“Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.“- G. D. Boardman
Many people wish they were something different; a little bit braver or richer or more out-going or more inspiring, or any number of changes they would like to make. I know I have certainly felt like that in the past, if only I could change and be more x… You probably know people like that to, perhaps you might even see them in the mirror each morning. Wanting to change somehow but not knowing how, believing it to be too hard.
Yet the power to change lies within each and every one of us – change is always possible, but it cannot come from without, it can only come from within. Only you can change yourself, nobody else can do that for you; you need to be your change. Which is not as hard as it sounds sometimes.
Suppose you decided one day that you wished you were a little bit more outgoing. Well, what if you started acting in the way in which someone a little more outgoing would act? And keep doing that? Pretty soon it would become a habit, and before you know it, you would actually be that little bit braver.
Sounds far-fetched to some people, but many people do exactly that each and every day, sometimes with amazing results.
I remember my first day in halls at university, 600 miles away from home and anyone I knew. Our halls were small groups of 6 bedrooms with a shared kitchen and bathroom. I was sat in my room, on my own, feeling really lonely when I heard the other 5 in one other person’s room, getting to now each other. I was feeling really lonely, and miserable at the thought of facing 10 weeks away from anyone I knew, afraid to go and say hello because I was so shy.
And then something occurred to me – I don’t know these people, they don’t know me; they don’t know I’m shy or anything about me, so what would happen if I just went in there and said hello and pretended to be comfortable with meeting them?
So that’s exactly what I did, and I started to get to know my fellow flat-mates which lead on to me meeting other students and making new friends.
Now, it didn’t cure my shyness nor my general social anxiety, that would stick around for many years to come until I blasted through them completely.
But it did help me to change my situation and to change me just enough for what I needed.
Why did it not have a bigger effect? Thinking about it, it would be because I did not decide to act for a bigger effect.
Through life I’ve met some people who have been brave, strong, courageous; yet when I got to know some of them, they admitted to feeling quite the opposite. What they had done was to act in those ways because they needed to at some stage, but because they continued to act brave, they because brave, and soon inhabited the character of a brave person until it became second nature to them, even though they hadn’t actually realised the change was taking place.
It is a very powerful process; decide the characteristic you want to have, act as though you have that characteristic (now, you have to act it fully and convincingly, throw your entire self into the performance) and soon enough people will see you as having that characteristic and it won’t be long before you even convince yourself and bingo, the change is made!
By acting in these new ways you develop the habit of acting in that way. It is said that all it takes to create a new habit is to repeat the new action for 21 days.
You probably have an idea of the ideal you that you would like to be, the sort of person you’d wish to be if you could chose to be them. Take a few moments to write down how you or others would describe that person, paying attention to the ways in which they are different from you. Once you have done that, it should give you an idea of what you’d need to change, how differently you’d need to act, to be that person; do they share some characteristics with others you may know, perhaps? What are the defining characteristics?
Once you have decided that, pick one hanged characteristic and decide, this week, to act a little more like the ideal you – in any situation just ask yourself what the ideal you would do or say, how they would act, and act accordingly. Keep acting with the new characteristic for 4 weeks, and then take a moment to acknowledge how you’ve changed, knowing that your new way of acting has already become ingrained as a habit and that it is taking you closer to your desired destiny.