Making a major change can be a stressful endeavor

Dan Rowlison, Pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) California

Dan Rowlison, Pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) California

Congratulations! If you made a New Year’s Resolution and have kept it so far, you are well on your way to making a lasting change. Just remember that no lasting change of any significance can be accomplished alone. You will run into situations where you don’t know what to do and then you will need the wisdom of others. Being humble will allow you to accept the guidance of those who have good sense; the knowledge and experience that helps them to know what to do in difficult situations. Some would call this poise. It is the ability to keep your head under stress, when all others are losing their mind. It is doing what your mind tells you to do when your emotions are screaming for a different action.

Poise is essential in overcoming difficult situations. Knowledge and experience help us to develop poise and not give in to panic. The Bible tells us in Proverbs that “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” What this means is when you gather a support network around you, you are more likely to succeed in the area of lasting change. The more significant the change, the more substantial this support network needs to be. If you’ve already tried to change on your own and failed, then, clearly, you do not know what to do. It is time to find someone who does. The desire to change compels you to seek them out. When significant illness strikes you, you will seek out a Doctor. If the illness becomes worse you will seek out a specialist and perhaps even a hospital. Making a significant change to something you have never been before means that you are not an expert and will need someone with the experience necessary to guide you. In my own journey toward significant weight loss I have recruited a doctor, dietician, Behavioral Psychologist, fitness trainer and surrounded myself with encouraging people to help me in making this change. But I would emphasize this is only help. You must still do the work.

No lasting change of any significance can be accomplished alone. You will also need resources which you don’t have. Being humble allows us to rely upon the talents of a team by drawing upon the resources they can provide. You will need to draw upon the experiences; the expertise; the encouragement of others that you do not possess. This demands humility on your part. It is not that others are reluctant to help; it is that we are reluctant to ask. We would rather revel in our misery than admit to it. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of wisdom. Even the one who boasts that “I did it all by myself!” has to admit that they are drawing upon skills that they were taught by another person. Their desire for change may have been inspired by another person’s story of change. Once we accept that we need help in order to make the changes we desire, we have taken a major step toward significant change.

One final area of caution is found when we are under stress. Making a major change in your life is a stressful endeavor. It requires concentration, focus, determination, resolve and endurance. Be very careful in taking on any other task while in the early stages of change. That would be like asking a marathon runner to go grocery shopping in the middle of a race. But sometimes stress comes upon us by surprise. Life is filled with unexpected events. The stress of these moments can derail your efforts at significant change.

Most people choose not to attempt to lose weight during the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season. The reason is not as simple as the abundance of food. Holiday times are celebration times involving friends, family, special events and special efforts. The stress caused by each of these is not enough to sabotage your efforts but by combining all of these with the on-going stress of your attempts to change; the stress can become overwhelming. The abundance of stress accompanied by the abundance and ease of access to food will usually stop the best of diet plans. This is why lasting change is measured by the minutes in a day rather than the years on a calendar.

There are times when your train of thought will jump the tracks; your desired change will self-destruct. It is important to know why you have derailed; not to assign blame, but to understand what happened that you might take steps in the future to avoid those situations. Falling off the wagon is not a time for blaming, guilt and despair; but a time for insight and introspection to learn more about your weaknesses and develop a plan to strengthen your resolve. Everyone slips from time to time; everyone stumbles. When you fall down, what are your options? Get up and try again or lay there. If you choose to lay there, you will not change. If you choose to get up and try again, you have already changed by refusing to accept the old way of life. At the heart of change is your choice. If the change is worth it to you, don’t give up.

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