Check your ego at the door.
What does it really take to shift and to transform into a fresh, new version of your best self?
We say we want change. Some of us say we want to change. And while anyone can say this, the point is that change is work. Transformation isn’t glitter and sparkle and lightning – those are the byproducts of the process, the magic that others see in us once the work has begun. At its core, real transformation requires effort, determination, focus and commitment. Talking about change is easy; making a change, not always so much.
Whether you point the finger at Hollywood movies, fairy tales, social media, or at “the way things should be,” the truth is deep down we all want sunshine, rainbows and unicorns galloping into the sunset. Everyone wants to be liked and loved and appreciated. We all want others to embrace our best and excuse our worst - or better yet, pretend there is no “worst.” Everyone, at some level, wants to succeed and be recognized for that success.
Here’s the thing: shifting and transforming doesn’t look like a fairy tale. The end result can be absolutely beautiful – until the next shift and transformation come along. And trust me, they always come along. The process, though, the actual work required to make shifts and transformation happen, can feel elusive, painful, unsteady, and terrifying all at the same time. Old patterns are difficult to shake, even under the best circumstances. Toss uncertainty and discomfort into the mix, and it feels as though you’re thrashing in a tangle of nets, struggling even to breathe at times, fighting desperately to free yourself.
One of the keys to allowing a shift, rather than trying to force a shift, is learning to recognize when your ego walks into the room. Remember, your ego is not another person – it’s an aspect of yourself. Your ego believes that its job is to keep you safe, and it will try anything. We all have situations that trigger old patterns and ego-driven reactions within us. Our reactions are often not only emotional, but also physical. The older the story, the more we believe it, the stronger the physical response. This is essentially your ego’s way of keeping you in check, by keeping you small.
See if any of these physical descriptions sound familiar: pounding heart, shortened or even gasping breath, tight and raised shoulders, stiff chest and back, rigid facial expression. These are patterned and protective responses that come from the oldest part of your brain (the limbic system), readying you for fight or flight, neither of which allows for the conscious leaning in required for true and consistent shifting and transforming.
Once you can identify the physical aspects of these old patterns, you can begin to recognize them as they begin. Being aware and staying present can help you stop those reactions in their tracks, to give yourself time and headspace to calm the inner chatter yourself tightening and can consciously take three deliberate, deep, slow breaths (or more, depending on the situation), you can clear my mind and take time to decide: what is the next right thing? When you make a choice to change your response - to act from a place of compassionate awareness rather than fearful autopilot – you can start to let go of your ego-driven defensive stance and can open to new possibilities.
Joy Warrior, please listen: you always have a choice. You can do what you’ve always done, or you can do something new and see what happens next. Life requires effort, there’s no denying that. As Carlos Castenada said, “the trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.” We get to decide whether we’re going to stick with the old reflexive patterns or write a new story line.
How would you like your chapter to read?