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How a hardcore prisoner taught me the cycle of change…

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Wish there was a guide for motivation that told you what to do and when?

There is, and it’s called the Cycle Of Change.

Originally designed to assess and treat substance abuse, the cycle of change describes the process you will go through to change your behavior, and how your level of motivation fluctuates throughout that process.

Precontemplative – not even thinking about changing

Contemplative – realising something might need to change

Planning – figuring out how to change

Action – making the changes

Maintenance – making the changes consistent over time

Lapse – having thoughts that put you at risk of going backwards

Relapse – giving up and reverting back to your old behavior

 

By determining where you are in the cycle you can figure out what the most effective actions are for you to take.

Motivation fluctuates over time. You may assess yourself as being at a certain stage one day, only to then move forward or backwards to a different stage shortly after that. This most often happens when something in your environment presents either a new challenge or more inspiration.

 

THE CYCLE OF CHANGE IN ACTION

Any of you can research the cycle of change, so today I’ll do something different. I’m going to share a true-life story of someone I worked with as she travelled through the entire cycle.

To ensure privacy, let’s just call her “Joan”.

Joan was a high risk offender I worked with for a number of years and, sadly, is not one of my success stories. However her journey will allow us to go through the entire cycle of change model, from pre-contemplative through to relapse.

When Joan was first released from prison she was tough to work with. The many years of ingrained gang-mentality, combined with a long-standing hatred for “the system”, meant I needed to bring out the big guns in order to motivate her.

What was complex in this case was that she actually made a lot of money from crime, which financed her fun-filled and hedonistic lifestyle.

When she first came in it was obvious that she did not see herself as having any issues. This was a woman with “F*** the Police” tattooed on her face.

Joan had been running a highly profitable car theft ring, and had such a great underworld reputation that prison was actually a pretty enjoyable experience for her. Therefore, the idea that she needed to change had genuinely never occurred to her.

This placed her in the pre-contemplative stage.

 

PRECONTEMPLATIVE STAGE

Action required: Get uncomfortable about staying the same.

After a few sessions it was obvious there was no “ammunition” for me to work with regarding the costs and benefits of crime for her. She loved crime! But as time went on and we built a rapport, I learned that she had four children.

One thing that is almost universal about the offenders I have worked with is they almost never want the same life for their children (yes ok, there are some very shocking exceptions). I decided to work on this new angle.

I had assisted her to find housing and employment, and had given her some solid support for solving problems. We also had a frank discussion, where we “unpacked” her history with government agencies and the justice system. I acknowledged how she felt.

After all of this she started to trust me a little. This allowed me to introduce the concept of completing exercises to examine her life, to see if anything could be better.

Together we predicted the path that her eldest son would take in life. On one side, I got Joan to predict what would happen to him if she kept up her life of crime.

Joan was quite straightforward and it was easy to see that her boy would get involved in drugs, end up in gangs, and quite likely go to prison.

On the other side we predicted what would happen to him if she quit offending immediately. It was touching to see that she had quite high hopes for her son, with him completing school, getting a university qualification, and supporting his sisters by starting his own business.

I left Joan to mull over our discussion for a week. When she came back, she said that she was starting to see that she needed to do something to at least plan for the future of her children. She was now in the contemplative stage.

 

CONTEMPLATIVE STAGE

Action required: Motivational work; take advantage of this opportunity and create hope in change.

Focusing on her son, we went through and listed everything he would need from Joan to achieve the lifestyle she wanted him to have. This was tricky ground, because a lot of his financial needs could be supported through crime. We might have ended up coming to the conclusion that she had to keep offending to support her son.

Instead I had her look at other types of support he would need. Joan came up with ideas like transport to extra-curricular activities, helping with his homework, backing for a business loan, and so on.

I think at that stage she didn’t even realize we had basically agreed that she needed to stay out of prison, i.e. she had to stop offending. As you’ll soon see, I made some false assumptions here that ended up costing us both.

We had now moved tentatively into the planning stage.

 

PLANNING STAGE

Action required: Figure out how to make the change possible and achievable.

Whether Joan was aware of it or not, she had now completed the foundation of the plan for her to stop offending and stay out of prison. In order for her to take action on this plan, I needed to motivate her.

We dedicated the next few sessions to motivational interviewing and exercises, where I slowly increased her confidence so she could write her goals. Eventually the plan was clear:

  • I will complete the Better Start [name changed] parenting course by end of July
  • I will complete a certified course in catering, starting July 15th, so that I can get better employment
  • I will spend 1 hour every night helping my children with their homework and talking with them about their school life

Once she became more motivated we went about the practical aspects of putting these goals into action.

