It is easy to get people to like you. You only need to upload a photo of your morning coffee with a random caption and people like you. You only need to pout, angle your lens, and people like you. You only need to announce what episode of what show you are watching, and people like you. It is easy to get people to like you. It is not easy to change.
Change is messy. Change is frustrating. Change challenges you. Change requires you to put in time, energy, and effort. It can make you feel tired, sweaty, and sick. It can make you grunt, give up, and revert. How much easier would it be if there was a magic solution that bypassed all that nonsense? How good would it be if someone came knocking on your door this evening and greeted you with “Congratulations, you have done nothing and for your nothingness, I will reward you by giving you everything your heart desires and bestow on you the health, wealth, and happiness you truly deserve. Well done. If only more people persevered the way you have.”
Studies have found that when people are rewarded for no reason (i.e., winning the lottery), their level of fulfillment, satisfaction, and joy over the course of their life does not improve relative to those who were not so lucky in winning millions. Research has found that in some cases, lottery winners ended up being more miserable than before they received that knock on the door. This reminds us that happiness and joy are not things we get. They are a by-product of what we generate within ourselves, for ourselves, and for others. We create more of the things and experiences we truly want and deserve by committing to the inner work necessary to achieve them.
But with a hack for every problem these days, downloadable in an instant, we have gotten used to this idea that we can fast-track everything, including short-cutting our way to happiness. We can access music, lighting, food, water, money, heating, sex, holidays, and drugs with a click of a button. We can get what we want and have someone else do the work for us, be it cleaning, organising, driving, childminding, cooking or admin. You can find anything you want or need by opening a screen from the phone in your pocket and obtain it without breaking a sweat. Nothing is unavailable to us; everything is accessible, and everything is in excess. Our minds have confused the experience of instant reward with a sense of lasting fulfilment. That positive feeling after the download is fleeting because the object or experience desired has been obtained with very little effort. The happiness you feel is not anchored to you in any way. It has not come from within you and so your brain and heart know that just as easily as you got it, you can lose it.
Lasting joy and meaningful fulfillment are earned. They are generated within you each time you take the right step along your path of change. No one can take from you the grit and resilience you have earned from sacrificing your weekends the last 6 months in order to pursue your dream of starting your own horticulture business. No one can steal from you the courage and growth you have earned by stepping out of your comfort zone and deciding to follow your heart’s calling of setting up a community initiative to help locals in need of clothing for Winter. No one can take from you the strength and determination you have earned each time you chose to prioritise your wellbeing by waking up an hour earlier every morning to walk your dog before work. No one can claim the love and compassion you have earned every time you chose to be vulnerable and honest with your loved one instead of being passive-aggressive.
The journey of transformation and the inner work you commit to is your lottery ticket. That is the magic formula. It’s plain and simple. You want to wake up every day feeling rested? Do the inner work and stop spending hours mindlessly scrolling through your phone or watching six episodes of another Netflix show before bed. You want to be healthy and feel amazing in your own body? Do the inner work and retrain your mind to find coping mechanisms other than sugar, processed foods, and alcohol or drugs. You want financial stability and freedom to play? Do the inner work and stop spending money on shit you know you don’t need but are just buying because you feel like it will make you look better for a few hours or live up to other people’s expectations. You want to step into the most incredible version of your truest self? There’s no instant app. Do the inner work.
What does inner work look like?
It could be asking for help. It could be reaching out. It could be committing to a new routine. It may involve setting up new habits. It may be delaying gratification. It may be forgiving yourself. It may be journaling, meditation, planning your weekly meals, mindfulness or gratitude practice, changing your work schedule, increasing your hydration, or developing depth and authenticity in your friendships or personal relationships. It may be learning how be more compassionate to yourself. It may be strengthening healthy boundaries for yourself. It may be learning how to be comfortable with saying what is on your mind instead of suppressing how you feel because you want to avoid the discomfort of potential conflict.
Inner work can be one simple action or an accumulation of acts. It can be a small goal or a mighty mountain you wish to climb. Every step in the right direction is your inner work and with every step you take, you create further momentum for change. Change is about making a small promise to yourself and keeping it, then making another promise to yourself and keeping it too. And the beautiful thing is, your inner work cannot be taken from you. It is yours to celebrate. Nothing tastes sweeter than enjoying the fruits of your earned efforts. Nothing is more rewarding than living in your own version of success and sharing that with those you love and care for. Your own version of success is just another by-product of the effort you generate in living true to yourself.
Inevitably though, in the process of change, you will stumble. You will fall. You will feel gross and tired and you will feel like you have let yourself down. When you do, you will hear that old self-punitive self-talk. “I’m a failure. I’m not good enough. Why is it taking me so long to get my shit together?” In those moments, you will not like yourself. You will feel like no one likes you either. Your vulnerable brain and body will be tempted by quick-access rewards. You will post meaningless shit on Facebook and open your phone every 45 seconds to see how many people like you. You will spend money you know you do not have. You will pour another glass of wine even though you know it will lead to spending half the next day in bed feeling sorry for yourself. You will write off the whole week and say you will start fresh again on Monday (even though it’s only Tuesday). You’ll procrastinate. You’ll avoid. You’ll justify. You’ll make excuses. You’ll run back to your comfort zone because here, it is easy. Here, you do not have to take accountability for your life to transform. Here, you can keep living the same chapter of your story, over and over. Here, you are not required to change. Here, nothing is unknown.
This is called being human. We are not meant to be perfect. We are meant to show up. We are meant to try – no matter how many times you feel you have let yourself or others down. Each time you revert to old patterns but then decide to try again, you are a winner. Each time you feel discouraged but then get back up to walk your road of meaningful change, you are a legend. Each time you find yourself feeling as though it is all too hard but then remind yourself of what truly matters to you, you are becoming. You bloom. You transform. You shine brighter as the fullest potential of who you are.
Change is not easy. Change does not mean everyone will like you. Change does not reward you for doing nothing. But my dearest friend, your commitment to pursue meaningful change in how you live your life will be the most satisfying, crazy-beautiful, messy, exciting, adventure you will ever embark on. And as you pursue the experiences that resonate with your inner most self, you will soon realise that you have been ready for change all along.
Much love to you,