This morning I drove six miles for a cup of coffee. I do this because I am trying to give up coffee. If this doesn’t make sense to you, let me explain my logic. You see, I want to let go of this coffee drinking habit, one I know is not too healthy for me, so I don’t stock coffee in my kitchen cupboards. If I don’t have it, I won’t drink it. But when the urge gets so strong to have a cup, and tea no longer satisfies, I find myself rearranging my morning schedule to drive by Cuppa Joe, the purveyor of the finest coffee in my neck of the woods to indulge once more. It just happens to be six miles away!
Do you think I have a problem, maybe even an addiction to coffee? I know I do. So this morning I am mindful once again of what it takes to make an important shift in one’s life. I’m pondering: What is required to create a lasting or permanent change in one’s life? It seems to me that there are four very important elements required for significant, and hopefully, long-lasting change to occur.
Timing is everything, and when it comes to change, this is the launching off place for all new beginnings. We must be ready. We must be at a point in our lives where we know deep within our being that it is time to let go—time to let go of anything that is no longer working or acceptable to us. This can be a dysfunctional relationship, unfulfilling job, health condition, or being overweight. Any habit or addiction which has us in a stranglehold qualifies.
For many of us, we must be in a place of great discomfort or pain to finally acknowledge that it’s time to disconnect from the source of our agony. Those of us who are tough cookies may need to be lying face down in the mud before we hear the call to live in a new way.
A recent re-reading of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron reminded me of the importance of readiness. In this bold and inspirational book on recovery and reclaiming wholeness through creative expression, the author openly shares her former addiction to alcohol. It seems that as a Hollywood screenwriter and journalist, alcohol provided her with the courage she needed to write. She said, “If I could have continued writing the old, painful way, I would certainly still be doing it. The week I got sober, I had two national magazine pieces out, a newly minted feature script, and an alcohol problem I could not handle any longer.” For her, timing was everything. Readiness was crucial. And so it is with us. We must be absolutely ready to give up the old to welcome in the new. Like Ms. Cameron, many of us have to be face-to-face with the pain we see reflected in the mirror in order to make a real and lasting change.
Once we are committed to making the changes that beckon, a burning desire is required to fuel our efforts. A namby-pamby, apathetic, carefree approach to anything does not result in great change. We must want something so strongly we can feel it, taste it, touch it. Only then is it truly within our grasp. Ask any woman who has lost a great deal of weight. She will tell you that her final drop in weight came when the picture of her thinner, healthier self was so strong in her mind that no other image was acceptable. Oprah Winfrey is a grand example of this. With single mindedness of purpose, she has chosen, again and again, to recreate her physical self, despite overwhelming odds and a self-proclaimed food addiction. (Read her candid account of this in her book, Make the Connection.) Any one of us can do the same if we fall in love with a new ideal of ourselves, then zealously pursue it.
Despite perfect timing and abundant passion, there comes a time in our changeover when the temptation to return to old ways will inevitably rear its head. No one said change was easy. Long term change does not happen overnight; it takes time. As human beings, we get discouraged when the going gets tough, when the cravings kick in, when the pounds don’t peel off easily, or when stress undermines our efforts and causes us to weaken. Perseverance is required to overcome the obstacles that will inevitably come our way. Fortitude to conquer the tendency to give up when the journey loses its luster. The courage we need to implement change is deep within us. It may be necessary for us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and try very, very hard—just one more time.
We all need cheerleaders, supportive others who can run the race toward change with us. No one should make significant life changes alone and yet many of us think we should. ‘This is my problem, my addiction,’ we think, ‘and I will handle it just fine.’ If we can come to the awareness that it’s okay to share our weaknesses with others (knowing none of us is without such weaknesses), we can open ourselves to others, gaining sturdy companionship for the journey. Alcoholics Anonymous provides a perfect model for lasting change. This life-enhancing program has helped millions of people with drug and alcohol addictions by providing them with a sponsor, someone who has walked the long, hard road to recovery themselves.
Do you have someone who can be your life-change sponsor? Someone who can support you through the ups and downs of change? As success stories reveal, the odds of us reaching our goal are much greater if we have a buddy or two who will travel with us.
With the dawning of a new year, our thoughts will naturally turn to all of those things we wish to let go of or move toward in our lives. What are yours? My hope for you is that your change will be timely, passionate, persistent, and supported so that a new you can burst forth onto the horizon. It’s a new day, a new year, a new life. Your new self, your truest self, calls!