We are constantly making small shifts, both personally and in our businesses. That’s the nature of Life. But when we find ourselves once again staring at a familiar challenge we just can’t seem to move past, we know we are stuck. It is deeply frustrating. Everything we have tried so far seems to have failed. The weight stayed on. The business didn’t grow.
Our answer is implementing twelve universal stages required for real shift. They are non-negotiable – no cheating or skipping – if you truly want to evolve into a new experience.
January is a great time to launch into lasting shift. Businesses are strategizing and visioning. Individuals are committing to healthier lifestyles and relationships. So, why is it that these bursts of shift tend to not stick and instead we find ourselves stuck in the same old problems? Contrary to our common approach, shift isn’t about willpower or self-awareness.
The answer is we have either skipped a stage – or two, or more – or weren’t willing to do the work the next stage required of us.
Shift Stage 1: Sick and Tired
Knowing a pattern of behavior is not working for you is not enough to change. If it were, we would stop eating unhealthy foods, and stop procrastinating on those deadlines. We would leave abusive relationships and jobs. We would simply set aside our addictions once and for all.
Anyone who suggests your will power isn’t strong enough or your awareness is not great enough is probably mistaken. To begin a real shift you must want change so badly you would go to any length to ensure it happens – because several stages that follow will demand that of you. The pain of your current pattern becomes so unbearable you would do anything for a different experience – including giving up the payoff (the devil you know) your current situation provides.
In brief: you must be sick and tired of being sick and tired before any other stage of shift can happen.
Don’t miss Stacey’s new book:
Own Your Own Shift, available for purchase in a few weeks!
Shift Stage 2: Get Guidance
We are taught to seek outside counsel when we get ready to make a shift. We work with coaches, consultants, read books, take workshops, and ask our peers for insight. That can all be very helpful, but guidance of Stage 2 goes a little deeper.
Our instincts are correct to seek greater knowledge, wisdom and skills to generate shift. What is often overlooked is both immersion and accountability at this stage.
In Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” this is the stage where the Mentor appears. The idea of a Mentor is someone who will actually take this entire journey with us, helping us avoid, or minimize the pitfalls along the way, and provide encouragement during the more difficult stages. Most importantly, a mentor has made this shift themselves, so they can share how they navigated it.
A mentor also holds us accountable to our own intentions. They “get” us and they get to know us. It is extremely rare for someone to make a major shift – where they have previously found themselves repeatedly stuck – without a mentor to help them make the treacherous passage.
A mentor can be one person, or it can be a peer group. It can be someone you pay, or someone who is both trustworthy and willing to be of service during your shift. Whichever shows up for you, remember, your struggle is not unique. There is someone else who has had the same struggle, and has found a way out. Isolation is an ineffective framework for lasting shift. Connection is the straightest and surest route.
Shift Stage 3: Surrender
Whatever you want as a result of your shift can be yours – when you are willing to give up what has been holding you back. There is balance and exchange that must be created in order to become unstuck.
In your business, you may have to pour in more time to generate greater visibility or income. In your relationships you may need to give up criticism, or feeling like a victim, in order to regain your true power.
Whatever it is that you will need to shift, deep beneath the surface there is a belief you are holding onto (usually quite tightly) that is holding you back. This is the place most of us get derailed in our quest to get unstuck. We won’t let go of our limiting beliefs – beliefs about our worthiness, scarcity, conflict, intimacy, and so many others we formed long ago.
This is the stage where we take a leap of faith, and a mentor can share how letting go of the baggage of ill-fitting beliefs worked for them. This is the stage where we change our minds, and trust that something better is possible.
Shift Stage 4: Go Within
The bigger the sense of being stuck, the deeper we must look within ourselves for our answers. It is not enough to grow our awareness of the actions and skills we need for our shift by reading, connecting to experts and getting a mentor. Eventually, we must grow our awareness of what is happening inside us during our shift.
The best tool we have in this stage is our intuition. We all have it, and it resides in the mysterious 90% of our brain that holds emotion, the subconscious, connects to symbols, colors and patterns. This is the part of our brain that makes the leaps in understanding our limited linear brain cannot bridge. It is also the part of our mind few of us trust.
To traverse a major shift, we learn to listen and follow our inner guidance. It can be accessed many ways – including meditation, breath work, and free writing. Mindfulness is growing in popularity, and is absolutely key to knowing who you are and what is right for you. This stage becomes a thread throughout all the following steps.
Shift Stage 5: Get Clarity
We all have priorities and values. They are part of our fundamental need for purpose and meaning. However, we rarely stop to consider what they actually are. Doing so helps us navigate the obstacles we will inevitably face during a major shift. They become our guiding star.
