The Proof is In The...
...pudding?? That's how the saying goes. But this week has me thinking...the proof is in the process.
All too often change is conceptualized as a product--something that doesn't exist until the singular moment of its creation and is thereafter immutable. Change as objet d'art. Come over tomorrow and look at my change. Here it is, isn't it lovely?!
But is this really how change comes into being? Is this the truth of how personal advancement develops, appearing fully formed in one moment from a place where there was nothingness the moment before? I don't know how you create change, but mine has never worked that way.
Change isn't a product, it's a process. The least impressive part of which is the final issue, the actuality of change as it is finally, fully expressed. The focus on this endpoint robs us of the ability to recognize change as it is happening, throughout the entire developmental process, and is one of the major reasons that most people struggle to create permanent transitions in life. When you're focused on a map dot a thousand miles away and all you can think about is when you're going to get there, the journey is long and arduous. Change your focus to the journey and see what happens.
Here's how the process of change is showing up for me right now. Like so many, I've been on the financial roller coaster for the last year and a half. There have been some great highs, but the lows are lower than usual. My income for the last several months has been less than I'd like, and I've used up the cushion I'd saved during the high times. On Monday I got the news that COVID restrictions in our community will keep me from a large portion of my clients for the near future--end date, unknown. Gulp. Add to this an upcoming trip to California for my daughter's bachelorette party, shortly followed by wedding dress shopping, and you're looking at the perfect trigger for money anxiety in my brain.
Money anxiety and I go way back. For most of my adult life, I was consumed with limiting beliefs and negative thoughts about money. My brain was quite positive there was NEVER enough money...even when there was plenty of money. Paying my bills gave me physical anxiety; it made me sweaty, gave me an upset stomach, made my hands shake. Even when there was plenty of money! I struggled mightily with any choice involving spending money on anything beyond bills, even when I had saved and invested wisely and there remained plenty of money. I would agonize over purchases as small as a book or a thrift store sweater, spending hours or even days watching the tennis match in my mind (buy it, don't buy it, buy it, don't buy it). Then I would punish myself with judgement for the choice I eventually made--I should not have bought it if I did, I should have if I did not.
This was an exhausting way to live. It's truly a miracle that I made it to my 40th birthday. And this, my friend, is the tremendous power of the human brain.
In recent years I've done deep and powerful work to release these beliefs. The shift has been monumental. I never experience physical anxiety when paying my bills...even when it seems there is NOT enough money. I am able to spend joyfully on what my brain once labeled "luxury" items. There's no endless argument in my brain about whether or not to buy these things, nor any judgement about my choices to pay or pass.
But does this mean I have achieved the end product of CHANGE? Can I invite you over and gesture with practiced nonchalance at my mantle, drawing your attention to my prize where it sits in a place of honor, alongside my girl's senior photo?
Nope. And that's not because they don't actually hand out trophies for change. It's because the very first thing that happened when I learned about the pending stricture to my income was an influx of negative money thoughts.
I won't be able to pay my bills in October.
How will I ever afford a dress??
This is awful.
What am I going to do?
There's never enough money!!!
All of my old friends, back for a visit. Every old, worn out story about lack and money, front and center in my brain. I observed these thoughts using my "witness mind," my ability to have thoughts without interacting with them, and noticed something quite interesting. The thoughts were there, but the physical sensation that used to accompany them was absent. My heart was not racing. My hands were not shaking. I didn't feel the physiological calling card of anxiety, a fluttering at the base of my throat.
In fact, I didn't feel anything. Nothing physical, nothing emotional. I didn't feel hopeless, panicked, or desperate. As a result, I didn't find myself rushing to stop those feelings, making frantic plans for how I was going to solve this problem, where I was going to earn more, borrow some, or cut back.
I had these thoughts, but they didn't have me. Curious! As I reflected on this with my coach, I came to realize that I don't feel anything when I think these thoughts because I don't actually believe them. I believe the new thoughts that I've worked so hard to instill in my consciousness: there is ALWAYS enough money. I have never failed to pay my bills. The universe is abundant and I am a willing recipient of abundance. Even though these weren't the thoughts my brain provided for me in the face of less income and more expenses, I still believe they are true.
Those other thoughts, the thoughts of fear and struggle and lack, are just ghosts of an old paradigm. The part of my brain where those thoughts live was so beefed up by decades of repetition that it can't help but light up when money energy comes to the forefront of my attention. But it's weakening. Even though those neurons can still create a thought (or twelve), they are no longer strong enough to generate the emotional and physical responses that used to accompany those thoughts.
The end product of change has yet to be created. The old thoughts are still here. Part of my neurophysiology still supports my old belief systems about money. On some level, I still default to lack. But the process!! The process has advanced So. Far!
The thoughts exist, but no longer hold an emotional charge. I have developed the ability to observe these thoughts without having to interact with them. I can see the thoughts and not feel the thoughts. I can have the thoughts, hear them clearly in my mind, while simultaneously recognizing that I don't believe them. The process of change is well underway here. The product is guaranteed, if only I am willing to allow the process to continue to its natural end. There is great peace in this knowledge, and I am filled with joy and celebration when I recognize this.
But what if I were to fail to honor the process? What if I were focused only on the product? Then my joy would be replaced with frustration, my celebration with sadness. I would point to the map dot and say "I should be there." I would lament being here, my focus on the miles I've left to travel rendering me unable to recognize the leagues that lay between where my journey commenced and where I'm standing today.
The proof of change doesn't lie in the end product, in some tidy package you can hold up and show off. Nor does it lie in pudding, for whatever that's worth. The proof of change lies in the process, in the very steps required to move closer, inch by inch, to the desired endpoint. Learn to honor the process, stop worrying about the product. Focus on the product distracts you from the process; focus on the process assures creation of the product. Focus on pudding is neither here nor there, but might provide a pleasant distraction while you sort this out.