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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

8 Things You Can Do to Rise Above Failure and Attain Success

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Highly successful people have tasted failure more than success. Whether its Nikola Tesla or Michael Jordan, everyone had his/her fair share of failures before rising to the pinnacle of success. Yet, most people I know are averse to the idea of failure.

When ambition fuels your desires, you become so conscious about avoiding failure that you forget to learn how to cope with it when you actually experience it. So, when you come face-to-face with adversity, it often overwhelms you.

This brings us to the question, how can you train yourself to overcome these difficulties and use them to your advantage? Here’s how:

1. Acceptance is important to overcome failure

When the going gets tough, one of the most frustrating things you may get to hear is “stay positive.” The idea of positive thinking has been misconstrued, misused, and abused continuously. Contrary to popular belief, positive thinking has nothing to do with smiling and being happy with everything that happens to you all the time. Anyone who preaches that is either lying or crazy.

Use positive thinking to learn, grow, and evolve from the experiences we gather in life. Positive thinking simply means that if you are faced with a setback, you work hard to overcome the challenges. When you experience hardships, it is alright to feel upset and disappointed. Our objective, however, is not to stay down.

2. Be honest with yourself

The most crucial part of dealing with a failure involves pausing for a couple of minutes and pondering over what happened. You need to be completely honest with yourself on why it happened.

It is easy to pull out the Smartphone, turn on the laptop or find other forms of distraction. Most people would do anything to distract themselves and keep their eyes shut to the mistakes they have made.

However, if you don’t confront, you don’t learn. And if you don’t learn, then you are setting yourself up for failure again. Albert Einstein famously stated that it was insane to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different outcome. If you don’t derive a lesson out of mistakes and failures in life, then you are doomed to keep repeating them, whether you realise it or not.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

3. Don’t beat yourself up over a temporary setback

When you have experienced a setback, many of you may succumb to the feeling that you’ll always keep failing. It is easy to convince yourself that you are indeed a failure. Don’t let such destructive ideas or thoughts creep into your head. Instead, keep reminding yourself that just because you failed today, it doesn’t mean you’d fail the next time as well.

It is also important that you treat your failure as a passing phase. When you keep moving forward, focus on the right things, and keep learning. Perceiving the setback as a temporary phase rather than something permanent is vital to developing an optimistic attitude in life.

4. Focus on nurturing and improving yourself

Failures don’t discriminate, and it comes to everyone at some point. The trick lies in learning to deal with it and what you do about it that makes all the difference. In many cases, failure happens because a person wasn’t prepared, didn’t invest time on planning or was ill-equipped. It can also be because Lady Luck decided not to shower her favours.

Except for the last one, the rest of the issues can be fixed. Prepare a list of all the things that you think resulted in your failure. Start working on them one at a time. Do everything in your capacity to rectify, improve, resolve, and develop.

5. Find inspiration and support in abundance

Interacting with someone close can be more helpful than you think. You can also learn from people who have been through similar situations and have achieved what you hope to. Gain insights on how they managed to sail through the setbacks or low-points before and during the moment of success.

Or you can gain the motivation or enthusiasm by listening to someone else from an audiobook or podcast for maybe 30-60 minutes. It doesn’t have to be focused on your current setbacks.  Change your mood and mindset back towards optimism again.

6. Adopt a constructive approach and learn from the adverse situation

Consider it as valuable feedback and take home something you can implement in the process of overcoming your failure. The following are some of the questions you need to ask yourself:

  • What is the lesson for me?
  • How can I rectify myself to avoid making the same mistake and do better next time?
  • What can I do to enjoy guaranteed success?

You don’t need to rush through the process. Some of the answers may be immediate, while others might take an hour, a day or even a week to pop up. The significant thing is to start thinking about the situation from this perspective. Also, you need to be constructive about things rather than getting stuck with denial, negativity and apathy.

7. Stop mulling over and move on

Processing the situation and accepting it is the ideal way to deal with failures. Any individual who has experienced failures will know that it is quite easy to stay stuck in the loop of similar thoughts. In fact, this may go around and around for weeks or even months.

Now, in order to be free from this trap, the one habit that might help you is the set of questions like the ones shared above. You can also create a rough plan for how you wish to move forward from here. So, take some time to sit down and write them down.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

8. Purge out all the negativity

Another impactful way to handle the emotional meltdown and the thoughts that emerge from experiencing failure is to purge out all the negativity. In order to let everything out, you need to confide in someone close to you. There are two ways to go about it: Engaging in a conversation with someone will allow you to see it from a different perspective. The person you talk to can assist you in grounding yourself in reality again and motivate you to look for a way forward.

