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Resolutions or Transformation? Continuing the conversation about physicians and change.

(Original post 6/21, update 12/23)

It's the beginning of a New Year. Positive intentions for change are in the air. This week we take our Changes and Transitions blog, one step further…to Transformation.  The words Change, Transition, and Transformation are often interchanged, but I want to offer a different take. Psychologists such as Dr. William Bridges and other social scientists have studied and clarified the differences. 

Change relates to behaviors (actions we take) or circumstances (ones we changed intentionally or ones we didn't' choose). Transitions are the psychological adaptations to the change - heavily relying on the adaptive, cognitive/thinking shifts. Transformation is changing at a deeper level - our identity, beliefs, or the story of what we believe about ourselves, others, or the world. They often build on each other and can even overlap. 


I’ll use a friend’s example to demonstrate.  She felt unhealthy, overweight, and inactive. She wanted to make a change for her health. She started where many people start – changing the actions like she had done many times before.  She was eating nutritious foods in a healthier pattern; she was exercising. But, once again, she had a hard time maintaining the change. 


She moved to really working on the mindset to make the actions stick – the transition.  Remember, our thoughts about any circumstance influence our emotions which in turn cause us to act or not act.  She was able to think believable things.  She reframed movement and nutrition. "Moving feels good. Food is just fuel for my body." She felt motivated by those new thoughts. It was so helpful; she was able to stick with her plan most of the time. She began to lose the all-or-nothing thinking and became okay with sticking with the program at least 80% of the time. It became easier for her to eat nutritiously and exercise more often.


The transformation began about the same time as she started testing what she wanted to believe about herself. One of the new beliefs she wanted was to believe was that she lived a healthy lifestyle. She wanted that new identity. At first, those beliefs seemed remote. “I can’t see myself being one of 'those people'.” But, with the changes in her patterns of thinking keeping her mostly on track with her nutrition and movement goals, she moved closer to the new belief being realistic. It was like she was fording a river – it took patience, persistence, not being surprised that at times it felt more challenging than others. And at times, not being surprised when she ate off her plan. And a good dose of self-compassion, curiosity, grace, and tweaking her PDSA cycle. 


And then, it happened.  I remember her posting it on Facebook when she was on vacation.  She posted a selfie of herself running. She said, “I have become that person who exercises on vacation and finds it fun!”  She really did believe she was a healthy person living a healthy lifestyle.  Her identity changed. That was almost three years ago, and now she never really considers going back to her old unhealthy lifestyle or living in a way that isn’t congruent with how she now sees herself.


Going beyond New Year's Resolutions - let's be reflective and do the work leading to transformation.Start diving deeper into what you do believe about yourself and challenge the beliefs that feel like restraints holding you back from being and living the way you want. Want are the small steps that you can succeed in? What are the things you would like to believe about yourself? What are the results you want? Who do you want to be no matter the circumstances you face?  How do you want to show up – in your practice, in your relationships, in the world? What changes do you need? How will you give yourself self-compassion as transitions take time? Begin practicing the behaviors by cultivating your mindset. Those actions will add up to what James Clear says are votes for the person you want to become. 


If you know there is something you believe about yourself that you want to change, you may want to use one of the many models out there.  We will cover one such model in two weeks. Next week is the  accompanying vlog

Have a joy-filled week!  Tonya

Check out my flagship 12-week individual physician program that takes you from stripping away unnecessary suffering, through renewing energy resources, into fostering your future. Click here


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