Have you ever wondered what enables some people to make positive changes throughout their lives while others seem to be standing still in situations that they are clearly unhappy with? What enables some people to take risks and use courage to forge into the unknown to grow and develop in positive ways? To help illustrate how some people make the decision to take such risk, I would like to share with you a metaphoric story.
There was a young girl who lived happily and comfortably in her everyday world. She felt as though she lived in a neat little sandbox where the perimeters of her life were well defined and she was accustom to all of her toys and she could easily navigate her surroundings. She found great comfort in the level of play that existed in that small but familiar little box. She new the texture of the sand, she could easily find her way around, and she had many sandbox friends that played with the same kind of toys that she enjoyed. This was working wonderfully for her, up until a point. She noticed that she began feeling restless in her little sandbox.
At first she tried to suppress her restlessness, but her feelings always resurfaced. She felt a desire to step out of her little sandbox to explore what lie beyond it. She thought about it for awhile before she had enough courage to venture out into the unknown. But every time she got close to the edge a little voice from within her would yell,” Get away from the edge! You don't know what's out there! It might be dangerous for you! You better stay right here where you know it's safe!” For a long time, she listened to this inner voice and stayed restless in her tiny sandbox.
Then one day, as if a light switch had been turned on in her head, she felt up for the risk at hand and so, she leaped out her sandbox to see what possibilities existed for her. To her great surprise, she was in absolute amazement at what she had discovered. Right outside of her little sandbox was an enormous beach! She saw rolling white sand, crystal blue water, tons of new people playing exciting new beach games, all kinds of different sea creatures and so much more!
She was in awe that for so many years, there had been a whole new and exciting world in progress right outside her sandbox that she never knew existed. No sooner did she think this when that familiar inner voice spoke to her again. It said, “Are you kidding me? You jumped out of the sandbox? You don't belong here! You're way too little to play here. You could get hurt! It may be unsafe for you!” Her first instinct was to listen to that inner voice and run back to the safety of her familiar little sandbox. But instead she chose not to listen to it but rather to take one step to see how she could navigate this new terrain.
At first she walked with some trepidation because she was unsure of what was coming next. As she walked, she noticed that she was getting stronger with every step she took. After a few successful steps, she became more confident and even more curious about this new gigantic beach she was now playing on and the possibilities that could exist for her if she chose to play there. But as she continued, she became somewhat frightened by some things she had never experienced before, things like the crashing of the waves, the wind that was blowing, the strong heat of the sun beating on her and the birds that flew over her head. These things were all new to her. She was tempted to run back to her little sandbox but instead, she did not run back. Instead she used the courage she had inside of herself to continue taking one step at a time as she navigated her new surroundings. She soon began to realize that she could never again live happily in her little sandbox for she had grown to love the excitement and endless possibilities that awaited her each day as she roamed the beauty of this new gigantic beach she had chosen to play on.
I love this metaphoric story because it helps to make the correlation to making a decision in our lives to take risk and stretch outside of our comfort zone to allow ourselves to grow and make positives changes in our lives. Change is not an easy process. If it were, we would stroll through our lives rolling from one stage to an even better one with no difficulty at all. The fact is, however, that change is a process that takes time, commitment and tremendous support in order for it to truly be accomplished. To clarify, it is important to understand that there are stages in the process of change.
This is crucial to understand, as we often can get frustrated or confused as we watch ourselves make the same detrimental choices over and over despite our verbal desire to change. This lack of action toward change could be based on where we are in the process of change. By recognizing where we are in the stages of change, it is possible to work to uncover what is keeping us from progressing further.
Listed below is a brief description of the stages of change. These stages were discovered by three psychologists, James O. Prochaska, John C. Norcross, and Carlo C. DiClemente.
1. Precontemplation: In this stage, the person does not see that they have a problem. They are in denial. People in this stage have no intention of changing themselves and usually only seek help with strong pressure from others. They often resist changing.
2. Contemplation: In this stage, the person acknowledges that they have a problem and begin to think about solving it, but feel as though they are “stuck”. They know they have a problem and may even know what they need to do to change it, but they are not ready to make the commitment to taking action towards change.
3. Preparation: In this stage, the person is planning to take action in the immediate future. They begin focusing more on the solution than the problem. They begin looking hopefully to the future as opposed to focusing on past failures. This individual is committed to action, but has not resolved all of the mixed feelings they may have in regard to changing.
4. Action: In this stage, the person takes visible action steps. They take the steps towards resolving their problem.
5. Maintenance: In this stage, the person works to maintain
the strides they have made in the previous stages. If they do not have a
strong commitment to maintenance and a support structure in place, they
are at great risk of relapsing back into a previous stage.
6. Termination: In this stage, the person has reached their ultimate goal! Their former problem behavior is no longer an issue and they have complete confidence that they can cope without fear of a relapse.
Keep in mind that change can only begin to occur when an individual is in the stage of action. Having an understanding of this allows us to be nonjudgmental as to where one is on their own journey towards change. While it may be difficult to appreciate the process, recycling through the stages gives an individual the opportunity to learn and restrategize as they move through the changing cycle.
If you are saddened that you have repeated a problem behavior, you are not alone and you may just be on your way to getting out of the cycle for good! Remember, positive change occurs one step at a time. I challenge you to ask yourself, “What is my first step?”
For more information on changing in a positive direction and empowerment techniques, you may contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at http://www.elizabethsavino.com.
Elizabeth Savino is a personal life coach and founder of Sole Life Coaching. She specializes in women's issues and women in transition. With the support, guidance, and motivation of a life coach, women gain clarity about what direction they would like to move in the next stage of their lives. Elizabeth assesses the individual life of each client to identify areas for growth. They then formulate the steps needed to reach the client's specific goals.
Elizabeth began her career teaching students with special needs and varying disabilities for several years. She chose to put her professional career on hold to devote her time and energy into being a role model and teacher for her own children. Elizabeth also used this time as an opportunity to pursue interests that she felt passionate about. She is an avid runner and enjoys training for and competing in races. She uses this passion to motivate others.
Elizabeth studied coaching through Mentor Coach which is a coaching school primarily for psychologists, mental health professionals and individuals with education backgrounds.