Real change is accomplished in small steps—but it doesn’t always look like that from the outside. When we see change happening, we usually see it at the culmination of a lengthy and sometimes difficult—or even painful—journey. The part of change we “see" out in the world around us is usually only a small part of the actual changes that took place before the fireworks of the grand finale became visible over the horizon.
I believe change is hard because it is so powerful.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Denver, CO and capture some amazing personalty portraits (aka Headshots, only better!) of my lifelong friend, and Executive Coach, Katy Flatau of Mindful-U.
The week I took these photos, she was physically in the process of executing a dream—and I love how you can see that shining through in these images. She had just sold her condo in Chicago, packed up her life into two containers and loaded up her car with “the important stuff.” After 10 years in a huge metropolis jam-packed with people and traffic, she has traded in the lake (Michigan) and headed for the mountains.
What I was seeing through the viewfinder as I captured her images in the Colorado foothills was the manifestation of real change and a true sense of freedom unfolding before me.
Katy has always been a person who has walked her talk, so being there to support this dream was really important to me. In fact—I would not have been capturing this moment for her if it weren't for the experience of her strategic and thoughtful approach to choosing and making change happen in my own life a year ago.
The camera I was holding in my hand as we hiked through the woods was a tangible reminder of the support she's provided me recently, as a friend and as a coach, as I navigate through finding my purpose, taking hold of my passion and following my colorful dreams of living a more fulfilling and flexible life while doing something I love—documenting people’s lives and telling their story.
Some of what I have learned about change over the course of the last year as a new entrepreneur, boss-lady and artist is that change is often the ignition switch I need to start making the magic happen. My neurobiological makeup CRAVES change. I have an ADHD brain, and unlike people who are met with fear around a major change in their life, the only thing that frightens me about change is its absence in my life. Here are 6 steps toward real change that I have both lived and witnessed as I reflect on and think about the many courageous and inspiring lives I have had the honor of learning from over the past year.
6 Steps Toward Real Change
1) Don’t wait to be happy (This is my favorite coaching wisdom from Katy). Actually making the changes your body and soul ask for is what helps you to feel more fulfilled and happier. Too much talking about change can actually lead to inaction and the energy it takes to desire a life you are not in is almost as much as it takes to make that life possible. So, be like Nike and “Just Do it".
2) Pay attention to the feelings around the "thing" you feel needs to change and remain open and compassionate as you work through the small changes needed to acomplish something bigger. Be kind to yourself—the awareness of a needed change already puts you ahead of the rest. You will feel like the ground is wobbly...just keep walking (or if you are a Finding Nemo fan, just keep swimming)!
3) Join groups and connect with people (virtually and in real life) who can help you achieve your desired change. Being a part of something that is related to where you want to go or what you want to do helps you gain confidence in an area that you may not be an “expert” in and puts you at an arms reach of new knowledge. This was probably the most eye opening element of change for me this year. Becoming a member of professional groups focused on my area of interest, gaining access to accountability groups, mentors, networking opportunities and working with certified coaches (shameless yet heartfelt plug for Katy), have all helped keep me on track when the seas got rocky.
4) Collect data. We all have changes we want to make, whether they are physical, emotional or spiritual. Even something as simple as deciding to buy a new car requires collecting information in order to decide on the best option for you and your family. Plus, collecting data isn’t scary—it’s often fun and energizing! Every data point helps you make a better decision and allows you to feel more confident in your decision because you are armed with knowledge.
5) Take small actionable steps. One of my very important teachers this year, Julie Christie of Togs in Business, is known for saying three very powerful words amidst a moment of panic in front of a long to do list, “action eliminates overwhelm.” I have this phrase in the same place on my wall as my core business values, because sometimes all it takes is moving forward an inch to get you going. The small reward is often satisfying enough to propel you onward, and before you know it you are making progress. Positive reinforcement (from yourself) is almost as motivating as cookies or wine....almost. Sometimes just the simple act of "checking the box" is all the boost you need to keep you on track. Bonus if your checkbox makes a "ding" when you complete the task (Wunderlist for the win)!
6) Celebrate your decision! Choosing to make a big change and living out that change is cause for celebration! A lot of times we find ourselves depleted after the process of making change happen and it’s important to look back at all that you did to move the needle. When we feel good about ourselves, we radiate from the inside out. This is a great time to invest in yourself and highlight your confidence and courage. It’s a great time to cut or color your hair, buy a new outfit, refresh your social and professional presence and capture images of yourslef that speak louder than words and resonate with the changes you will have just made in your life.
It’s important to be thoughtful in our approach to capturing our personality in images because of the impact and impression an image can have on others. After all, most of the time their first impression of us comes from that image. However, it’s equally as important to recognize and celebrate ourselves in these images and allow our passions, dreams and purpose to speak louder than our backdrop. Part of creating the change we want in our lives is showing up and taking that first step.
If you have changes you are working on you can download Katy’s free Jumpstart your Change Kit at Mindful-U.com. I can certainly vouch for the fact that she walks her talk—I was there when she signed her new lease in Denver!