We all want to improve ourselves. Some of us wait for opportunities to come that will change us. Others seek out those opportunities. Either way, change can be a lot of work. So let’s make it easier and more likely to be permanent.
There are three critical components to all change.
Random change without structure is chaos. Chaos can stir things up, irritate you or excite you, but it rarely produces significant change. Without something containing the change, we slide out of it. If there are not parameters, you won’t hold it.
When you’ve had time to come out of the chaos, and look at the change in your life, give yourself some homework. Without a due date and requirements, you’ll put something else in front of whatever action you’ve decided on. Think about it: if your friend asks you in an open way to help him, are you as likely to follow through and do it? In comparison, if the same friend asks you to help him and two other friends he found to load his couch on to his pick-up at noon on next Saturday at his house. If you are available you are much more likely to show up. People need directions – even if they’re just directions we’re giving ourselves.
We often resist structure because it becomes a funnel for action. We know if we proceed down that funnel things will happen. These things might be new behaviors that can be scary. You know if you sign up for weekly exercise class to lose 20 pounds, you will be sweating. Maybe sweating is a new experience for you.
Too much structure, though, and you suppress fun and growth. But too little and you have disruptive chaos. There is a sweet spot where the structure of the container holding the experience facilitates the desired outcome.
Once you have the container to hold the experience (i.e., the actions you plan to take), you need something to stir up the status quo. This disruption can be learning a new skill. Your weekly ski lesson teaches you how to use your body in new ways. You past style might me avoiding all unnecessary ski turns. Making as many turns as possible breaks the old pattern of holding tight, hoping not to run into things for turning before you need to turn.
Input without a container will dissipate the energy, much like a ripple spreading out until there is no more ripple. Yet, without any input the water stays still.
When making the decision to change your life, you seek out experiences that will disrupt it. You know the way you are currently doing things will only continue to produce the same results, such as failed relationships. You’re smart, you realize that you are the constant variable in all your failed relationships, so you decide to “man up” and work on that variable.
You quickly realize that working on it with no outside input only gets your head spinning. You need new knowledge, experiences, models and feedback. You might start with reading a book since it’s a minimal investment of money, risk and time. Then you may be ready to invest more by joining a men’s group.
The third aspect, presence, is accepting your experience. I’m not saying you have to accept what shows up; just allowiyourself to be aware of your experience of what shows up, then let go of it.
You could go through all the work of creating a tight container and a powerful catalyst and waste it if you don’t experience what these two aspects offer.
In terms of breaking up old beliefs, patterns, and emotional blocks, you need to be affected deeply. You can’t multi-task your way through change. You need to be there for it. Texting work while your partner has a heart-to-heart conversation with you won’t work.
You not only need to be doing that one thing, you need to be aware of what is occurring for you as you are doing that one thing.
If you are changing how you interact with women, you need to interact with women more. Giving women prepared lines is focusing on what say. It’s not paying attention to a woman, nor is it paying attention to your response. You may “hook” a woman. But I guarantee that woman is as present as you were. Her package might be great, but as the wrapping wears off, as it does in any relationship, you will experience what is beyond her act as she will experience what is beyond yours. You both will be pissed, feeling you were sold a bill of goods that never got delivered.
Even if she didn’t change her presentation in the beginning, if you were present to your response to her you, would have been much more likely to known that all you were getting was a woman presenting herself well.
We live in a culture that emphasizes marketing more than substance. We can blame it on Big Business, or we can take control. We make many little decisions to avoid the subtle clues that tell us that we are more focused on the external of what is being sold us, rather than on the internal state of what we are feeling and really wanting. Change your focus.
The beauty of Structure and a Catalyst is that the resulting contained disruption breaks us out of the trance of compliance. The increased intensity can focus us to become more aware. As the skill of awareness builds, it generalizes to other places in your life. You get so you don’t need external structure or catalysts to provoke awareness. You bring that awareness into every situation of your life.
Once you develop your presence aptitude, you will begin changing more quickly, more easily, and maintaining the change with less effort. It’s no different than learning all your skiing turns, then forgetting them because they are so unconscious. What was once work you resisted is now a fun sport you are stretching your limits on with every ski run, experiencing new ways to apply your skill.
When you decide on a new skill you want to learn, look for these three components. If they aren’t there, bring them. If you can’t, I would suggest finding another way to get what you want or you may end up wasting your time.
We are developing a deep mentoring program for men where these three aspects to change are at its core. We know if we are to get men to a place where they don’t need us, we need to have a structure that contains all that occurs, catalysts that dissolve what’s not working and wake up the dominant skills men have, and we need to foster deeper presence.
Expand the three components to your relationships
Take these three components and apply them to your important relationships. What is your structure—your agreements? How do you want to stir things up? If you don’t have positive catalysts, you will tend to default to more negative ones. So create some fun and loving things to do. And now are you going to learn to be more present.
Applying these three will end up setting you and your partner free. I have used this model to deepen my romantic relationships, my men’s groups, and my relationships and impact with my clients.
Many of us men still have an adolescent part that rebels against structure. If you are one of those men–and I certainly was—explore who you are really rebelling against.
Let me know how it goes applying this simple model to your life and relationships.