A few newsletters ago we explored the concept of leaving a legacy. The focus was not only about challenging ourselves to be better, but to also be an inspiration for others. One of the areas we covered was barriers to change and how these can keep us from achieving the transformation we long for. In this edition of the newsletter we will explore our personal "Dark Side" and how we can better navigate this aspect of ourselves.
Although none of us are usually eager to admit it, we all have a "Dark Side" that keeps us from being the best we can be. For the majority of us, we tend to keep this aspect of ourselves hidden, at least from most people. However, those who are the closest to us, they will likely say this part is not as hidden as they would like it to be. Unfortunately, we at times show our "worst" to those who are closest to us. Additionally, although it may be hard to admit, we are often our own worst enemies. We create the majority of our problems (e.g., bad attitudes, being quick to judge, self-limiting beliefs, embracing a victim mentality, over eating, staying up late, not exercising, procrastinating, etc.). Just imagine if we could eliminate all of our self-sabotage! We would most likely be happier, healthier, less stressed and more productive. You have to admit that would be freeing. So, if there are only good things at the end of eliminating our self-sabotage, why do many of us persist?
Well, I think, we have become accustomed to our current way of being in the world. It does not matter if that way is dysfunctional or not, it's comfortable, so we remain there. The trick is we have to get really, really sick of these Dark Side behaviors and become willing to let them go. Once you do, you can follow the steps laid out below to help you get rid of your Dark Side behaviors.
Getting Rid Of The Darkness
1. Raise Awareness:
When we are acting from the Dark Side, we tend to be reactionary and usually do not put a lot of thought into how we think or behave. It's almost like we are on autopilot. If we want to exert more control over our darkness, we must first realize we are living on that side. So, how do you do this? Well, you have to start when you are not in the darkness. So, when you happen to have a good day (and I hope that is today), make a list of all the things that you wish you could change about yourself (e.g., not enough time with family, spend more time at the gym, eat healthier, reduce/eliminate procrastination, more positive mindset, not giving your power away to others).
2. Discover The Root Cause Of The Behavior:
Now that you have the list, write down next to each item when it began (if you can remember) and what you are getting out of engaging in the behavior. Yes, believe it or not, we all get something out of these Dark Side behaviors. If there was nothing to gain, they would cease to exist. Additionally, think about any specific "need" (e.g., loneliness, avoiding something, not taking responsibility) that is being met by engaging in these behaviors. After you have identified what you are getting out of it and any need related to it, see if you can identify any "themes" across the behaviors. If you can, your ability to fix the underlying problem may be easier because the drivers might be originating from the same area.
3. Consider Alternative Choices:
The next step is to write down any other realistic behaviors you are willing to do instead of engaging in the Dark Side ones. As an example, instead of over eating late at night (to fill the emptiness from being alone, depressed or bored), you might instead call a friend and plan a special evening. Alternatively, if you are a procrastinator who puts off the least desirable project (b/c its overwhelming or you don't know what you need to do), you could instead put it first on the to do list to get it over with, or talk to someone who could provide guidance on how to get started or be the accountability partner you need to check in with to get it done.
4. Change One Thing At A Time:
Hopefully at this point y'all are sufficiently motivated to find ways to change at least one part of your Dark Side; however, be careful about trying to change too many things at once. You may have a long list of areas you want to change at this point, but you will fail if you try to change too much. Although the "idea" of change may sound attractive, the process of getting to the destination is not. We have created these negative patterns over a long time and it will take a long time to reverse them. So, don't set yourself up for failure by trying to change too much (or by selecting the most difficult thing). Pick something that is slightly challenging but not impossible and something that will provide fairly quick, positive reinforcement to you.
5. Devise A Plan:
Now that you have selected an area to change and have identified the specific benefits of the change, start crafting a plan. The plan does not need to be complex or require months to put into place, and if it is, it may not be the best plan. Important components of this plan include: how will you realize/admit you are acting from the Dark Side? What will you do to remind yourself of your change initiative (e.g., notes to your self, alarms that go off on your phone, etc.)? How will you make the new behavior(s) easy and the old ones hard?
6. Get Help:
All of us need the support of others, especially when we are trying to change a fairly ingrained aspect of ourselves. So, find support and accountability in your significant other, friend, colleague, or group. Tell them what you need and help them with their own challenge. You will find that if you commit to another person and are willing to be held accountable, you will make progress quicker than you ever could alone.
7. Don't Give Up:
Change is hard and changing ourselves is really, really hard. Remember, practice is difficult and will be uncomfortable because our "old" ways are "comfortable" habits. So, when things get challenging or when you feel it's too difficult, remember this is just part of the process and that eventually your practic
e of the new will overcome the habits of old. Keep in mind that with each new behavioral pattern we create, we are actually laying down new brain pathways. So, each time to do the new behavior, it becomes easier to do it the next time. If you are committed to the long haul of personal transformation, practice these new things enough times so they "stick" and become your "normal." When you do, you will see your old ways fade, experience a new sense of pride and be a role model for those in both your personal and professional lives.
Good Luck & let me know how it goes....