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How to Ignite Personal Change

Photo by Vanessa Paxton
The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to reflect their inner beliefs. ~James Allen

The first step to create personal change is to recognize the reoccurring patterns in our life that no longer serve us. Lately, I started to see that such a pattern surfacing in my life story.

The first time I took on an assignment for a newspaper, one whose readership was larger than most of the blogs I had been writing for, I was terrified.

I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to properly pronounce the subject’s name, that I wouldn’t be taken seriously because of my inability to look older than 21, that I wouldn’t be able to write fast enough to take down the most pertinent details.

But more importantly, I was afraid that I wasn’t a journalist and I would never be recognized as one.

After jotting down too many notes for a 250-word article and asking for more quotes than I could ever use, I sat down to construct a fact-only story. Unfortunately, feelings are my forte, so keeping everything compact and to the point was a struggle.

Once the hard labor was complete, I sent it off, fingers crossed, hoping that I would get a gold star and a “good job!”

But editors, as I’ve discovered, aren’t like teachers or coaches, handing out trophies to the losing team and telling every kid they’re special. Mine simply said there were several corrections that needed to be made.

In reality, it wasn’t that bad. Yes, there were details that could be omitted and sentences that could do with some re-wording. Yet the pit in my stomach was telling me, “See, you aren’t a writer after all.” And I listened.

Then, when the article actually was published, I was surprised to see that it was labeled as a “staff story,” without my name and picture–the one payback I had for writing the article in the first place.

After a little bit of inquiry, I found out that the omission was a mistake, not an intentional declaration that my mistakes had cost me my byline.

Once the frustration had subsided to a small pin prick of annoyance, I realized that not receiving the recognition and accolades for my accomplishments had become an experience I continued to have over and over and over again. It was one of my “records”–those stories we tell ourselves that continue to play in the background of our minds and our experiences, causing us to unintentionally recreate them.

I remembered having dramatic conversations with my parents when I was a teenager, screaming at them between sobs that they paid more attention to my sister’s singing than they did to my artwork. I remembered designing a program for a school play, only to have my name omitted from the “thank you” list.

Not being recognized was, in all honesty, what I expected. So the Universe said, “Ok, here you go then.”

And the cycle continued.

Ironically, the same day that I had received the less than glowing remarks from my editor, I received an email from a reader of my blog with nothing but praise for my writing style. Of course the compliments were a dull whisper while the criticism was a loud roar — so you can guess what I spent the rest of the night dwelling on.

This simply allowed that record of mine to play louder and louder and louder.

Yet, a few days later, when I was able to recognize the pattern for what it was–something I had created from my own thoughts–I was able to give myself the recognition I deserved.

While the lessons are still taking root in my thoughts and actions, here is what I took away from this realization so far.

1. Pattern & Root Cause

Recognize the patterns in your life and get to the root of the thought process that created them.

When similar situations continue to crop up in your life, it’s probably time to stop blaming the outside world and take a look at what seeds your thoughts are planting.

My logical mind told me that the world wasn’t conspiring to keep me from being acknowledged, in fact, I already was being acknowledged. I was just too invested in choosing who gave me that acknowledgement.

2. You Are In Control

Taking responsibility for your reality also means taking your power back.

It may be easier to play the victim, but it’s far more empowering to recognize that you are in control of what’s going on around you. This means you no longer have to wait for apologies, accolades, or whatever you may seek from others, everything you need is already created by you and found within you.

I tend to rely on others to validate my existence. Realizing that I would never get from others what I could give to myself was huge–and still a work in progress.

3. Positive Payback

Pay attention to the payback you receive by continuing to play your record.

When I stopped to think why I continued to create this lack of support and acknowledgement in my life, I realized (reluctantly) that I get some satisfaction out of having people feel sorry for me.

I like being comforted and having friends and family rally around me when I tell them how I have been “wronged.” That, I recognized, was my payback for continuing to play this record I had created for myself.

Every situation we create for ourselves–positive and negative–has some form of payback. It may be hard to recognize the payback in what we deem a “negative” situation, but if you look hard enough, you’ll see that it’s there. Noticing it can offer you the chance to create a positive situation that offers a payback with the same amount (or more) satisfaction.

I’m in the midst of taking on article assignment #2. My nerves are still frayed, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about creating something print-worthy. But it’s empowering to know that I can recognize criticism for what it is, no longer looking at it from the eyes of an angst-ridden teen who thinks the world is out to get her.

No matter what I create, I am already enough.

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About the author

Kayla Albert is freelance writer intent on living life deliberately. You can follow her at Confessions of a Perfectionist. If there's a writing project you'd like for her to tackle, visit her website at kaylaalbert.com

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9 thoughts on How to Ignite Personal Change

  1. Wow! How powerful these “stories” that we tell ourselves are! Thanks for sharing this personal example. It is through this type of real-life experience that I find I can question my own stories about my own insecurities. I love the last line: “no matter what I create, I am already enough.” I may borrow that to use as an affirmation in my own life. It’s gonna take a bit to go from my head to my heart, from an affirmation to a solid belief. I am enough. This is powerful to me. Thank you.

  2. In psychology, these “thought patterns” are sometimes refered to as the confirmation bias, in which people tend only to see things that reaffirm their opinion and world view, while neglecting examples that go against it.

    It’s often hard to be aware of such a bias, but it’s natural and in a way reassuring because it gives us a kind of stability as well as certainties.

    We would always be questioning everything otherwise

  3. I can relate to this article very much. Like you, I am a writer and a blogger, too. I am also the author of Naked Desires a poetry book straight from the heart. I used to rely on others to validate my existence. I also struggle with giving myself the credit and recognition that I deserve. I am getting better. I tirelessly promote my blog with little regard to whether or not I post too many facebook updates, etc. because I’m getting RESULTS. Congrats and good luck with your second article. I’m sure it will be great!

  4. Great post Kayla. It can be so hard to identify those patterns for ourselves and work through them. For many of my clients getting some perspective can really help us move them forward quickly. It’s an area where my own mentors have been invaluable to me.

  5. I think that when we are neglected as children, it is a confusing experience. I have had that experience, and know how hard it is to understand. There are so many reasons and they are rarely articulated because neglect is not a favorite family topic.

    One of the results, I think, is that we can be rewarded for, or approve of ourselves for not being a “bother”. We can become overly and inappropriately self reliant which often means others see us as stronger than we are, and we never know if we are strong enough.

  6. I think we have to start listening to ourselves. I wrote a blog post on giving unsolicited advice after a friend shared her vision for my life instead of listening to MY vision for MY life. Here’s the article:

    http://bareyournakedtruth.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/walk-this-way/

  7. Malayka

    What a great post… and so well timed for me right now.
    Thank you for much! x

  8. Nice article – very thoughtful. as a psychotherapist and wellness speaker/blogger, this is just up my alley! I tell key clients get rid of the old mental tapes – think digital!

  9. Great article – identifying bad thought patterns needs to be taught to our kids. They begin to play their own records from an early age.

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