I was listening to a young man talk the other night about how he had managed to stay clean and sober for the past year. He said he had to be willing to change, and after repeated attempts and failures finally had reached that point.
I started to think about the ingredients necessary to that change. The first thing I think necessary is the soul-level belief change is necessary, and that often takes the form of a prayer of desperation. This is not to be confused with the “foxhole prayer” which goes something like, “get me out of this one and I promise I’ll never do it again.” Foxhole promises are a relative of the ones that have been made to various family members and employers. They are sincere in the moment, but their motive is a selfish need for relief rather than a sincere willingness to change.
To change, a person needs to be aware of what is wrong; they need to be willing to take an objective look and maybe even ask others for information. He or she needs to recognize several things, one being that they, like everyone else on the planet, has limitations and makes mistakes, that they are imperfect. As simple as this sounds, for many it is easier to find what is wrong or imperfect in others and blame people or outside circumstances for their difficulties rather than look for the fundamental shortcomings in themselves. It takes courage to look and even more to acknowledge.
Another critical ingredient is the willingness to make the move from old behavior to new. Where does willingness come from? It may be personal conviction, courage, desperation or perhaps a higher source, but wherever it comes from, real willingness to change is like the fuel that powers the engine.
The final piece of the puzzle is the actual change part, and as famous recovery author Earnie Kurtz has written, “To change you gotta change.” Another phrase I have heard is you have to act your way into a new way of thinking rather than trying to think yourself into a new way of acting.
Instead of selfishness today, let’s try one small act of giving. Instead of judgment today, let’s try one small act of acceptance and understanding. Instead of avoiding something difficult or scary today, let’s face it head-on. Instead of telling a white lie today, let’s tell the whole truth.