Or you can simply vent about it while the other person who is listening can sort things out for you. He/she can help you accept what happened and boost your spirit by instilling a sense of hope.

The significant thing to remember is that while you can’t stop obstacles from appearing in life, you can devise smart ways to handle them. If you persevere, you can easily discover opportunities that have been waiting for you on the other side. Now, as you become more efficient at dealing with the failures, you will allow yourself to see the positive side in even the toughest of scenarios.

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How Stress Can Actually Improve the Quality of Your Life

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Naturally, those of us who experience less stress in our lives are more likely to succeed. So, it’s important that you learn how to reduce your daily level of stress, right? Maybe not. Recent research has shown the common wisdom about stress might be dangerously inaccurate. Psychologists tracked the health of 30,000 adults in the United States over an 8-year period. Participants were asked two important questions:

1.    “How much stress have you experienced in the last year?”
2.    “Do you believe stress is harmful to your health?” (more…)

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Life

The Truth About the Law of Attraction

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When we want something, we generally imagine the form it will take when it manifests. If we’re not careful, however, we can find ourselves attached more to the imagined form than the actual desired outcome. This is like placing an online order and expecting it to come in a blue box shipped by UPS. If we then receive a red box delivered by FedEx, we might not realize that it’s what we ordered, and never even open it!

For example, most of us say that we want money, but when money comes in the form of a free coffee or a gift or a discount, we don’t see it for what it is. We overlook it, and maybe we even say “No, thanks” and decline the gift which is, in one way or another, still money. In doing so, we fail to appreciate the value of the discount, the gift, or the freebie. If it isn’t cash being handed to us, we don’t see it as a manifestation of our desire.

The law of attraction is a funny thing.

It is much more complex and much more intricate than what it seems to be and yet, at the same time, it’s so very simple: We always get what we want. We always receive more of the energy at which we vibrate. Always.

However, if we’re acting from the energy of “I don’t deserve it” or “I don’t think I’m worthy,” then whatever it is that we receive will be negated and essentially unseen. On the other hand, if we are open, observant, and maintaining an abundance mindset, we will receive our request on numerous levels and from plentiful sources!

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill

This is because we “place our order” not only through our words, but through our actions, our beliefs, and our thoughts.

Last month, I was open to receiving a new client. I didn’t know how it would happen, but I’d set my intention: I was going to get a new client. That night, out of nowhere, I got a message from an old student of mine. She was looking to hire me again as her coach for the upcoming college entrance exams in the U.S. But wait! I didn’t want an entrance exam client.

What I actually wanted was to get life and business coaching clients. This student was my “red box from Fed Ex.” I wanted to decline at first, but as I was about to reply, something made me stop. I asked myself, “Why am I rejecting this?”

This student is an amazing client. She pays on time. She’s not needy. She does her part. Best of all? She doesn’t short-change me. So I said yes, because I realized that the Universe was simply responding to the essence of my desire.

You see, my “Big Why” in everything I do has always been to facilitate an accelerated personal and business growth for my clients, and this student fit the bill in every way. She wanted the personal growth, she was ready to go all in and she reached out to me.

It didn’t look like the package I was expecting so I didn’t recognize it at first—and I nearly turned it away—but she was the perfect answer to my request.

Serving people like her has always been a driving force in my life.

The Universe knows that. It also knew that I wanted a client asap so that I could re-invest the money into my business, so it responded in the most ideal way… but in an unexpected form. And I came so close to missing it!

How many times have I missed other opportunities like this? How many times have I dismissed a “red box” because it wasn’t “blue?” I’ll never know. But I do know that, had I not stopped myself from sending a “No, thanks,” I would have felt as though the Universe wasn’t listening.

That’s the thing: the Universe is always listening.

The more open we are in receiving, the more we thrive. The more open our energy is, the greater the possibilities. Don’t just return that red box to the post office and keep waiting on a blue one. Ask yourself, first and foremost, if what you’re receiving at the moment matches up with your underlying desire.

See yourself living in abundance and you will attract it.” – Rhonda Byrne

The key is to be willing to receive anything and everything. How? Keep on reading1

1. Get clear on your “underlying desire.”

Identify exactly what it is that you really want—in my case, it was an ideal client (underlying) as opposed to a coaching client (surface)—and focus on that. Clear out all the mental noise and static that clouds your awareness.

