Before we make any changes in our life, we have to first believe that we can change. We have to believe that we can make different choices, think different things and act a different way. Without believing we can change – we will never change.
For years after my Liver Transplant I felt like the real me, the person God intended for me to be, was hidden – hidden somewhere inside of me.
I remember a conversation I had with a mentor of mine a couple years after my transplant. I was trying to explain this to him. I was trying to get him to understand how I wasn’t the person God intended for me to be, but that she was hidden somewhere deep inside of me. I knew the real me was bold, brave and passionate. Instead, as a result of the trauma of my transplant, I had become harsh, impulsive and fearful. As a way to encourage me he said, “I think that maybe you are just getting older. We all become more cautious when we get older.”
I knew he was wrong. I knew from the depths of my soul I could be different. I believed that someday I would be more of who God created me to be.
It took almost 15 years, but with a heart full of gratitude, I can boldly declare that the day came.
There are still times when I can be harsh, impulsive and fearful, but those reactions are happening less and less. I am more often bold, brave and passionate. I am more of who God created me to be.
And why? I believed. I believed that I could be different. I believed that I could change. I believed that I could respond and act differently than I was.
My example is pretty dramatic – I get it. Most of you reading this don’t need to experience the deep transformation that I needed. But my guess is that all of us need to change something in our life.
And it has to start with belief.
How do we cultivate a belief that leads to change?
Pay attention to your inner dialogue.
For some of us, this is going to be easy to understand. Some people have a running dialogue in the background of their minds at all times. It may sound something like this. “What, you want me to do what? I can’t do that.” or in contrast “What, you want me to do what? Do you know who I am?” I could go on and on with examples, but those of you who live there- get it. If you resonate with that, here is where I want you to start – get a notebook and keep it handy. When your inner voice starts to get loud, I want you to write your thoughts down and ask yourself this question, “What are those thoughts revealing to me about what I truly believe?
For some of us that will be more tough. I am 110% extroverted. Nothing makes sense to me until I say it out loud. If you relate to that, start taking note of your words and reactions. What do your words and reactions say about what you truly believe? Let me explain. Say you are starting a new exercise program. You get on the elliptical machine. It is much harder than you thought it would be. Do you just stop and give up? Or do you adjust your expectations and change your goal for the day? Just like my introverts, grab a notebook. What are your reactions telling you about what you really believe?
Commit to a growth mindset.
There is a large part of me that wanted to omit this part, the idea of having “a growth mindset” is all the rage in the psychology world right now -but there is a good reason for it. It is a life changing concept. If you have heard about having a growth mindset, you have probably also heard the phrase “fixed mindset”.
Carol Dweck, who introduced the concept, speaks to a fixed mindset. “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.” Translation: “I am who I am and I’m not going to change.”
Alternatively she states, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” Translation: “I can grow and change. I can be better than I am today.”
So when you are observing your inner dialogue or outward reactions, the second question to ask yourself is “Is this thought or reaction coming from a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?
Stand Firm in truth.
Let’s talk science: neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training and practice. New thinking changes brain structure and function. With each repetition of a thought, emotion or word, we reinforce this new pathway. Think of it like a hiking path. The first time that we blaze a new path, it is full of weeds and grass. It’s hard to navigate. Then the next time we try it, it’s not quite as bad. There are some weeds and brush to push aside, but the path is more clear and easy to navigate. Before we know, the path is clear and easy to walk on.
I love the idea that we have the power to literally change our brains. But what I find more fascinating is that Jesus was talking about it way before science caught on. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
So how do we bring this all together?
Let’s use the example I mentioned earlier about the elliptical machine. You start on the machine and it is harder than you thought it would be. You stop, give up and leave. “I knew this wouldn’t work” you say to yourself. Lets observe. What are your reactions and/or inner dialogue telling you that you truly believe? My guess is it is something like this “Working out is too hard for me, I’m never going to be able to do it.” Then ask yourself, “Is this belief coming from a growth mindset or a fixed mindset?” It sounds like your belief around exercise is coming from a fixed mindset that says “I am who I am and I’m not going to change.” Because of that, you then have to tell yourself ” Nope, I can grow and change. I can be better than I am today.” “I don’t have to think or act this way forever.” Don’t take it from me, both God’s word and science tell us so. Remind yourself of that as you go back to that thought and replace it with the truth (more on this next time). The truth sounds a bit more like this “New things are hard and I haven’t exercised very much. I did the best I can. I will come back tomorrow and try to go a bit longer.” Then when that thought (or reaction) comes back again (which it will) -replace it again with the truth. And then do it again. And again. And again…and again…..
Then before you know it, you will start to believe that you can actually change. And when that belief starts to sink in – just watch and be amazed as the changes begin.
Because there is more,
(Stay tuned! We are going to spend the next month discussing how to change our belief systems specifically around physical fitness. )