Do you want to change your life but struggle to make it happen? There's a reason it's so difficult, and the recent unrest in the Middle East provides us a glimpse in to the challenges we face when we try to improve our lives.
The president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, recently stepped down after presiding over the country for nearly 30 years. Thousands of protesters took to the streets to denounce his power. They threw rocks and shouted for his resignation. Apparently after three decades, the people had had enough. Uprisings have also started in Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and other countries. While I'm not going to pretend to understand what this means for U.S. relations or the stability of the Middle East, I can tell you how these revolutions illustrate why it's so hard for you and me to create radical change in our lives.
When I saw the uprising in Egypt, I was struck by two questions. First, why did they decide that now was the time to make a change? Second, why did they wait three decades to do something? The more I thought about this, the more I realized that the roadblocks to creating change are universal. These large-scale uprisings illustrate one of our greatest strengths as well as the greatest roadblock we face when trying to create a richer life.
Your body was designed for one thing, and, contrary to popular self-help gurus, it's not success or riches. You were designed to ... survive. In 2011, "designed to survive" can sound awfully anticlimactic and underwhelming (and probably wouldn't sell too many self-help books), but it has served us well over the millennia. Homeostasis is our body's attempt to maintain equilibrium. Because of homeostasis, you have the incredible ability to survive even in the harshest conditions - extreme temperatures, diets, oppressors, etc., but because it takes very little effort to survive in the 21st century, you're left feeling conflicted. You want something better, but years and even decades can lapse with little progress or action.
So how can you create a personal revolution that will radically transform your life?
- Stop looking up, and start looking down. If you're lucky, you'll hit a breaking point when things get so bad that you can't stand the status quo any longer. It might be the decision that no relationship is better than a bad relationship, or the notion that starting your own business is less scary than continuing to work for a critical boss. Hitting bottom can trigger a momentous ascent.
- Live in the gap. If you wait for the bottom, it may never come. To create the emotion needed to drive action, focus on the one area of your life that you try to avoid. The one that you know desperately needs to change, but that you pretend doesn't bother you. As painful as it may be, face the reality of the situation and focus on the gap - the space between where you are and where you really want to be. Feel the pain, frustration and anger. Live in the gap; it will drive you to the bottom, which is where you need to be so you can push off and move up.
- Go for big change. What do all revolutions and uprisings have in common? They demand large-scale change. Small change doesn't motivate. So when it comes to your personal revolution, make sure the prize at the end is worth getting off the couch for.
- Find a friend. Have you noticed the domino effect in the Middle East? What started in one country has now "spread" to several others. When you face a huge challenge, it's nice to have some support and others to look to who are also struggling and succeeding. Find a friend to join you who's hit bottom and who wants to create a personal revolution too.
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