We’ve all heard it takes 30 days to create a habit. How we relate to those first 30 days may make all the difference. Today I have the privilege of bringing you Ariane de Bonvoisin, author of The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier.
Ariane is also CEO and founder of first30days.com, an organization developed to help people transition through any change, whether it’s career, health, lifestyle, relocation, or personal relationship changes. She has been named MSN’s Life Change Expert and her advice is sought by thousands around the country.
Today Ariane is going to talk to us about why it’s so hard for people to make sustained changes in life, and what we can do about it.
Elisha: Your book seems to have references to mindfulness in it, the act of being present to our everyday lives while putting aside our lenses of judgment; getting in touch with the direct experience of the present moment. How do you see the first 30 days from a mindful perspective?
Ariane: Change is always an opportunity to pause, go inside, listen to our ‘inner microphone’ and be in the present. Our lives get so busy, we live based on routines, we never really ‘think’ we don’t want to change. So when change does happen, either by courageous choice or from life circumstances, it is asking us to be honest with what is, and also what is not working for us and our lives.
Mindfulness is about being totally aware of what our mind is feeding us during change. Usually its one of a few dominant disempowering programs: Disapproval, comparison, and perfection are the main ones. The mind is going to feed us the usual ‘change demons’, classic emotions that show up as well to the ‘change party’– fear, doubt, blame, shame, guilt and impatience. Being mindful during change is started by being aware. Aware of what emotion is getting your attention, welcoming it up, asking for its message and letting it be rather than resisting or escaping it.
Moments of change also happen to help us let go of the need for control. Control of knowing an outcome, of how we can speed things up, get out of the void, or this period of uncertainty, the unknown. Being mindful during change is simply about staying with the shakiness. From all change, something good happens. Life is on our side if we just let it be and surrender to it. It knows the way.
Elisha: In your book you mention an important practice of creating a change resume. Can you sum up for us what this is and why it’s important in helping us making real change?
Ariane: One of the 9 principles of change that I discuss in the book, is what I call “The Change Muscle.” People who are good at change know they are resilient, strong and can get through anything. Many of us will say things like, “I am bad at change, I hate change, I resist change,” when the truth is very different.
We have all gone through dozens of changes we have never acknowledged ourselves for — divorce, loss of a loved one, graduation, starting a job, losing weight, handling a health diagnosis, buying a home, moving, having a baby, forgiving someone etc. We are focused on our professional resume when really who you are is a combination of all the changes you’ve ever made, faced and witnessed.
So I ask people to take a blank piece of paper and start writing these down….soon enough, your page will be filled with changes. Next I ask that you write down the good thing that came from each of these changes so you bring back into your conscious mind the connection between life changes and good things emerging, despite the difficulty at the time. Finally, I have people make a list of what the main thing was that helped them through — was it a person, a belief, their faith, getting healthy, time, doing things for others…?
This exercise helps people get their power back. You’re the person that got through all this, so today, even though the change you’re going through now may be new, something you’ve never faced, you are not showing up without any ‘tools,’ experiences, beliefs, ways that you have handled change in the past. You know what helped you.
Elisha: On Mondays I cite a quote or poem and explore it’s relevance to our everyday life. One post called 5 Quotes that Can Change Your Life listed 5 quotes from your book that I found particularly interesting. What are 5 of your favorite quotes from your book?
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” ~ Gloria Steinem
“The single most important decision any of us ever have to make is whether to believe we live in a friendly universe,” ~Albert Einstein
“Hidden in any misfortune is good fortune.” ~Tao Te Ching
“When you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time,” ~Byron Katie
“Be patient towards all that is unsolved within your heart, and try to love the questions themselves…” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
Sometimes I just think of a question, or challenge and just open the book and read the quote that’s on the page. It’s a great way to use the book once you’ve read it.
Elisha: If you were sitting across the table from someone who was having real difficulty with making change, what advice would you give him or her to help make sustained change?
Ariane: I’d identify what the belief, excuse, story or emotion that is in the way and really shine a light on that, get it out of the shadows — what’s being resisted — and get to the root of that. The time before a change/decision is always much harder than the actual decision itself.
People aren’t changed or helped by information, but by inspiration, so I get them in touch with WHY they want to make this change. The why is the fuel, not the ‘how’ or ‘by when.’ Why do you want to leave a job, why do you want to pursue this dream, why do you want to loose the weight, etc.
I’d want to know who was on their ‘change support team.’ We somehow always feel alone when we are going through change and the truth is we all get through a change because of other people being there, and believing we can make that change. And it’s often not your closest friends or family by the way. If they don’t have someone, I’d get them on our site where we have thousands going through the same change.
Finally, I’d get them to take the first step towards any positive sustained change, which is to take care of themselves, their health. It’s the SEED of all change (Sleep, Eating well, Exercising and Drinking water). When you feel healthy, in your body, you get out of your head, your self esteem rises, your power returns, you are moving these emotions through your body, you feel strong. Change happens through the body, the heart, not in the head.
Wow, thank you so much for your wisdom Ariane.
To the readers: As always please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.