 

ACTION STAGE

Action required: Encourage continued action through praise and support, and build on results.

Joan did well, was soon gainfully employed and began enthusiastically sharing stories about the increasing quality of her family time. She even bought her son in to tell me about what he had been learning at school.

 

MAINTENANCE PHASE

Action required: Overcome obstacles while embedding change through new routines.

While there were a few small hiccups here and there, Joan kept this helpful behavior going for quite a few months and moved into the maintenance phase. Even the Police commented on her improvements.

If only the story ended there…

LAPSE
Action required: Stop and figure out what caused lapse thinking. Implement strategies to get back on track.

Joan had her first lapse. She had been at a friend’s place when an argument occurred. Her friend had some unhelpful things to say about Joan’s new outlook on life. Given that Joan was known for assaulting Police severely enough to hospitalize them, this friend must have been intoxicated, reckless or plain old crazy.

Joan managed to remove herself from the situation, but the next time she reported in to me I could see the dark storm-cloud over her head. She was cursing more than usual, and her body language was tense and menacing.

After some gentle questioning, Joan disclosed the incident and admitted that she had been contemplating ordering others to commit serious violence against her new enemy. This was a serious lapse which thankfully had not resulted in action.

We did some exercises on managing high risk situations, and Joan left with a clear “relapse prevention” plan, which detailed how to avoid the friend as well as how to deal with the situation should Joan accidentally run into her.

Unfortunately, I had misjudged the situation.

I had thought that by dealing with the specific threat to her success I helped neutralize the problem. What I missed was the core issue in the lapse: Joan was back to using crime to solve problems.

I had not even contemplated that she might be applying this negative style of thinking to other problems in her life. Sure enough, one week later she failed to report in to me, because she had relapsed.

 

RELAPSE

Action required: Start over again, learning from the last attempt’s mistakes.

I checked her up on the computer-system and found out she had been remanded in custody with active theft charges. Turns out she re-engaged her old criminal network and started stealing again.

Even though I had trained myself not to get emotionally attached to the outcomes with clients, I felt disappointed. It’s hard to see months of hard work go down the drain, but at least I learned a very valuable lesson:

Problem-thinking always affects more than one area of your life!

Dan is a lifestyle and success coach, with his own company The Inspirational Lifestyle Ltd. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand, and loves to share his advice and opinions on how to attain success. Make sure you checkout more of Dans articles at: TheInspirationalLifestyle.com

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Sheila Makena

    Jun 3, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    This is incredibly powerful stuff right here. Thanks so much for this article. It seems, for this particular individual, that she jumped right into the solution. What could have been dealt with first is her addiction to her story/experiences of her past that shaped her present, break away from the shackles of that shame and then go from there. All in all, a powerful article. Thank you!

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Life

How to Harness the Power of Your Personal Narrative

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Are you “living up” or “living down” to your personal narrative? When you set out to achieve an important goal, you’ll come face-to-face with many obstacles, such as starting a new business and not having your prospects reply to your prospecting emails. Perhaps you’ve had an interview for a new job and learned you didn’t make the final round of applicants. 

In those difficult moments, you have to have an internal conversation with yourself, known as self-talk. What do you say? How do you feel? You may find yourself succumbing to negativity or failing to believe in your own self-worth. If so, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re all easily overwhelmed by our doubts and fears, because it’s what makes us human.

However, these feelings can not only shape a sense of identity, but also allow our doubt and fear to determine the outcome. When this happens, it’s vital to understand how to have the courage and conviction to move forward despite the obstacles. This includes moving forward in the midst of struggling, even when success seems lightyears away. This may seem daunting, but the answer is right in front of us. It lies in our personal narrative.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

What is a personal narrative?

A personal narrative is a life-script that is often followed without question or protest. The conversations you have internally, known as self-talk, make up the core component to our personal narrative. Your self talk represents a powerful belief system that’s baked into our day-to-day existence.

Each of us possess a personal narrative that encompasses a belief system that shapes us and what we see as possible in our lives. As a result, we either ​live up or ​live down to that personal narrative.

While a personal narrative is the starting place, it’s a powerful one. On one hand, when a negative narrative becomes suffocating, it can be hard to escape. This will lead you to foster the belief that you’re incapable of accomplishing something, ensuring that you’ll be less likely to continue to take the necessary steps in the direction of a dream

Your narrative may be so powerful that you may just assume the worst, ending any possibility for you to put in the necessary time, effort and perseverance required to achieve a different outcome.

