Life Expansion For 2016

What if we (everyone reading this article) collectively decided to be different (better) in 2016? What if we decided life is short, so there’s no time like the present? What if we stopped dreaming about a different world, turning our dreams into reality by first changing ourselves?

Well, the time is now. As we march up to this new year’s beginning, this is the perfect time to invest in Life Expansion – increasing our capacity for life. Thinking, reflecting, visioning, dreaming…these all have their place. But suppose 2016 is the year to stop being in your head and start living the vision. Suppose you made giant leaps this year toward being the person God hopes for you to be.

Since we are not guaranteed many years in the future to start living the life we are called toward, let’s start now. Here are three strong actions which are guaranteed to make life different for you, should you do them.

Do something different
When I was a therapist, I discovered a counseling approach which empowered clients to make changes immediately (Solution-Focused Brief Therapy). Now, in my role as a Leadership Coach, it’s clear that the coaching world has “borrowed” one of SFBT’s primary principles: “Small Change Is Generative.”

Often, we endeavor to make large-scale changes in our lives, with the best of intentions. Then, we lower the chances of success by leaving our goals in their big, harry, awesome state…too large to address and emotionally overwhelming when it comes to implementation. When we realize that small change is generative, then we break the goal down into actionable pieces. Coaches know that clients will gain energy and momentum by early successes, movement toward their goal. Small changes turn out to be extremely encouraging. So, as you begin moving toward an expanded life in 2016, do something different. Some would say your “something different” does not even have to be related to your goal. The energy you will gain from doing something different, anything different, will fuel many areas of your life.

Change a belief about yourself
It’s actually a strange thing. As we coach leaders forward toward implementing their hopes and dreams, often the person who holds them back is staring them in the mirror. We each carry around with us these images and pictures of who we are. “I am this kind of person, and not that.” A strange thing happens when we try implementing change. The new behavior or way of being conflicts with our internal picture of ourselves. Thus, dissonance or internal conflict is created. Since the mind is such a powerful thing, we will not sustain the changes we intend to make without also changing our self-perceptions. Perhaps an example will help.

We see this happen often. A leader works hard and serves well, moving to higher levels of leadership. This leader then feels awkward and overcome with this new leadership opportunity. They see themselves as the kind of person who has the ability to lead at the former level, but not the kind of person who functions at this new, higher level. If this incongruity is not addressed, this leader will self-sabotage, declining back to what his/her self-perception can accommodate. The remedy = change your belief about how successful you are as a person (expansion), empowering yourself to move into greater levels of leadership (or life).

Identify and implement an atypical, yet hopeful and positive, new behavior
In order to generate movement, raise energy for change, and expand our self-perceptions, we have to step out of our typical dance moves. So, identify a new behavior…something you would enjoy and holds promise for a better existence, but is not your typical kind of move. Perhaps another example will help.

My New Year’s Resolution for 2005 was “to only participate in interesting meetings.” I was employed in an organization with innumerable meetings, finding many of them useless and boring. I couldn’t face another year of the same, determining my meeting experience must change. So, embracing my resolution, I exercised various strategies that year. The best strategy was to engage more fully in the meeting, making my contribution, helping the meeting to become more purposeful, or at least interesting. Another option was to be present in body, but not in spirit, mentally checking out. Another option was to physically leave. Though I exercised that option as a last resort, the internal permission to do so was extremely helpful. At the end of 2005, I found I was far more engaged in meetings, helping them to be productive and interesting, due to this unusual resolution.

So go ahead. Engage in Life Expansion in 2016. Take a small step, change a belief about yourself, and do something atypical. By taking these actions, life will not be the same. The energy which rises up will empower you to pursue your calling. May we live into the visions and dreams God has for us in 2016.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA