4 Step Process for Purposeful Change
The process for becoming a parent takes 9 months. We wait and have all of these dreams and ideas and thoughts about who your child is going to be during this time. What they're going to be like.
So when your child has been diagnosed with something, either immediately, or as they continue to develop, you run into a perceived problem, you hit a stop sign. Something happens and whatever thoughts you had about your child, are all wrong.
You find yourself supporting your child in a way you weren’t anticipating because of this medical diagnosis, or behavioral diagnosis, or cognitive diagnosis. Some sort of label is placed on your kid that changes everything about what you were thinking about how their life will go.
When that happens, you can be left feeling alone and isolated. Hurt and desperate. Sad and scared and overwhelmed and all of the things. And it's in that moment when you have two choices to make.
Are you going to make it better?
Or are you going to make it worse?
Without meaning to, making it worse is typically what people do. Because making it better means changing on purpose and change requires an awful lot of effort and feels very uncomfortable. To change means to admit that you are incorrect, that you are wrong, that you are not seeing the world clearly. Change means admitting that your perception of what's happening and what it means is not right. It's inaccurate or incomplete at best.
Being willing to admit that you're wrong can be very, very difficult. Even after admitting that you're wrong, the process of making it into something that's more accurate can equally be very, very difficult. But it's this process that pushes you through your child's initial diagnosis of point A where it's shitty, to point B, where you feel fulfilled. From suffering to your life having meaning and purpose.
Getting through this process is hard. Doing it without some sort of help is impossible. Needing professional help is usually a good idea. So today I want to talk about that process. How to go from the feelings after an initial diagnosis to feelings of acceptance, satisfaction, and fulfillment for your life. You can live fulfilled. Yes, you fucking can.
So what does this process look like?
It's basically four steps.
1. The decision
2. The work
3. The shift
4. The payout
The first step is all the pre-shit. Oh, Lord. It's what leads up to the feelings of despair, anxiety, fear, anger. It's the mindsets and the beliefs you have at the start of the journey. And you sit in this stage until the pain of being what you are right now is more unbearable than the fear of change. Once you get to a place where the bottom truly falls out, and you just cannot take one more second, that's when you're in the place you need to be in order to make the decision to do the work. You're not going to start the work until you realize that what you're doing isn't helping you and you cannot take it one more second.
That is the moment of change.
So you start the work. This typically involves some mindset shifts, 6 at the minimum (read more here). You might not have a clear idea of what this is going to look like but you do know that you cannot continue to do things the way that you've been doing them. You can't ignore the diagnosis, you can't change the diagnosis, you can't help your child in ways that you normally would, you cannot expect the same things out of your child anymore.
This second phase needs to happen deliberately, #onpurpose with focused intention. Working in this kind of structured strategy generally requires some sort of professional assistance, somebody who is unbiased and can look at your situation through the totality of everything that's happening, and help you see your blind spots. This requires a person that can challenge you, generally not a great place for a friend, or a spouse, which is why a coach is helpful. It's like getting feedback from a mentor or a colleague at work.
As you move through the work slowly what happens is you begin to shift. This is when the new mindsets happen. It's when you start moving, working, acting, and behaving differently because you believe differently. And once you start doing that, you start making different choices. And those different choices lead you to the outcome you were looking for. The payout.
The payout is feeling more satisfied. It’s feeling more fulfilled, content, knowing without a doubt you are doing the right stuff. You know you are taking the right action for yourself, for your family, for your child, for the people you love. That's the payout, you feel better.
I want to be very clear, this is not perpetual happiness, it's not "I’m never going to feel sad again". The payout isn't that your child's diagnosis is going to go away. It's that you start living a life of more fulfillment. That is the payout.
I know it sounds really simple and I know it is not easy. This is hard, hard work because your body is going to feel weird about it. And your brain is going to be, at times, screaming at you that what you are trying to do and change is not right.
Your brain is lying to you.
The good news is most of the pain and work involved is in the first two steps. When you move into the last two steps, things start to feel a little bit lighter. Those first two steps are typically where you need the most help and support.
In the first step, that pre-shit stuff you are likely seeking out validation, comfort, love, encouragement, all good things. Often people can get stuck here for a really long time, sometimes indefinitely. It can be for any number of reasons, maybe you’ve convinced yourself it's really not that bad for you personally. Maybe you have so much support that's helping you sit in this space. So you never hit that tipping point and make a decision to change. It doesn't feel like it's unmanageable even though every day you feel empty when you go to sleep.
But as you move through step two you realize it's the decisions you make that put you in a position to actually start making things look, feel, sound, taste, whatever, different.
It's a decision. It's a choice.
And this process is exactly what created that shift and payout for me.
At three, when my son was diagnosed with #autism I spun out completely.
I spent several months in denial about my son's autism. I just couldn't fathom it. I didn't know what to do with it. And the word was so triggering to me that I couldn't even hear it without getting upset. My family tried to give me books and things to read. I couldn't read it. I couldn't read anything. I'm sure they probably felt some of my anger when they tried to share those things that probably would have been very helpful to me. But at that time, and at the moment, I couldn't hear it. I wasn't capable. I sat in that denial for about three months before I decided I had to make a shift.
But that shift was about fixing my kid because I still had these beliefs that something was wrong. I'm not saying that you need to accept that your child's diagnosis is the be-all-end-all and there's not anything you can do. That's not what I'm saying. But it’s not really fighting the disease or the diagnosis, it’s that you are getting the support your child needs. That sounds different because it is different. Even though you might even take some of the same action, and have the same goal as an outcome, the process and energy that you bring into it are different. And that makes a huge world of difference in the kind of results you get.
I spent two years in the space after my son’s diagnosis and it just got worse and worse and worse. And I made it worse in many ways. In how I decided to engage with my husband and kids and even family. In how I decided to think about what was happening.
I made it worse, because of what I believed was true about the situation.
So not only was this diagnosis put upon us, but it also took what was already a struggling marriage and pushed it way over the edge. Soon I was also dealing with a divorce. Within a few years of the diagnosis, everything fell apart. And I absolutely did not know what I was going to do. I laid on the bathroom floor in complete despair.
Initially, I was fighting it, I declared war on my son's autism. I wanted it to go away. It was evil, it needed to be destroyed. That's how I thought about it. A few more years of that, and I realized I still was not making any progress. I was still so angry and so upset, and my marriage had fallen apart. And in a moment on the bathroom floor, is when I finally hit bottom and made the decision to make this better. I could admit that I was doing something that wasn't helping. I realized I was moving away and decided I was going to start moving forward.
From there I started challenging how I thought and felt about my situation. I asked myself what if I was wrong? What if I totally told myself something different about what was happening? I started the work of being on purpose about what I wanted and the best way to get there. I considered what I was doing and if there was a better way.
And then slowly I shifted and started understanding things differently. I started to believe things differently. So I started acting differently. And once that started to happen regularly, slowly I got my payout. I started to fall asleep at night without feeling empty. I started to look at my days and find meaning in them. I felt purpose, and most important - I felt fulfilled, satisfied.
I still had hard days. I still have hard days but now I hurt. I don't despair. I have a solid base of certainty that things are going to be ok. This is possible - I have lived it.
And I continue to live it every day. The reason I wanted to be a coach was to help others get there. You deserve to have a life that is worth it. It is possible to go to bed at night and feel full and content. It's possible to fall asleep with a small smile. Even if the smile is in knowing that tomorrow will be better.
Don't wait to make the decision to start doing the work that creates the shift to bring your payout. The key is to #consideryourlife and the #beonpurpose with living it.
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You can fucking do this.