“The inner speech, your thoughts, can cause you to be rich or poor, loved or unloved, happy or unhappy, attractive or unattractive, powerful or weak.” – Ralph Charell

Cultivating positive narratives

On the other hand, what if we possessed personal narratives that were more positive? This  is not just positive thinking, because it is the practice of consciously cultivating a narrative that you could live up to instead​. Imagine how a more positive narrative could support more preferable outcomes.

In life, this may sound like, “I plan to do well in this interview, so I am going to take every action to support that expectation – like working with a career coach.” Or it may sound like, “Because I am someone who tries hard even when I am overwhelmed or uncomfortable, I am going to ask for help if I feel stuck.” That way, when a challenge arises – as they always do, you will grow to trust in your ability to navigate it.

The more you practice this, the more you will come to realize that your personal narrative really represents the essence of who you are. Your self-talk will evolve into someone who plans to do well during an interview, a business meeting, or a workout class because you become someone who invests in their personal well-being as an extension of your self-concept.

Cultivating positive narratives is not a what-if situation. It is an intentional practice that everyone can benefit from. It provides the framework for who you can become. Most importantly, it’s the key to help us transform into the best version of ourselves, while defending our dreams against a spiral of fear or self-doubt.

So, what does your personal narrative sound like? And how can you live up to it? Share with us below!

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5 Reasons It’s Important to Understand What You Want to Do With Your Life

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No matter your age or your place in life, it is perfectly normal to not know exactly what your next steps should be. There are many factors that can contribute to this situation but it is always important to remember that everything happens for a reason and that this will help you build a much happier you.

There are many ways for you to understand what you should be doing with your life and there are just as many reasons why you should work towards getting a better understanding of those reasons.

If you wish to turn any situation around and start working towards finding your purpose, here are some of the most important reasons why:

1. You will be able to set long term goals for the future

Setting long term goals is one of the things that will help you feel more secure and certain about your future. Instead of relying on living day by day and trying to figure out what your next steps will be without having a future ultimate goal, you will now be able to plan accordingly so that your every step will bring you a step closer to making that dream come true.

One of the things many people forget though is that every plan, no matter how well-organized and planned out it is, will need to be adapted to every situation the person is experiencing. Knowing what your ultimate goal is will help you handle every change of plans with more confidence and will allow you to manoeuvre every situation and turn your problems into positive outcomes.

2. You will get rid of a lot of anxiety

One of the best things about finally getting a better understanding of what you wish to do with your life is that you will finally start feeling less anxious and unsure about the future. Having a certain plan you can follow and looking forward to making a big goal come true will help rid yourself of negative thoughts and allow you to be able to focus on achieving your dreams.

Anxiety is a very common problem in the time we live in and it can make a lot of people feel less productive and scared to take risks, especially in a professional manner. As a result, they tend to hold themselves back and do fewer things than they are capable of, simply because they are too scared to dare.

Realizing what you wish to do in your life and working towards achieving your goals will help you feel less stressed and even if you do, this type of anxiety could actually help you be much more productive and eager to do your best in order to make your dreams manifest into reality.

3. You will be much happier

Understanding what you wish to do in your life will truly help you finally figure out what you are meant to do in your life. For some people, it can help them find their purpose and give them a new perspective on everything they do in their everyday life.

This will help you feel a lot happier and will put your mind at ease, as you won’t have to continue wondering if the path you have chosen to follow is the right one for you or not. Feeling more certain of your decisions will help you feel a lot more confident and happier since you will feel strong enough to overcome anything that might come your way from now and on.

4. You won’t lose time or energy on smaller goals

Setting shorter goals without knowing what you are meant to do in the long run will cost you a lot of energy and time. This will happen as you will spend a lot of time planning out your every move and it will cause you to feel stressed and worried about every little thing going wrong.

Smaller goals will still be important but you won’t spend much time planning them as you would if you didn’t know what your end goal would be. Saving energy and preparing both mentally and physically for reaching your goal will help you achieve a much healthier outlook on dealing with everyday situations and it will make you more excited to complete your ambitions.

5. You will become an expert in one field

Last but not least, another important reason why you should try and understand exactly what you are meant to do in your life is that you will be able to focus all of your time and energy on learning as much as possible and growing only in one certain field.

The uncertainty of having a set goal for your future can make you feel like you need to know many different things in different fields in order to be able to succeed in life and make a living. While having knowledge in various fields is something that will prove to be useful, you will never fully be able to become an expert in one field and make a name for yourself in that sector.

