, but rather, they adopt a lifestyle. It is a way of thinking and living. It is a perspective on life. It is a choice. They can begin to make decisions as a healthy person would. How might I, as a healthy person, choose to get to a destination – walk or take a cab? What food choices might I make? Where would I shop? What would I do when I felt hungry?
Even as we change our perspective, if we don’t take care of the part of us that made bad choices in the first place, such as eating mindlessly, the change won’t become a habit. Something gets in the way. We are aware that something is creating discomfort. We realize, we are judging and not looking at ourselves lovingly.
But that is only one part of us. We are also capable of seeing ourselves apart from that, we acknowledge that the person who needs to lose weight is not the only part of us, there is that other part that is observing – that is saying “I feel badly, and I want to behave differently.”
There are always reasons why we do what we do. Maybe my mother made me clean my plate. Maybe my partner gets angry if I cook low fat foods. Maybe I was a lonely adolescent and ate to compensate or to fill a void. To create sustainable change, we have to take loving care of the things that caused the problem, the things that caused us to turn a perception into a truth.
If you don’t take care of the part of you that created the meaning in the first place, the part that is causing the “problem”, that part will be always be kicking and screaming. Once you do address it, once you accept that is simply how a part of you is feeling, you will find yourself moving from head to heart.
How do we get from where we are to where we want to be? By making The wHolyShift.
Step 1: THE BREATH
The breath is a powerful tool to get our energy moving and to bring our attention into the present moment.
Step 2 : BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND.
To enter in to this process you will want to consider how you want to feel? Peace? Freedom? In other words you want to BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND.
When you begin with the end in mind, what you want becomes the conscious and compelling driver to energize and move you from that end and to experiencing how you want to feel
What do you really want? What might success feel like? For example, if you really felt good about your body, what would that give you? Confidence. Freedom. A wider range of choices. What would it feel like to wear what you wanted, shop where you wanted, be able to wear clothes you love. How would it feel to be able to swim, run, or Zumba the way you want to, or take that cycling tour through Provence?
Step 3: AWARENESS.
THIS PATTERN, OR EXPERIENCE STARTED WITH A THOUGHT, EXTERNALIZED AND GIVEN AN IDENTITY THAT YOU FALSELY BELIEVED TO BE YOURSELF.
The invitation here is to see that there is a part of you that’s experiencing this emotion intensely. Since it is not the all of you, you can see it as a younger version of yourself. The first step in any transformational experience is awareness of how you feel and the willingness to include that feeling by accepting/surrendering to the present moment the way it is.
The part of your-self that has made meaning about an event or circumstance that is objectively neutral. We know this because the facts of the event can be reacted to or responded to very differently based on who’s making the meaning. The part of you that’s made this mean what you have has created the anger or the fear etc. and she/he is not necessarily questioning the truth of this or looking for another meaning. Feeling this way is very uncomfortable, so these parts are ejected or rejected. There is a law in the universe that says what you resist persists.
Step 4: ALLOWING
This step requires letting things be as they are. Allowing your feelings to be there as energy. Notice them without the meaning you’ve given them. Relinquishing your perception creates a freedom where there was imprisonment. Here you’re letting go of the need to be right and the need to perceive the world in a certain way. Another word for allowance is forgiveness or recognizing the neutrality in all events. All it takes is a willingness to surrender to what is and you will be free from suffering.
Step 5: ACCEPTANCE.
When we understand what we really want, we must acknowledge the part of ourselves that is not feeling confident or worthy. We have to take those parts and bring them back into the whole by accepting them unconditionally. We take the things that don’t feel good and we filter them through the heart. We bring all parts of ourselves into the huddle.
Unless we do this, there will always be a player acting out, screaming in our ears that failure is always around the corner. But what if we were to give that saboteur a voice? Listen to that part of ourselves without judgment. Listen with love. Use the filter of the heart as you listen and make it clear that you also love the saboteur as part of yourself, even as you seek to end the sabotage. By accepting and loving that part of you, the part that made the meaning up in the first place, you can transform this voice back into the nothingness that it came from.
Filtering these feelings through the heart creates movement, which is good because static energy is dangerous. It creates blockages, and on a mental level, hang ups. The saboteur’s ideas were untrue, they were simply thoughts you didn’t question that hardened into beliefs and infiltrated your life. The wHolyShift loosens up these feelings and lets you move forward.
Step 6: RIGHT RELATIONSHIP
By acknowledging the whole, I acknowledge the part of me that is in pain and grieving. I re-parent it, and I let that piece of me know that no matter what, you are loved. This is an on-going practice, as opposed to once and done. Now, we can choose how to be with the circumstance – the loss of a job, a spouse, destructive team members, the need to lose weight. Regardless of the issue, we can now choose a perspective, assign another meaning, without all the noise.
Beginning with the end in mind is a construct, and so is being in right relationship. Once you have imagined what you want and become aware that what is stopping you is only a part of you, not the whole of you, you can accept and integrate that part into the whole. That is what it means to be in right relationship with yourself and with the circumstance.
Step 7: Making a wHoly In-To-Great’ed CHOICE.
Once we are in right relationship with ourselves, we can make wholly integrated choices. Now that all of myself is available, I can choose the perspective that serves the highest and best. I can proactively decide how I want to be with what is. When I choose wellbeing, I am making that choice for all parts of myself. I now have a reference point with which to make wholehearted congruent decisions.
Step 8: INSPIRED ACTION
From choice comes inspired action. Wow, I really do deserve to feel good, and if I can imagine myself in right relationship with all of myself, I will make choices with thoughts of health and well- being in mind. My choices around food, of how I move, when to exercise, and how I plan my day. I will use well-being as a guiding light, a beacon, a principle. My first inspired action is going grocery shopping as a person whose guiding principle is well-being, and I will fill my fridge with healthy things.
The wHolyShift has been influenced by many sources. Katherine Woodward Thomas and Claire Zammit’s course in feminine power. “The Course of Love”. The works of Kristen Neff and Brene Brown. Workshops on the Inside Team ™, Internal family systems from Richard Schwartz, and other therapies and content on of how to honor and integrate the parts of the self into a whole.
What is unique is how I have expressed it. I have synthesized all that I studied and all that I learned in practice and filtered it through the lens of my own experiences. All of this information was channeled through me, and arrived with the conclusion that “we have to get all the parts together”. Many familiar staples are in the recipe, but the taste is all my own. I changed how long I cook it and added my own ingredients. The bottom line is to help people navigate in life, love and leadership and create a Whole new world.