Creating Lasting Change: Part Two
4 Ways to Create and Examine Lasting Change, Continued.
Certain types of change cannot be efforted
As New Year’s Day draws closer, I’m sitting down again to consider more aspects of creating personal change. In the post Creating Lasting Change: Part One, I explored how lasting change happens incrementally. It’s also more likely to occur when motivated by authentic desire as opposed to an external agenda.
Part Two looks more closely at the difference between change that relies on effort and the kind that doesn’t . Knowing the difference can spare you from unnecessary shame or disappointment if your goals meet with frustration.
Task-oriented goals are based in a step-by step effort.
Consider the nature of a task-oriented New Year’s goal. These include taking guitar lessons, organizing the garage, or planning a trip to Paris. Achieving this kind of goal depends on completing a series of tasks that lead to a final outcome. Take organizing the garage, for example. You might need to schedule time to do it, purge unwanted items or purchase shelves to store what’s left. I’m not saying it’s necessarily easy. My point is that achieving this kind of goal is a matter of completing steps that can be efforted.
Personal transformation cannot be efforted.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a New Year’s resolution focused on personal transformation. This might include letting go of a grudge, being less judgmental or loving with an open heart. Contrary to some self-help philosophies, these kinds of changes do not come about from positive thinking, daily affirmations or exerting will power. These may support the change but when it comes to the actual shift, they don’t play an active part. “Emotional, spiritual and physiological processes are not subject to human will.” This powerful statement came from NARM founder Dr. Larry Heller at a symposium in Berkeley, CA I attended this past summer that explored the interplay of psychology and spirituality.
Approaching change from a NARM perspective assumes that these internal states are possible, of course, but they may be inaccessible due to a variety of reasons. These include environmental factors, the biorhythms of our timing, misinformation or a diminished awareness around the issue to begin with. Furthermore, because of the somatic nature of each of the processes Dr. Heller named, efforting is the wrong tool for the job. The part of the brain that’s responsible for rational, controlled action has no direct influence over the part that runs the autonomic functions of the body (including emotional experience). When we consider the variety of complex contributing factors of our inner experience, it makes sense that any simple approach will fall short.
Then why try to make lasting changes?
When you understand the complexity of these contributing factors you can avoid unnecessary self-blame or discouragement that might show up if you’re not able to effort your way into states like forgiveness, joy or compassion. It doesn’t mean it’s pointless to desire them. It means it’s helpful to be clear on what parts of those experiences you have influence on or not. This kind of clarity comes from patience, non-judgment and acknowledging you have the right to change or not (and that this choice matters).
NARM is a powerful clinical model that supports these kinds of complex processes, but this isn’t a plug for NARM. The kind of support that facilitates personal transformation comes from a variety of sources like a trusted spiritual leader, a true friend, communication with the divine or from your own intuition.
When you know the difference between short term, task-oriented goals and the delicate, nuanced path to inner transformation you can approach the new year from a wiser perspective when it comes to personal growth.