A long term goal will allow you to either study or work full time on one subject you truly enjoy and are good at. This will help you build your reputation, make connections and allow yourself to enjoy and love the path you have chosen even more. As a result, you will be much happier and content with the end goal you have chosen and you will be able to work even harder to achieve all of your dreams.

Working towards a happier you

You might be at a point in your life where you feel like not a lot of things are truly worth your time but the truth is that every little thing you do will help you find what you are meant to do. This will help you feel happy and content and allow you to tackle every issue you come across with much less anxiety and fear.

You will find a lot of stability and comfort in setting a big and important goal for your future and this will allow you to start being more productive and happy to tackle every problem that might come your way. Your life will always be full of surprises and unplanned events but hard work and dedication on your goals will allow you to become the best version of you and enjoy every step of the way.

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3 Ways to Stay Strong and Push Through When Hardships Arise

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We all have trials and tribulations, and most times they are out of our control. I believe that’s why it can be so frustrating when trouble arises, because we feel powerless. But this isn’t true! How we perceive these times gives us power, and will ultimately dictate the quality of our lives.

Each event can have many interpretations. You can ask two people about a situation they both went through, and sometimes you’ll get two completely different answers! Most times this isn’t because one was being truthful and the other wasn’t, but because of how they perceived the events that took place.

That’s how powerful perceptions are, so why not use this power to our benefit? Instead of thinking on what was lost, think of what there is to gain. When you think positively, it helps you from not feeling stuck, and helps you look towards the future. 

Below are three things to consider whenever a hardship comes your way:

1. This is an opportunity for me to grow

Viewing troubling times as an opportunity to improve and grow will give you a sense of freedom and happiness because you’ve decided to lead your life, as opposed to just accepting your life. Some people just accept the things that happen to them/around them. When you have this mindset, you are telling yourself there is nothing you can do in that situation, and you are giving away your power.

This will affect not only your mood, but also the people around you, especially if you’re a leader. They feed off your energy and body language. When you focus on growth, you can think more clearly on solutions, which is what you want. It’s ok to feel sad, frustrated, or confused. If you want to be successful, you will feel all of these, and quite often. When you do, recognize what your feeling, but don’t feed it. If you do, it will grow.

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn

2. Don’t focus on the problem, find the solution

This sounds pretty simple but how many of us focus more energy on the problem and why it happened or who did it, instead of trying to focus immediately on the solution? I learned this in the military. If something goes wrong, my superiors were less concerned with who did it and more concerned with finding a solution to the problem, and as quickly as possible.

But I was once guilty of this thinking, and sometimes I slip back into that mode of thinking when my emotions are strong. Changing your mindset to focus on solutions will give you a sense of power, which will calm you, because you feel in control. This in turn, will help you think clearly and rationally, as opposed to emotionally. Furthermore, being in a more relaxed state of mind will allow you to absorb information more clearly so you can learn from the incident and become a better you.

3. Determine how the hardship improves your character

What was being tested during your hardship? Patience? Empathy? Communication? Understanding? Endurance? I remember working for a boss I did not like. He seemed to pick on me, and I couldn’t understand it. I went above and beyond what was asked of me, but people were still being promoted quicker than I was.

To give a little depth on my perception at the time, I was born and raised in Brooklyn NY. Not poor, but close to it. So respect is something that is valued greatly in neighborhoods I come from, because we don’t have much else. Respect was your money, and could get you things money couldn’t buy.

Now everyone wants respect, but me, I need it that much more. So when I felt he wasn’t giving me respect, I almost convinced myself to handle these matters. Imagine the people you train, passing you by and you know their work ethic doesn’t match yours. It sucked.

I talked to my dad, who always gives great council, and he told me it wouldn’t be wise. He told me to look for ways to grow, and I did. And let me tell you, during that time I learned things that cannot be taught in classrooms because you can only be learned through experience. My endurance was really challenged, but made me wiser and stronger, which made me better equipped to deal with future troubles I’d have. Because of those lessons, I was able to teach others about my experience and give wise counsel.

“Lead a life of your own design, on your own terms. Not one that others or the environment have scripted for you.” – Tony Robbins

When those times come, ask yourself where you’re weak and what you can you do to improve on that weakness. Finding something you’re not good at should make you happy, because it gives you a chance to improve! If you suck at something, do something about it! Don’t wallow in self-pity. It’s not a fruitful exercise.

When hardships come your way, your perception is a powerful weapon that you must manipulate, don’t let it manipulate you. Ask yourself how can this help you grow, what positive opportunity is hidden in the hardship and focus on the solution, not the problem. Doing these things will put the power back in your court. Give it a shot, it changed my life!

