The 3 Elements of Change

By: Scott Reall

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Do you remember your new year’s resolution? Probably not. In fact, we know that more than 90% of New-Year Resolutions have failed by March.[1] Unless you are part of the 10%, you are probably shrugging your shoulders and thinking, ‘well there’s always next year.’ Lasting change is hard work, and total transformation can feel even more impossible.

The longer I live, the more set in my ways I become and change isn’t always the most welcome experience. It seems like when we’re younger, we embrace change a lot easier – life is full of new opportunities and challenges and we’re excited to be apart of the many new seasons of life. But, with each passing year we become settled into a certain pattern, we get into a comfort-zone and start to resist change.

The sad thing about settling is that we stop growing. We miss opportunities that will challenge us; not stepping into new environments that could change our perspective, skipping out of relationships in a desire to stay “safe.”

Personal growth cannot happen is we don’t embrace the uncomfortableness of change.

I have spent the better part of my adult life trying to help people who know they need to change, but feel stuck and afraid that they will always be this way. We have a saying that we use a lot, ‘when we are stuck in our normality, we fiercely cling to what we know.’ Even if it’s dysfunctional, destructive, or keeps us from growing…we resist change. Most, if not all of the time, the fear of the unknown has us settling for lives so inferior to what we are capable of living.

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So, how is real change going to happen? If we don’t want to be stuck, but year-after-year find ourselves in the 90% of resolution dropouts, what now?

There are 3 mental and emotional shifts that must happen in order to let go of the old, before we can embrace the new.

  1. Vision. Michelangelo said, “I saw the angel in the stone and I carved until I set him free.” We need to always begin the change process with a vision of where we are going and what we are going to become. Vision always creates intrinsic motivation, which creates a clear picture of the possibilities in a new life – all the good that will come from the change. You must see it before it can become a reality. One of the reasons vision is critical is because things will get difficult, and when they do you need a well-drawn map to guide your feet down the path.

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  1. Support. We need others who are walking a similar journey to freedom. In supportive relationships, we not only gain encouragement, but inspiration through each-others successes and struggles. Anytime we’re trying to change something in our lives, it’s very difficult—if not impossible—to do it alone. It’s absolutely critical that you have the necessary support. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, change jobs, re-evaluate a broken relationship, or quit smoking – find a healing community. It could be one or two hand selected friends, a counselor or therapist, or a small group of strangers.
  2. Grief. All change contains loss. To break away from something we have always known, even in the pursuit of something better, we must confront the loss that must be grieved. Saying goodbye is so important as we accept that the normality we have been living in is about to change and will never be the same. Only when you grieve the loss of your old life, are you ready for a new beginning.

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No matter where we are in life, no matter how old we are we need to be stepping into this always-evolving process of change. These steps are not always the most simple, or can be made in a day, but little by little you can re-train your brain to begin a new way of thinking, leading to a new way of living.

[1] Statistic Brain Research Institute

Why I run from what I long for…

 

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Recently, I have been stuck in a pattern that I dislike: longing for intimacy, but being terrified of vulnerability. For me, there are two types of vulnerability: one type I bring into a small group; the second I bring to one-on-one relationship. In close personal relationship I am far more guarded. I am comfortable in group, but in one on one relationships, I retreat because the risk is so much greater. Vulnerability with those I’m closest with requires honesty and truth about what I am longing for and what my weaknesses are; it is here that I am most afraid. In truth, I am fully aware that you can use my vulnerability against me and choose to reject me.

Rejection would really hurt so I remain guarded, distant, disconnected, no intimacy in close relationships, and I remain lonely.

What I have come to realize is that I fiercely cling to what I know. Even though I may be suffering by clinging to dysfunction, I don’t do anything to change it. Instead, I continue to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. I fear confronting a reality that I find unacceptable. But I accept it fearing that I will just make it worse if I try to change it.

This pattern becomes dangerous because I isolate and withdraw, then use some type of escape to fill the void, perpetuating resentment and self-pity. This pattern continues repeating with some small periods of relief like vacations or trips–but at the heart of it is loneliness. I stop trying to connect.

Brené Brown says, “Those who are vulnerable and risk pain and suffering from vulnerability live whole-heartedly; imperfect and wired for struggle, but worthy of love and belonging.”[1]

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What I am learning in this struggle is people deserve to know the truth. Yes, there is risk and potential suffering from sharing the truth, but it is the only path to being truly known. Isolation is the fertile soil of making bad choices to alleviate the pain. I can choose to suffer in isolation and silence withholding my truth from people, knowing that it will never bear fruit other than loneliness, or I can choose to suffer in the power of being known.

The very thing I run from is the very thing I long for.

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The only way I am going to grow and enter into the sacred place of intimacy is to risk truth in vulnerability. So I have decided that I am not going to suffer in isolation anymore, because vulnerability is the only path that leads to connection with others and ultimately myself.

 

[1] Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

The Vulnerability of the Mountaintop

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This week I was reflecting on my struggle with what I call the “mountaintop experience”. This is the place and moments where I can have great vision for my life. Vision is a great thing. Vision will make the difference between success and failure on the path to change. Oswald Chambers says “Wherever there is vision there is also a life of honesty and integrity because the vision gives me the moral incentive.[1]

I am vulnerable in the mountaintop experience when I’m living the vision I want because I cannot stay on the mountaintop forever. Next month I’ll be headed to Minneapolis where I have been asked to speak and train the next generation of facilitators. I’ll be in the middle of ministry, and in the lead role where people are seeking my wisdom—this is a place where it’s so easy to have purpose and vision. But I can’t stay in Minneapolis forever. After a few days, I’ll board the plane and come back home to Nashville, and dirty dishes and bills are waiting. Plain. Old. Scott. It’s easy to lose perspective, so in the valley of everyday life where it is most critical to have a vision for my purpose. Most of life is spent in the day-to-day grind of life. It is in the valley that I must not lose vision, or I will be distracted by all the voices around me.

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It’s in the day to day that I must ask myself, “What are the things I want to live my life by instead of what others have told me I should live by?” I must make the intrinsic choice to live out the values I believe in. I can’t be about the approval of others and stay on the right path in difficult circumstances. My vision can’t be extrinsically driven.

Being alone in the dull-drums of daily life, I lose motivation because I lose sight of my vision. I don’t believe what I cannot see. On the mountain I see it all clearly, but down in the valley, the buildings and trees blind me. I need a vision in my day-to-day routines because Christ has purpose for me there.

The bible says in Proverbs 29:18, “Without a vision the people lose restraint[2].” What is restraint? It is self-discipline while standing in temptation to say, “No, I am not going down the wrong path”. Even in that very moment my choices steer my course. On the mountaintop I feel so close to God but when I come down in the daily I lose vision.

How do we keep a fresh vision alive and in front of us? We must share vision together and be willing for vulnerability, inviting God to lead. God gives a picture of the future, which will motivate all my actions in the present, and I will no longer be stuck in the failures of the past. Being a part of a healing community keeps me inspired as it keeps God’s vision in front of me. This is the great gift of community.

Without a God-inspired vision, we are extremely susceptible. A vision based on circumstances will create idols and distractions that ultimately leave us feeling deeply uninspired. If we put Christ first, he will give us abundant inspiration—a vision of what he wants for our life. This vision will ignite purpose, and there we will find freedom.

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[1] From ‘My Utmost for His Highest’ by Oswald Chambers, May 9th

[2] New American Bible Revised Edition