shaleah danwyel, author

My Personal Revolution: 8 Steps to Real Change

My life has been upside down for a while. It’s not just the result of suddenly moving almost 6,000 miles from where I was born. It’s not just because I am learning who I am in what might be considered a rogue context. It’s because I had been craving revolution for years before I ever set foot in Berlin. It’s something I needed because my life wasn’t working.

Flashback — January 1, 2008: I drove to a beach in California that I had never been to before and climbed to the highest pile of sand I could find overlooking the ocean. I took a pad and pen and sat alone, gazing out at the setting sun. I closed my eyes and made a wish to change my life. I sat up there and asked for change, from the ocean, from myself — from anyone listening. I didn’t want just another list of New Year’s Resolutions, the ones you have every intention of pursuing until somehow they become more spoiled wishes to pile onto your regrets.

I wanted REAL change.

I had been searching within myself for years trying to figure out why I was so unhappy. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, why I couldn’t just “be OK” for any sustained period of time. Everyone else seemed to be doing it. Everyone else seemed to be “normal”. And sitting there in the breeze, something inside of me finally started to let go. I wrote down the following.

Exercise 3x per week
Visit a new continent
Only kiss people I would kiss sober
Find new ways to say thank you
Only drink good booze (whenever possible)
Commit to something outside myself
Practice art often
Do something that scares me at least 1x per month

You never know what’s going to do it, what’s going to alter your path forever. But in my experience, it starts by speaking it out.

Flash forward — now: A client asked me recently about the steps I am experiencing on this “road to self-love” or whatever it is that I am on. I try not to think of things as roads because that implies a beginning middle and end — a straight line — which life NEVER is! But if I had to put into words how it’s been playing out so far, what I have been and am experiencing basically breaks down into 8 journey stages.

1. Let it dawn. Just like admitting you have a problem is the first in the 12 steps of recovery, admitting I needed change was the first step to my personal revolution. If everything is working, you don’t need to change anything. But if it’s not, it’s important to be honest with yourself.

2. Drop the cop-outs. I started to change my habits — even just little things — to test/push out my boundaries. By facing fears and doing everyday stuff differently than I did the day before, I started to realize that saying things like, “That’s just the way I am,” was actually more like saying, “That’s just the way I choose to be.” When I dropped my cop-outs, they lost their power.

3. Get messy. I just started letting it all hang out — not trying to be nice. When things weren’t working for me, I started saying so. When I didn’t feel good about something, I didn’t do it. Sometimes I couldn’t explain and I am sure I pissed some people off. But by tuning into what I was actually experiencing and combining that with consciously letting go of how people were perceiving my process, the work I was doing started getting much more effective.

4. Get emotional. I started crying as often as possible — often in public places. This had a two-pronged effect: 1) The backlogged well of stored-up emotion that I had been carrying from years of trying to make everyone around me feel better started to empty out. 2) I realized that showing emotion (even in the somewhat “upright” context of a German café) doesn’t get as much reaction as one might think. And when it did, I got even further over what people thought of me.

5. Get mad. I started an anger journal and filled it with my most venomous thoughts. These things, too mean for my regular journal, started to set me free from my ideas of the “right” way to feel. Anger can be a destructive thing when denied or stored. But it can be a really useful thing when channeled purposely.

6. Toss the labels. I started to accept that EVERYTHING about me is OK. There are no “good or bad” things, only things. Some things I want to keep and some I wish to change. But accepting who I have become in order to get to the place I am now is fundamental to revolution. It may seem counter-intuitive as we are taught to hate things we don’t want to be. But in my experience, rooting for myself was a fundamental aspect of facilitating change.

7. Dare to transition. My consciousness started to shift and I started to realize that I am not my habits, physical characteristics, or my thoughts. I can become anything I want to be.

8. Back it up. Because changing your habits is like building a muscle, it takes practice. Therefore it takes reinforcement and support. Having good folks around you to cheer you on is important. But what’s imperative is supporting yourself! I started to back myself up when things got real or old pattern doubts came calling. They always come and I am learning every day about how to “have my own back.”

Everyone has their own journey stages. You might have 12 or 4. And anyone who tells you that they have your magic recipe is selling something. I like to compare the whole thing to a dance rather than a road. Who knows in a dance if you are at the beginning or the end — a dip or twirl, some floor work or a leap? Some days I hang out at point 3. Tons of days I pretty much AM point 4. Sometimes I am re-learning 6 and often I discover something I never knew about my habits. Then I go back to 1.

It’s a lifelong process — change. I would be lying if I said it was easy. But it’s worth it, for me, just to know that it’s possible. To know I am not powerless in my own life — trapped in any current moment, job, situation, or relationship. If you feel stuck, you’re not. Every moment holds the possibility to start a revolution.

Why not begin today?


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