Why do some people change while others don’t?
Bill Phillips was the first person to become a great influence on my mind and personal philosophy. Bill is the author of Body-for-LIFE and one of the biggest names in the health and fitness industry. In an interview about his experience helping hundreds of thousands of people improve their physical health, Bill was quoted saying, “Everyone has the power to change, to be better. Why people change and why people don’t is fascinating. To me it’s the greatest mystery of life.”
He concluded: “The first step to change is to make a conscious choice to change.”
This wisdom always resonated deeply with me. It made sense. It was simple, yet profound at the most basic level. We can’t merely want to change. We must make the conscious choice to change.
Delving deeper, it means we must make the conscious decision to commit to the change we seek and act on that commitment each and every day. This is how we achieve anything: weight-loss, improved health, education, earning a higher income, running a business, personal growth… the list is endless.
Life for a recovering addict is no different.
In the last 20 years, I’ve actively worked on my personal growth. I’ve also relapsed so many times I’ve lost count. In my own experience – and in my observations of others – there is a process to recovery and relapse prevention, if we wish to insure success.
Growth and atrophy are mutually exclusive, polar opposites. We aren’t growing when we are using. In fact, we’re doing the opposite: atrophying, breaking down. We only grow when we are clean. But if we are clean and yet are not working on inner growth, we stagnate, setting ourselves up for future failure.
There is a process to positive change. And the challenge of conscious personal growth is the key to continued relapse prevention and living a truly sober life:
First, accept that change is the result of a conscious personal choice. Choice is the beginning – the essence – of change and personal transformation.
Life is a challenge. Living a conscious life is a greater challenge. For a recovering addict, it’s a challenge we face every single day of our life. The reason we use and abuse in the first place is to be unconscious, to escape. By default, addiction makes us blind to the world around us. It makes us unconscious – sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally.
But rarely does life change in the direction we want it to simply because we want it to. Change occurs all the time around us, whether we will it or not. But if we want change that is aligned with our own desires, we must act on it. Making the personal choice to commit is the first step. And this is where the next key to change is found.
Second, realize that lasting change is the result of daily, consistent – and persistent – choice.
The challenge, you see, is more than wanting – more than desiring – change. It’s even more than making the initial conscious decision to change. That initial decision is just the first step of your own journey of a thousand miles. That initial decision is pivotal because it’s where growth and change begin. And we have to start somewhere. But that decision must become a DAILY decision, a commitment, a new habit… not just a one-time thing, like an impulsive resolution.
You may see things from a fresh, inspired perspective at that beginning point; however, the real challenge presents itself every day thereafter when you must continuously choose and re-choose over and over again to do what is required to succeed, even when the feeling fades and the motivation wanes.
Just as we make the choice – even if it is automatic, out of habit – to eat, sleep, bathe, work, or brush our teeth each day, we must also make the decision to exercise personal responsibility, which is what leads me to the next point in the process:
Personal responsibility is the specific choice we must make to begin deliberate change.
If you’ve been to meetings for addiction, you’ve probably been beat to death with “responsibility” talk. And for good reason.
Every day when you wake up you either make the choice to get out of bed or you don’t. You either go to work or you don’t. You either go to the gym or you don’t. You either do what you want or need to do, or you don’t. It’s that simple. No matter which way you go on anything, you are making a choice. Lying in bed instead of getting up and tackling the day is a choice. Doing something and not doing something are both choices.
By making that conscious decision to change your life, you have taken the first step toward personal responsibility. Being responsible is to consciously make the right choices. It’s to embrace change, to allow growth to happen, to learn and gain understanding from our life experiences, including our mistakes and perceived failures. It’s more than simply owning up to past mistakes and choices and their consequences. Responsibility is coming to a point of acceptance of where we are now, knowing we somehow created this reality and that it is up to us to change it for better.
Personal responsibility is really another term for personal power. It’s saying, “This is my life and I choose to take control over it and live it on my terms.” That is power.
Taking responsibility for your life is claiming your power to make choices and engage in behaviors NOW that will lead you to a better place in the future, if you consciously commit to them each and every day.
Yes, it’s a challenge to live consciously instead of relapsing to escape the discomforts of modern life and the pain and consequences of past choices. Relapse is the path of least resistance; the easy way out. But in the long-term, it’s actually more painful than dealing with life head-on.
Consciousness is simultaneously humanity’s greatest gift and greatest curse. Which one it is to you depends entirely on how you choose to use it.
Change and growth are a result of learning to overcome the challenge we face every day of choosing to be conscious – to be aware, awake, and alive to reality – rather than remaining indecisive and unaware. Change on such a grand scale doesn’t simply happen overnight. It does take time to develop the ability to make a deliberate choice consistently because it requires a substantial amount of conscious, mental effort and attention.
How long it takes isn’t really important. What matters most is that we commit to being deliberately conscious to overcome the challenge of remaining mired in the oblivion and non-fulfillment of addiction.
Are You Up for the Challenge?
That’s my question for you. Are you up for the challenge? The challenge of living consciously every day of your life? The challenge to take responsibility for developing your personal power and tapping your potential? Or will you settle for the self-inflicted pain and suffering of indecision and oblivion, the very essence of addiction?