Have you ever wanted to be a different person? To change certain aspects of yourself? Ever wished that you weren’t angry, emotional, pessimistic, jealous or shy? Ever wished that you were confident, fearless, easy-going, sociable, secure? What if I told you you could be that person at the press of a switch? Would you press the button?
Well, you can. Because transformation only ever happens in the moment. So for as long as you are choosing to be a different person, you are that person. Your old self ceases to exist in that moment, and the new self emerges. The secret to lasting change is as simple as 1, 2, 3. That’s all there is to it. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
In life, we all get caught up with fixed ideas about who we are. We think to ourselves “I’m an angry person” or “I’m a shy person”. We’ve probably described ourselves like that to others, and we’ve probably heard it reflected back when other people describe us. But the moment you chose to let go of that identity, it’s gone. You can make a new choice. You can be a new you, in that moment. And you will continue to be the new you until such moment as you fall off the wagon and make a choice in line with your old self.
Say you’ve always seen yourself as an impatient person. You’ve always sat in traffic or at a red light seething at people to get a move on or willing it to change. Maybe you honk your horn at drivers who don’t pull off fast enough when the light turns green. And what if you decided you didn’t want to be that way anymore, but you felt trapped in that identity as an impatient person? Well, the moment you decide you won’t be that way, and start being a patient person, that old self is gone. And if the next time you hit a red light you look around you and notice the people on the street, or maybe sing along to the radio, or take a few deep breaths, or do a silly dance and laugh at the reactions of others, then, in that moment, you’re a patient person.
The next time, you may forget your decision and find yourself seething again for ten minutes before you remember the commitment you made to yourself to be a patient person. So then all you do, without beating yourself up for forgetting, is remember. And repeat. Pull it back, count to ten, make the new choice.
Over the week, you may end up being impatient for ten minutes, or perhaps even twenty. Is that enough to say you’re an impatient person; it’s just the way you are? Really? What about the rest of the time? The time you were being the new self? Isn’t it time we were kinder to ourselves and allowed ourselves to see and more importantly, be, the other side of the coin? In that week, you were more patient than impatient, so if you had to choose…
What I’m saying here is, let yourself off the hook. Hold your old identity loosely, with self compassion, not self-blame, and without attaching to it, knowing that a new you is emerging in every moment, in every choice you make. That way, as you continue to develop those qualities you want to nurture, the old self is free to fall away easily, just as soon as it’s ready. Forget weeding, just plant the flowers. Eventually, enough of them will grow that you won’t see the weeds.
And just like training a muscle, you need to do reps. If you want to increase your strength, you have to increase the resistance. So the more you are developing yourself, the further you may find yourself stepping from your old self. We need to realise that even in the past, the old self was never fixed. It was actually made of a series of moments, a series of choices, that we can change, right here, right now, rather than a fixed idea that will never change. When we can see that, we free ourselves up to become that new person.
Beating yourself up won’t help if you do revert to the old self. It’s OK to take a rest from training; the pull of habitual reactions can be strong. But if it does happen, just like the old self, hold it loosely. Don’t get caught up in the fact that it happened…expect it to! But then remember, it was just a moment. You have not let yourself down; one moment cannot define you as an “impatient person.” You’ve simply lifted a heavy weight and felt the resistance, the urge to sit back on the bench and put it down. All that’s needed now is for you to rest until you’re ready, take a breath, prepare, and lift. Remind yourself why you are making new choices for how to be, and live in line with that once more. In every moment, you get a fresh chance to start again. You become a blank slate. And if, in that moment, you make a new choice, then your work for now is done. You are transformed.