Change is something that happens all the time, whether we want it or not. Recently, we had some rather major changes thrust upon us. While many of us suffered painful losses and heightened fears to one degree or another, we also had incredible insights about our lives and our priorities. We saw new directions based on deeper values and made internal changes.

As artists, we came to a new awareness that our work is significant, both to ourselves and to others, a way that we can bring beauty and healing to the world. We want to grow as artists, infuse new life into our work and perhaps dedicate it to the service of those who suffered. We found a new boldness in pursuing and promoting our work.

But the chaos and confusion of the time led us to crave a return to normalcy and stability. And in that return, we can easily lose sight of the changes we made, or vowed to make, and return to old habits. Our day-to-day concerns begin to creep back into our consciousness and crowd out the new inspiration. The old fears and limiting beliefs set in again, and our new goals begin to drift farther away. The glow of our epiphany of insight wears off, and we fall back into habitual feelings and behaviors.

In order to sustain the positive changes we envisioned, we need to keep up the momentum. In the early stages of change, our excitement carries us through. But the nature of momentum is such that it needs a push every now and then to keep it going, or it will grind to a halt.

As we face the real-life requirements of implementing and sustaining change, the challenges, fears and discouragement that may arise put “speed bumps” in the road and slow us down. We need to consciously reinforce the change we desire, or the daily demands of our lives will push it further and further back on the burner, until it becomes a wistful dream.

~ When ideas come to you, write them down and speak them to a supportive person or group. Hold onto the insights and keep them alive. Remember how they made you feel and why they were important to you.

~ Inner changes and insights need to be made manifest in your life, or they’ll remain just good ideas. The way to do that is to begin to take actions, even small ones. Some changes you’ll be able to institute immediately; others will take time. Once you get the momentum going, it will be easier to follow through.

~ When you find yourself settling back into your old ways of thinking and acting, consciously choose to act in accordance with your new choices. Reinforce the new thoughts, and shore them up with new behaviors.

~ Ride the wave, and then give it a push. While the impetus is there, go with it. If the speed of change feels scary, hang on and get support, but try not to put the brakes on. And then when the wave ebbs, find ways to add momentum to the change yourself. Motivate yourself by taking actions and finding ways to renew your excitement. Keep your eye on your goal.

~ Be clear about the values your change reflects. If you remember what you’re going toward and the benefits it will bring you, it will be easier to navigate the bumps along the way.

~ Give it time. We get ideas a lot faster than we can implement them. Some of the changes you envisioned may be long-term pursuits. You may have changed internally in an instant, but it can take longer for the physical world to catch up. Persevere, and continue to follow through.

~ Deal with change that you choose as you would change that was imposed upon you. Every change means a loss, a giving up of something else, so give yourself time to let go of the old and grieve, if that feels appropriate. Then, you can turn to the future with an open heart.

~ Realize that the changes you want to make may take courage. In the wake of a disaster, a personal change may have seemed a small thing to accomplish. Over time, it may require more of your courage to stick with it.

~ Update your self-image. When we go through a change, we become a different person. The change you’re making may be a fundamental shift of who you are. Create a vision of the person you want to be – in words, pictures or a mental image – and hold that out there as your beacon.

~ Periodically reevaluate your choices. In the time of crisis, you may have vowed to make a change. Is that choice still valid for you? Was it a choice you made in a moment of fear that no longer holds up? Just because it didn’t “take” the first time or your enthusiasm seems to be fading doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good choice. Take a look at the long-term benefits and decide for yourself. If it still looks good, renew your commitment.

While the events of September 11 were tragic, we can use them to move us to a better place. Look at the changes you vowed to make, reevaluate them and then find ways to follow through. The best gift we can give to those who gave their lives, and the best way we can thwart the terrorists, is to make our lives better.

If there’s a change you want to make, plan a strategy. Start with your goal and work backwards, breaking it down into smaller, more doable steps that you can take over time. Then, take the first step.

“. . . gradual change is usually more fruitful in the long run than is forced, ultra-aggressive upheaval. Undertaken wisely, steady transitions cultivate authenticity, groundedness, and virtues – like patience, compassion (for self and others), and perseverance. All these qualities improve your probability of success when, ultimately, you do figure out how to actualize your personal vision.”

~ Marsha Sinetar

“Much as we may wish to make a new beginning, some part of us resists doing so as though we were making the first step toward disaster.”

~ William Bridges, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes

“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us – and those around us – more effectively. Look for the learning.”

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