Once we have created a connection with our inner guidance, we can begin to get clear on what we truly value. Many times what we think we ought to value is not what we actually value, as demonstrated by our actions.
This is a stage where we realize our true intentions. Most abandoned shifts are a result of a misalignment between what we say we want and a contradictory desire.
When we see ourselves more clearly, it becomes obvious where we are undermining ourselves – and misleading ourselves at the same time.
Here we get clear on our real passions. There will be trade offs along the way, and for passion we want to realize, we are going to need to make a commitment to shift our actions so they reflect it.
Shift Stage 6: Own Your Shift
No one can transform you, except you. The deep inner work, changed beliefs, and new habitual actions all belong to you. Others can support you, but they cannot fix you. This is the stage where you own the entire process.
You cannot own the process too early, however. The inner work, and mentors’ guidance definitely must precede this stage, so you are able to navigate unfamiliar territory.
The other part of this stage is to be able to see your own shadow self with love and detachment. Here, in the safety of you mentor and inner wisdom’s guidance, you can see what has kept you stuck, your old fears, and your old habits. Once you own your lessons, it becomes unnecessary to continue in this existence. The light begins to dawn.
Shift Stage 7: Initiation
Once you get real clarity about who you are, and what has stopped you, it is like you see the world for the first time. You feel awake. Your entire perspective shifts. Things your mentor shared suddenly start to make sense – especially the things you were resisting. You have renewed hope and energy. You believe you have arrived.
This is a stage that you will revisit again and again. It is an elevated sense of consciousness, and requires cultivation. Be warned though: you are unlikely to maintain this state continuously, and if you become too attached to it, when you lose it temporarily, you might give up too soon.
Shift Stage 8: Plan to Practice
Some of us jump right to this stage of taking action, making it Stage 2. Skipping so many crucial in between stages is a recipe for disappointment. It is unlikely for actions to make a difference if they are not done with Clarity and Guidance.
Similarly, all the deep work you have done, clarity you have gained, and consciousness you have acquired mean absolutely nothing unless you put it into action. Every shift requires a plan, and daily commitment to practice.
If you aren’t willing to take action, or to do the inner work, then you were never in Stage 1 fully. Your shift is a nice idea, but you just aren’t ready yet to see it through. Allow this to be okay, and revisit it again when you are ready. Otherwise, get busy changing with a clear set of actions.
Shift Stage 9: Get Uncomfortable
There is some truth to “no pain, no gain” – which is about pushing the boundaries of muscles we have underutilized. The objective is physical shift. Like physical strength training, major change is, by its nature, frequently uncomfortable. When we give up something familiar, there are uncertainty, missteps, and occasionally, outright pain.
The severity of our discomfort during shift depends on how well we have executed the earlier stages, and also, how deep the beliefs and obstacles we have experienced before committing to this change were. Just know this is part of the process, and because you found guidance, you don’t have to go it alone.
Shift Stage 10: Be the Outcome
However eager we might be to shift, we have a natural tendency to hold our goal at arms length in an undefined future time.
Ask yourself: what will shift look like, and feel like, on the other side? Imagine yourself transformed. Be vivid in your vision. Consider how you will look, who you will hang out with, where you will live, and how you will spend your time. Once you have a good idea about your dream goals, begin to act as if you are already there. If you are going to keep company with particular people, start connecting with them through groups, associations, or communities where they are. If you would live in a certain place, then visit it. The more you familiarize yourself with the end result, the more you identify with it, and the more easily you become it.
Shift Stage 11: Choose You
Our greatest obstacle to any shift is our own negative thinking. We are inclined to negative thinking, with our inner dialog being 80% negative self-talk. This is compounded when we share a big goal with others who are unsupportive. Your mentor should be a cheerleader for you – but you must still be your greatest cheerleader.
Hold affirmations, but not for a particular “how” of your shift, because the actual path may vary from what you might think it ought to be. Instead hold affirmations for what your shift will feel like. This is as applicable for business as it is personally. Imagine your objective is ten new clients by the end of the quarter. Hold that affirmation. You will be taking constructive actions, but the goal is always in mind.
Shift Stage 12: Celebrate the Shift
There is absolutely nothing more important in shift than celebrating every win along the way. Failure to do so is demoralizing, and keeps us stuck. When we celebrate our wins, it generates enthusiasm for the next stage, and so on. In truth, no shift is final. Each shift leads to the next, and the next, whether we realize what comes next from our current vantage point, or not. This is how we grow. When we see our progress in this evolutionary perspective, we can relax into the journey, and for the most part, enjoy the ride.