2. Be flexible

Keep your eyes and mind open for anything that fits the description. When you ask for money, recognize that free coffee for what it is: $3 you were going to spend anyway, that can now remain in your pocket. Every penny on the ground, every coupon, it’s all money.

3. Keep an attitude of gratitude.

The more you appreciate what you have, the more that comes your way. Your grateful mindset opens the energetic door for more to flow your way, because “where attention goes, energy flows.” The more you focus on the things you want, the more you will draw them into your experience.

Remember, that the Universe responds to our requests in whatever way fits best within the big picture.

It’s a picture so big that we couldn’t possibly begin to see how it comes together. Trust it. Know that when you ask, you will receive. It may not come in the form you anticipate, but always in a form that responds to your underlying desire. You just have to be ready to see it.

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7 Simple Ways to Master Your Emotions When Making Decisions

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A lot of people have big regrets when lying on their deathbed. These regrets are often related to bad decisions or decisions not taken. Thus, as it turns out, decision-making is dependent on great self-confidence. A person who has confidence in their decisions has an easier time making them.

Emotions also play a big role in all of this. This is a debate that has confronted two great thinkers. According to Descartes, “decisions are the product of the rational mind.” In other words, decision-making is essentially based on facts and mathematics.

But this thesis was refuted and proven to be wrong by Antonio Damasio in one of his works called “The Error of Descartes”. This was partly based on the story of Elliott, a kid that was very smart, who had above average rational capabilities, but incapable of making a decision, after a surgery to remove a brain tumor on the surface of his frontal lobes. After all his work in that matter, he concludes that a person who is incapable of emotion is incapable of making the most rational decisions.

The management of emotions is therefore completely inherent to good decision making, especially when making the most important decisions. To this end, here are 7 tips to put into practice to really master your emotions thus making the best decisions possible and never regreting them.

1. Take a step back

You must learn to take the time to identify and understand your emotions. Since physical reactions are emotionally related, also take the time to detect the reactions you have to some of your emotions. To be able to take the distance necessary to make decisions, it’s important to refer to your prefrontal cortex. This is the area of ​​the brain responsible for reasoning. To do so you need to put yourself in a stress-free environment for a few minutes.

“Your life changes the moment you make a new, congruent and committed decision.” – Tony Robbins

2. Breathe

The best way to do this is to learn to breathe deeply. This will allow activating your prefrontal cortex again, therefore, to have better control of your emotions so you do not react to them, let alone to the event that causes these emotions. Do this exercise for at least 15 minutes. It’s amazing how you can train yourself never to react, no matter what the situation. Ideally, let at least 24 hours go by before responding to a situation that would normally cause tension.

3. Pay attention

Once you are in the prefrontal cortex, put one hand on your abdomen, at the level of your intestines, and the other hand on your heart, and take the time to listen. These two parts of the body are the two major centers of vibrations and emotions. This is why it’s important to listen and pay attention to them.

The purpose of this exercise is to become aware of your gut and heart. What you need to remember is that the only person you need to trust is yourself. By practicing this exercise, one thing will become very clear: what the emotion you feel seeks to convey to you about the decision you have to make.

Since everything is energy, first make sure that the vibration of the decision you are about to make and that of your heart and gut are in sync. You will then know whether to go ahead with your decision or reject it based on whether you feel serenity or heaviness.

4. Discern untruths

It is important to know whether your nervousness is the result of an untruth you’ve told yourself. These can corrupt the vibrations that should help you make the right decision. You have to throw out all of these untruths and come to the decision-making without any filter. Stop thinking that you’re unlucky, that you’re in a bad situation, that your life is a failure, or that you are a victim.

5. Become aware of your emotions instead of avoiding them

To become aware of your emotions, you must learn to coach yourself. Ask yourself questions: How did you feel the last time you had to ask these types of questions? What did you get in return? Rename what you felt and the result you obtained from what you decided to do. You will thus be much better at assimilating, understanding, and welcoming your emotions.

6. Be as present as possible

There is no point in focusing on the big events surrounding the decision you want to make. Concentrate instead on the present moment, without analyzing the events. Judge based on emotions rather than the event. By being more present, you will be better able to listen to your emotions and feel them.

Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.” – John C. Maxwell

7. Make your emotions your allies

Each of your emotions speaks to you through the physical and physiological reactions that they generate in you. Look to the weight of their impact on you as an indicator. Only by listening to them, using them, and managing them can you manage your emotions.

Habit comes with practice. With time, these 7 points will become much more natural and will become automatic. You will make better decisions for yourself.  This is one of the best ways to not end up with one of the big regrets.

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