As I reflect on the past 13 years I reflect on the stages of my own evolving consciousness that I have had to go through – sometimes once, sometimes over and over and some right now. I hope what I have learned may help you.
This is the point where your consciousness becomes more organized and disciplined. It provides the perfect orientation to address the struggle with what is. You can end your struggle with what is by increasing your willingness to experience what your thinking mind is so desperate to protect you from experiencing. It is not until we face our inner landscape that we realise, through experience, the sensations we try hard to avoid are actually tolerable and even manageable.
Willingness is a top-down process mediated by the prefrontal cortex. We can decide to be willing or decide not to be. If willingness becomes an option for us, we can also decide how willing we are prepared to be.
A Gaelic proverb states, “Nothing is easy for the unwilling.” And if you are unwilling to face your fears and emotions, then forward progress on improving your quality of life will not be easy.
And when I’m talking about willingness, I’m not just talking about signing an informed consent disclaimer document. I mean vesting interest in committing to important actions related to changing behavior in the long run. And even more importantly, people who are willing to feel what they feel, without trying to avoid those anxieties, stressors, and fears, are much more likely to have successful outcomes. Willingness is a stance that a person can take when they are presented with a difficult emotion. When Life asks: “Are you willing to have THIS scariness and THIS difficulty so that you can move forward toward a high quality of life?,” then you should do your best to answer “Yes!” Realizing that there will be discomfort that comes along with doing what you care about is psychologically healthy, and being willing to accept and embrace that comfort is critical to a life well lived.
True change requires not only a willingness to commit to new actions, but also the willingness to simply notice your fears without working to get rid of them. There are two sides to willingness, and when they are both in play, your behavior is much more flexible and vital.
Willingness is a core concept of addiction recovery programs, and a paradoxical one. Twelve-step programs emphasize that individual addicts cannot will themselves into recovery and healthy sobriety, indeed that the ego and self-reliance are often a root cause of their problem. Yet recovering addicts must be willing. That is, they must be open to the possibility that the group and principles are powerful enough to trump a compulsive disease.
It’s a tricky concept for many, and must be taken on faith. It doesn’t matter what experience our resumes boast when we are guided by courage and willingness, because it is the one-two punch of these outstandingly capable forces that allows us to take on any task.
Willingness isn’t the same as wanting. Instead, acceptance or willingness is being willing to experience, without struggle, difficult thoughts and feelings in the service of our values. It’s that whole “without struggle” part that can be the trickiest because as soon as we’re struggling to try to change, decrease, alter our thoughts/feelings/sensations, we aren’t really willing to have them. That puts us in a power struggle with our own insides. And it can even be hard to know when we’re really being willing versus white-knuckling.
Imagine extending your hand and having a feather placed in your open palm. The feather is soft and pleasant and you can hold it gently. Now image extending your hand and having a small cactus placed in your open palm. The cactus is prickly and unpleasant, AND you can hold it gently. That’s willingness. Being willing to let the cactus be there, without struggle.
Just like you can hold a cactus gently, even though its prickly and uncomfortable, we can learn how to hold difficult thoughts and feelings gently.
Kevin T. Cahill is an award winning sales professional and consultant specializing in the art of managing change and achieving great results. As the founder of The Change Revolution, this international best selling author and speaker inspires men and women alike. As someone who has mastered the art of resilience and hope, Kevin’s philosophy as a clarity builder is strategic and results driven. Kevin’s passion is to equip individuals and organizations with a renewed sense of clarity and excitement, knowing that positive change will bring about positive gains. His exciting creation The Change Revolution offers a winning blueprint for navigating through change and achieving success.
Speaking inquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 519-836-7989.