Change From the Inside Out

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they know they have to change. Maybe you’re graduating from school and are ready to make the shift from dependent child to independent adult. Or perhaps a relationship, career or personal crisis can only be addressed by a profound change in who you are as a person.

istock_000000855610xsmall.jpgBut there’s a wrong way and a right way to change. The wrong way to change is to let external factors push, prod or manipulate you into changing in ways that don’t suit your needs, values or desires. The right way is to create change from the inside out, change that is based on what you want, who you are and what you hope to achieve.

Achieving change from the inside out isn’t always the easiest approach, but it is by far the most effective method and one that leads to lasting, positive results. Allowing others to control our change does have the benefit of taking all of the hard work out of our hands. But it often leads to resentment, dissatisfaction and, ultimately, the need to change again. It becomes a constant cycle of one poor fit after another.

Here are some things you’ll need to know in order to create the kind of stable, successful change that can only come from within.

What has to change, and why? Lay out what it is about your current life or situation that needs to be addressed by the change. List the things that can remain the same and the things that must be changed. Also, ask yourself what it is you liked about your current state of affairs, and what you didn’t like. This will help ensure that the change you make fits your needs and desires.

For example, if you’ve lost your job then you obviously can’t keep working at your old position, so that has to change. However, you can remain in contact with your colleagues, and you may be able to retain access to certain resources or connections that would be useful in your new career. And listing the things you liked and didn’t like about your former job will help you make a better decision about your new one.

What’s important to me? Before you make any plans to change, determine what’s important to you – your values, your needs, your desires, your interests and so on. Change that doesn’t address these will be ineffective and probably unstable. Keep this list handy and reference it at all steps during the change process, to make sure that the decisions you’re making take these issues into consideration.

What do I want? Make a “wish list” of things you would like to get out of this change. For example, if you’re graduating college and looking for your first “real” job, make a list of all the things you’d like in a job (as well as a list of things you don’t want). You may not be able to get everything on your list, of course. But having it will make sure you don’t forget something, and will encourage you to compare your options more effectively.

Is this a real want, or a “should”? Internal change comes from our own wants and needs. External change comes from other people’s ideas of what we should want or should need. If you find yourself saying, “Maybe I should do this,” or “Perhaps this should be a consideration,” it’s time to check in with yourself to see if this is something you really want, or if it’s coming from outside pressures.

Don’t let other people tell you what you want. They don’t have to live with the consequences of any poor decisions or inappropriate changes you make based on their “suggestions.” The only people who get any say in how and what you change are those who have to directly share the consequences of the choices you make (usually, but not always, limited to your spouse and children).

What do I need to do to make this change a reality? Sometimes this involves little more than registering for school or lining up job interviews. But sometimes, it involves changing yourself on a very deep level. Maybe you need to work on anger management, or deal with a pressing medical issue. Perhaps your outlook on life is creating problems or an inability to trust has caused your relationship to falter. There are many types and aspects of personal change, each with its own approach. (

Profound personal change is a big step, but it can be done. However, it is rarely something that can be effectively done alone. Consider getting help from a life coach, therapist or other professional if the change involves deep personal change. Remember: asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of being strong enough to know and acknowledge the boundaries of your own limits.

Thanks to The So Called Me for including this post in the Carnival of Family Life, and to Widow’s Quest for featuring this post in the Carnival of Positive Thinking.

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