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The Search for Something Bigger

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Juliette Cockell 

Summer 2019

The Search for Something Bigger

How to make positive change possible

Sydney J. Harris says: ‘Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time, what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.’

This quote really strikes a chord with me, because I think it is at the core of why we all find change so difficult. Many of us hate change but to make things better change must happen. Struggling to make the same, better, is wasting energy on an illusion. Yet, so many of us seem fooled by this. So how can we make change easier?

Trumping Fear & Desire

I have often found that something that can make you feel completely stuck in your life can suddenly disappear when a greater fear or desire is put in its path. That’s because both fear and desire can be trumped, for instance: A person who might be scared of a dog might in an instant overcome this fear if their child’s life depended on it.

Although I hate missing out on a Friday night out with my friends, if you gave me a free flight to Acapulco I would be off!

I have heard many stories in my life where people have demonstrated time and time again how finding ‘Something Bigger’ has really helped them in their lives to make changes they once felt impossible.

I knew a lady once, who was attacked by a man while travelling abroad. She was able to set aside her experience because her desire to travel was her ‘Something Bigger’. She enjoyed travelling so much that to go home to the support system of her family would have made her feel she was ruminating on the experience. She said, knowing that she could decide to feel happy and continue travelling instead of feeling victimised, had been a useful resource she had drawn from throughout her life since. Travelling was her ‘Something Bigger’.

Making Small Changes And The Amygdala

The amygdala is the part of the brain that responds to change. Unfortunately, it hates change especially when it is drastic, so often the harder you try to make changes the harder it seeks to keep you doing more of the same.

I never forget a friend of mine, after months of camping abroad, was so used to wearing his money belt in bed, that when, at the end of the trip, he no longer needed to, he kept waking up fearing he had lost it. I joked that he was going cold turkey with his money belt and so he decided, literally, to undo it one night and sleep on it and then the next night he slept with it by his side until he eventually managed to get rid of it entirely without waking up startled.

Though I still find this funny, I see this as a perfect example of how too big a change unsettles the amygdala.

So how can we use this?

If you are trying to stop a habit or change a limiting belief or behaviour, the trick is to gently wean yourself off the thing you want to change while actively pursuing a ‘Something Bigger.’

Finding ‘Something Bigger’ becomes particularly important over time as the initial euphoria of making a change becomes normalised, when the ‘pat on the backs’ stop coming from your friends, having ‘Something Bigger’, helps sustain positive changes in the long term, so don’t neglect them. They should be things within your control and not dependent on others.

The aim is to convince the amygdala that the change is worthwhile. So, the more enjoyable, the better, but stay in the realms of being able to sustain it. For example, if something like cost or time is an issue, try to factor that in. It is important to make a direct connection with your ‘Something Bigger’ to the behaviour you are moving away from.

If for example, you were saving your cigarette money to pay for a holiday, envisage what you have bought by the end of the week, perhaps a boat trip or a ride on a camel, whatever takes your fancy to keep you focused. Also, talk to people about your ‘Something Bigger’ to keep it current.

Changing your habit environment

Including a change in your environment may be helpful – Your environment often helps maintain a habit and may act as a queue for certain behaviours so choosing ‘Something Bigger’ that gets you to a new environment, can be great. I am currently going Teetotal and have been taking myself away from my local pub alternate Fridays to venues with music as I love dancing. Because I can now drive, I have been all over the place and now, having made the change for three months, am loving all the new people I have met and the bands I have seen. I am feeling very confident and am finding that I am capable of having fun on a Friday night without out a drink – well all I can say is who’d have thought it!

Ask the big question

– try asking yourself

‘If I make a change, what is ‘Something Bigger’ that I can give to my subconscious to appease it?’ ‘Is this something that will help me sustain a change over time and am I solely in control of it?’

Often making changes opens up new opportunities, taking the first step may be all you need to change your path however you may need to give it time to become a new norm, so stick with it.

Here are some of the ‘Something Bigger’ ideas my clients have come up with:

  • Compulsive Eating – ‘I will have a sketchbook and doodle – I used to love this when I was a kid, and for some reason, I just stopped doing it.’
  • Weight loss – ‘I will take up dancing lessons even if my husband doesn’t want to go with me, I am sure they will partner me up with someone.’
  • Depression – ‘I have decided that I want to help out at the RSPCA, I love animals and think that I would feel useful and really enjoy the experience of helping out and getting out the house.’
  • Un-confidence – ‘I am going to do a skydive for charity to prove that I can do anything I want to. I will be absolutely terrified but if I do that one thing then I know I will think I am the sort of person that can do anything.
  • Grief – My ‘Something Bigger’, is that I choose to believe that my Father is no longer in pain and is laughing when I laugh, he can see my thoughts and is almost part of them now, so he no longer judges me, our relationship is now completely pure. When I miss him, I have a conversation with him in my head, and I imagine that he has just emigrated to a better place and that when I die, we will have the best reunion party ever.’

Perhaps there are ‘Something Biggers’ you have left in the past?

Even if you don’t want to make changes now, change is inevitable, be on the lookout for any ‘Something Bigger’ opportunities you can use and write them down so that they are available to use when you need them.

I have known people who loved to play musical instruments, paint, ice skate and do all sorts of things as children or teenagers who have not continued with these hobbies as adults. How many people loved drawing as children and no longer do this? Until recently I was one of them.

So why search now when you don’t need to make a change?

Our brains are great at hiding opportunities from us when we are most in need of them, and our minds begin to chant ‘I can’t’, ‘there is nothing I can do’, ‘I am just stuck in this situation’ Recognise when these words are limiting your options and grab your list of ‘Something Biggers’ with both hands. Let yourself know that when you could see the wood for the trees, these options were feasible to ‘you’. Now hopefully you can spend a few less anxious hours thinking about what to do because you already have the stepping stones to succeed, you just have to start to embrace ‘Something Bigger’.