How do you keep your head up high when hardships arise? Share your thoughts and advice down below!

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7 Essential Mindset Shifts From Gary Vaynerchuk That’ll Help You Have an Amazing Life

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Image Credit: Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk is full of little gems to success if you listen with an open mind. His unfiltered way of sharing old school values mixed with modern day approaches is remarkably simple and highly contagious. In this world of instant gratification, everyone is focused on doing things faster in order to produce exponential results.

When our visions don’t become an instant reality, we play the comparison game and judge ourselves. This ultimately leads to a decline in our health and crushes our visions. Many of us want to be an overnight success but need a better psychological framework to endure the ride.

Here are 7 perspectives that Gary Vaynerchuk is currently popularising that can help your mindset game be stronger:

1. Aim for happiness 

Gary Vaynerchuk’s definition of happiness is “being able to do what you want at all times.” This does not mean quit because your work doesn’t make you happy right now, especially if it is the stepping stone for your ideal lifestyle. 

For a period of time you will need to grind and do tasks that are unenjoyable. If happiness is not within your metrics of success, you will eventually suffer from an irregularity in your mental or physical health, which in turn has a downward ripple effect on your valued relationships. 

2. Enjoy paying your dues

Every industry has its own set of rules to work up the chain of command. You need to learn to love each role and responsibility that comes with that. Going in with a curious and enthusiastic energy is bound to shine through and show those around you how serious you are. 

Be present and learn from every experience you encounter. This is a journey for bigger and better things but you need to put in the time, work and sacrifice to be rewarded. Life is all about what you put into it. You don’t know how these earlier stages will serve you in years to come, so take pride in the journey and appreciation for the lessons and people you meet along the way.

3. Obsessively love what you do

You should always be doing what you want, especially if you have a clearly defined purpose. Purpose is such an energizing force, regardless of whether you are earning $40,000 or $4,000,000. If you really love what you’re doing and it’s where you want to be then you’re already winning. 

Always start with what you love because the only way you’re going to hustle hard enough is if you love it. It’s hard to get going around something you’re not passionate about. When you learn to love the game more than the trophy, the game gives you, and you’re on your way up.

“You have to understand your own personal DNA. Don’t do things because I do them or Steve Jobs or Mark Cuban tried it. You need to know your personal brand and stay true to it.”- Gary Vaynerchuk

4. Don’t be driven by the money

To do extremely well in the game of business without disrupting other pillars in your life, you must wake up each morning pondering what solutions need to be found today. You need to be wildly curious and driven by the game of business on a micro level while seeing the macro outcomes. 

When you’re excited to play the game, you become absorbed in mastery over playing with your phone, gossiping with friends and watching mindless content. You relentlessly invest in yourself and your growth, which in turn is remunerated with wealth.

5. Have gratitude

Have you ever thought about the fact that the odds of being a human being are 400 trillion to one? You must create an unbelievably clear perspective of how lucky we are to be human. This in turn makes it a struggle to dwell on things that don’t matter. 

Focus your attention on the things that you value and appreciate. Appreciate your good health and family, because you’ll value it more. Appreciate your gifts, friends, work and life. By doing this, your perception begins to shift. You see the blessings of your life, versus the broken parts.

6. Adversity is your superpower

Adversity and humble beginnings is an incredible framework to happiness, especially when you layer positivity and optimism around your difficulty. We all have hardships and various scenarios that throw us off balance along the way. 

Our super power is when we use that as fuel to drive us to be less audacious and experience more, instead of being held back. What you think and focus on grows. Shift the perspective in your mind so your adversity doesn’t define you, but instead drives you.

“It’s insane to me to ask anybody to be what they’re not. Know what you know the best, love the most. That’s always going to be the answer to the thing that you have the best shot at winning at.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

7. Be excited everyday because you get to play

Learn how to start your morning well and continue that energy throughout the day. That vigour builds momentum that will allow you to actually make your mark. Be fired up that you have given yourself a clear vision and your making moves to play a strong game. This type of mindset gives you an intrinsic pull to do and be better daily rather than external motivation, which over time dies out.

Mindset is everything and it all falls down to your perspective of things. Don’t judge yourself by what you accomplish daily, instead, judge it yearly. It takes years of great creative work to be recognized. Be patient. In the meantime, look at your daily habits and ask yourself if they are causing you to evolve or revolve. Are you moving forward, or just moving in circles? Take constant action to move forward and be grateful you have the opportunity to play in the game of life. 

What’s your favorite Gary Vaynerchuk mindset from the article? Share your thoughts below!

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