Monday, September 30, 2013

Subtle shifts, Radical Changes


by Melissa Klein

I decided to take a mentoring client out on a walk with Hawthorne, my giant "baby" draft horse along the Olympic Trail. There is a point where the horse trail splits off from the main track. The main track is lovely: paved, straight, easy and goes over the beautiful Railroad Bridge. From up above, you can see shadows of fish going up the river. 

The horse trail is a small dirt trail that splits off of the main trail. It's unmarked. It's easy to miss. It involves walking through a tunnel of high grass and over small streams. Theres a bit of bush whacking - and some branches of deer trails that go nowhere. It goes under the bridge. Down to the river to where the salmon spawn. You can be so close as to touch them and identify them as individuals. The river can be crossed in knee boots. You can see salmon eggs, salmon spawning and dead salmon in the same 10 foot stretch of river.

It's a much more interesting path - and connects to the poetry of the salmon song as they fight their way up the river and complete their life cycle.  

It's only a one degree difference on the trail. 

My client was delighted - she breamed at the wonder of it all. Afterwards we talked about what that meant - how a subtle shift can lead to a radically different departure. In charting a course for ships - 1 degree can make the difference between reaching the correct destination and winding up in a far-flung port. 

Floatiing Boat by Melissa Klein

So many times in making changes in life - there is an urge to make a 90 degree or 180 degree turn. While that's sometimes necessary (I've done that for both better and worse), some of the most radical changes can be made by making a subtle shift in direction. The one small habit or routine that is incorporated into the day or week. A shift in focus. A conscious choice in thinking patterns. Minimizing contact with negative people.

Here are some of the subtle shifts that I've made over the years that added up to radical changes:

1. Choosing to go Complaint Free: The goal was to make it to 21 days without complaining. It was designed by a minister who challenged his congregation to go for 21 days complaint free. It wasn't easy. It took me a year to accomplish. Sometimes, I slip back into old bad habits and have to re-commit. It helped all of my relationships - personal and professional. Conversations are more interesting. If there is an issue that needs to be resolved, even if I'm talking to someone who isn't "complaint free," we are more focused on problem-solving and solution. Here's a resource for more information: 

2. Cutting down on sugar: Wayne Dyer mentioned it as an aside in his audio book "Making the Shift" - he said: "If you want to lose the fat around your middle, cut down on sugar." While it's obvious to not eat things like candy/cake/cookies, sugar is loaded into things like milk, fruit juice, alcohol, potato chips and ketchup. I cut waaaaay back. Looked more critically at what I was putting in my mouth from the sugar perspective. The first 2 to 3 weeks, I was constantly hungry. I filled up on veggies or just acknowledged it for what it was and did something else. Then the cravings eased. I don't know to this day how much weight I Iost (I don't have a scale), but I think it was@ 15 to 20lbs in the last 6 months - especially since I keep hearing "Wow! You lost a lot of weight! What did you do?" Recently I decided to treat myself to a hot chocolate for completing my website. Sorta enjoyed it and then felt sick. I'm in a radically different place than six months ago. 

3. Put stuff in places where they will automatically remind you: Like vitamins. Just saying this as a fact (not complaining!): I. hate. taking. pills! Yet when my doctor identified severe B-12 and iron deficiencies, it was clear that that had to change. At night I would get into bed and then go "Ungh! Forgot to take vitamins!" Zzzzzzzzz. Henry, my husband, suggested moving the vitamins and a carafe of water to my night table - because that's where I remembered to take them. They stare at me. I stare at them. I take them. I have more energy and better health. 

4. Put the change you want to see on paper: When there is something that I want to actualize or a mindset issue to be challenged, I write it down on a either a 3"x5" card or sticky note and stick it up on a board in my office. It focuses the intention. It becomes "real" on the paper and then it becomes "for real" in the physical world. It doesn't often happen in the way I plan or think it "should" but more of these positive intentions have happened than not. It's spooky but it works. 

5. The No Asshole Rule: I read the book "The No Asshole Rule - Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't" by Robert Sutton because I was dealing with a difficult and negative workplace situation several years ago. I stopped having lunch in the staff room. I closed my door. I got out of unproductive staff meetings. While the ultimate solution was to leave that organization, just by realizing that I could at the very least minimize if not completely avoid contact with negative people was extremely empowering. It's a great policy and has helped to avoid some situations that would have been a complete drain on my time and energy. I'm happy to report that I'm now surrounded by colleagues who are funny, uplifting and supportive. 

These subtle changes also explain why so many people get off track with their lives. It wasn't like they decided to screw up their lives consciously - it was a series of small 1 degree decisions that charted their course to a place where they didn't want to be. It's scary to think about how easy it can be to become disconnected from what we want in life. The good news is that it's still possible to make those small changes which can chart the course to greater possibilities and happiness in life.

One crucial first step making changes is to to take inventory of the different areas of your life and from a variety of "lenses" - (time, symbols, and stories) I developed the "Personal Mythology Guide" as a series of exercises to help people gain perspective from a right-brain perspective. 

The beauty of using is images and symbols and games is that it helps to defuse the "logical" left side of the brain which can interfere with deep truths through imposing memes (false rules) or can be so judgmental and overbearing that all motivation is lost. An example of a false rule would be  "I can't have horses, I am an artist and am too poor!" Guess what - I've had horses for eight years now. An example of the judgmental side is "You are so fat! You have been pigging out and that's what you deserve." Feel the motivation to change habits drain away. Instead by visualizing what I wanted: this shape  ) (   which symbolized a slim waistline, it was easier to make positive decisions without feeling discouraged.

Sign up here to download Your Personal Mythology Guidebook. I strongly encourage you to print it out and write things down - gain inventory, and identify the subtle shifts for radical changes.

Please let me know how if goes - I would love to hear your feedback.

Also - if you want to receive a more personalized and in-depth look at using stories and visualization techniques, I will be giving three workshops at the Bodhi Center in Bainbridge (just a ferry ride from Seattle) on Sunday October 20th; Sunday, November 17 and Sunday, December 15 from 10am to 1pm. Tuition is $80 per workshop, or $200 for all three workshops together (a $40 discount). You can choose to attend any combination of workshops, but it's best to attend all three to get the most benefit. Space is limited, so call or email to reserve your spot and "Journal of Journey" that accompanies the workshop.

Happy trails!


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