"...faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not (yet) see." Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
One of the key factors in experiencing personal growth and change is to “begin with the end in mind,” to first be able to picture the outcome we want, i.e., the new and whole self that with God’s help we see ourselves becoming.
A good way to start is write a detailed description of that self, one done in the present tense, as though it were already true.
For example, “I am someone who looks for good qualities in others, and avoids speaking ill of others behind their backs.” Or, “I am able to avoid junk foods, stick to having at least five salad meals a week, and follow a plan of hearty exercise at least every other day," etc.
This is not to imagine ourselves being some super man or woman, or even a saint, but simply a healthy, whole person, the kind of person we would want our own son or daughter to become. Having this kind description in view is a little like when we are putting a jigsaw puzzle together and keeping the picture on the puzzle box in front of us as we work at fitting all the pieces together.
Then the second part of achieving change involves repeated practice, as in engaging in the kinds of behaviors that are congruent with that picture, that description of our improved self.
Practice needs to be of two kinds, the first involving a lot of mental rehearsals in which we prayerfully see ourselves responding more positively to challenging situations in our lives. In doing this, we help retrain our brains to successfully live out these new behaviors.
The second kind of practice, of course, is to actually engage in these behaviors in the real life situations we are in every day, realizing that insight alone will not bring about any automatic or lasting changes in old habits. But repeated practice will enable us to replace old habits and patterns with new ones.
Whenever I hear myself or others say they can’t accomplish some desirable goal, I want to suggest substituting that “can’t” statement with something like, “I find this really hard, and I haven’t found a way yet.”
That way, very simple but anything but easy, is to picture a new and more healthy, whole self, then engage in the hard work it takes to practice that new self’s positive behaviors until they become more and more natural to us.
To accomplish this, it always helps to surround ourselves with lots of supportive encouragers and allies.
Have a blessed New Year!
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