IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Creating successful change in your life

In “Life Changes,” Jennifer Lewis-Hall explains how you can let go of fear, learn to adapt, and achieve your goals. Read an excerpt.
/ Source: TODAY

In “Life Changes,” former CNBC correspondent Jennifer Lewis-Hall helps you explore your relationship to change and achieve the growth you want. Her interactive approach addresses issues from confronting infidelity to kicking the credit card habit, and incorporates personal life lessons, letters and a 52-week journal to inspire your own transformations. Here's an excerpt:

Chapter 1
Change and the Big Picture
If I could guarantee one thing in life it would be change — the fact that it will happen even when we resist it. It is the constant motion in our lives and its power should not be taken lightly or underestimated.

What Is Change?There are countless ways to understand the meaning of the word ‘change’ in our lives. Even dictionaries describe this simple term in many different ways. Some of those definitions tell us that change occurs to something when you “cause [it] to be different,” or give it a “completely different form or appearance,” or put a fresh covering on it. (The American Heritage College Dictionary. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.) Seems sim­ple, right? But don’t be fooled. ‘Change’ is something that we’ve grown so accustomed to saying and hearing that we often take its meaning for granted. But we can see how this little word is actually a big deal when we talk about something as profound as changing the world for the ben­efit of our children, or something as personal and important to us as changing jobs to make a better life for our family.

Journey Productions

Change is personal, change is powerful. Think about the magni­tude of the word when we talk about changing ourselves. Your desire to change may come from wanting to improve yourself in some way from the inside out. I am certainly glad when I hear this from people, because at our very core there is always work to be done. Maybe it’s about healing ourselves from a broken heart or replenishing our soul when a painful situation has left us feeling mentally, physically or spiritually depleted. Maybe it’s just that deep-down desire to be kinder to ourselves, for ourselves — to treat ourselves better.

The simple dictionary definitions hint at new beginnings, chances to start over and improve. That’s one key part of understanding change. The other very important element of the story — one that can’t be found in the dictionary — is that the process of change is inevitable and continu­ous. Like so many things in life, the dictionary gives us some hard facts but doesn’t interpret them for us or explain how they pertain to our lives. That is left up to you and I to do — and with the help of Life Changes we can begin to see the beauty of change in our lives and understand how this process–albeit an uncomfortable one at times–can be a revelation.

The impact that change has on each of us is incredible. The mere one-syllable word causes many of us to become fearful — at just the thought of doing something differently, trying something new or chal­lenging ourselves in ways we never have before. The prospect of changing behaviors and thoughts that have stifled our progress should be some­thing that we welcome. In casual conversations many people tell me they welcome change — but behind closed doors they admit they’re terrified. They are afraid of the realization that what they are doing today could be altered dramatically in a mere twenty-four hours.

Things that sound easy to change can actually be the hardest things we’ve ever done, and because of this it’s important to internalize the changes we want to make by journaling and writing down our goals. We say we’re going to be more in touch with family or be more positive, but how many times have these regular conversations remained just that — conversations, insignificant words that could have been powerful if we had backed up our talk with a timeline for change? I’m talking about liv­ing a life where our words become the framework for positive actions — a life in which we stop wishing for a better job or more time with our chil­dren or better bodies, and instead think about what we must do to spur the change for ourselves.

Why Change Is ProfoundI can say with confidence that change has such an impact on our lives simply because it is a universal element that we must all confront. Each moment of the day we are consciously and subconsciously taking in new information and reprocessing old information in our brains. This constant influx and exchange has the ability to alter the way we view situ­ations in our lives. Perhaps we have changed a belief or come to terms with something, or maybe we now disagree with someone because, as they tell us, we’ve “changed.” The transformation is brought on by some­thing that resonates with us or encourages us to consider a new perspective. When this happens it’s a real breakthrough, isn’t it! A belief or opin­ion that we held on to tightly — one that probably got in the way of our personal progress — suddenly appears completely different.

The idea that change can open doors for us is wonderful: when we allow ourselves to evolve we can see things that we had been blind to about ourselves, others and circumstances around us. It may be that we had been impeded by opinions that held us back from seeing anoth­er’s perspective or kept us at odds with those we love. Separation set in as a result; only when we allow ourselves to grow can we see and feel things differently. That is why I’m so thankful that we have change in our lives — even though there are so many things that you and I want to hold on to.

When I speak in public about change I introduce it as part of a pro­cess that’s essential to our daily lives. I ask people in the audience to take home one thought that resonates with them on that day; I tell them to put it squarely in the front of their minds and focus on it. Their job — and your job — is to work toward improving in that area throughout the year. I remind them, as I’m reminding you, that it’s your choice to change, your choice to grow. And I can guarantee that if you do nothing to improve your life, absolutely nothing will happen. I know it’s not easy — but noth­ing worth acquiring and preserving ever is.

If you think you’re alone on this quest, think again. I have learned that tens of thousands of people in live audiences and millions on tele­vision all have something in common. Many tell me that a talk I gave, or something in my first book, inspired them to make the decision to change. We all have the innate desire to better manage the unexpected in our lives, and we all stand to benefit greatly by initiating positive trans­formations.

What kinds of transformations can result from our decision to grow? Change blesses us with the ability to:

become better partners, friends, neighbors;become better parents and grandparents;become better workers and employers;become better savers;become better dreamers;become better listeners and communicators;become better church members;become better volunteers;become better students;become better at seeing life’s little joys and laughing out loud;become better at living in the moment;become better at being thankful, kind and honest;become better at planning for the future;become better at forgiving ourselves and others;become better at sharing knowledge and receiving wisdom from others;become better at recognizing what really matters;become better at reducing stress in our lives;become better at appreciating different perspectives;become better at living lives we love;become better at taking care of ourselves.

Here are some real-life examples of how people just like you and me are making use of the power of change. These stories of transformation came from women I met during a speaking event in Georgia. They spoke to me about the importance of change in their lives and how they see it playing a powerful part in their future.

“I’m changing the way I see myself and the guilt I have over getting a divorce. My husband cheated on me for five years and I tried everything to keep our marriage together, but I finally decided to leave. I set out to get an apartment and the day I started looking I ended up with a house. It’s hard, but I’m heal­ing and I’ve forgiven him. I’m moving on.”

“I’m changing careers and leaving corporate America as a senior executive to start my own business. It’s time to branch out. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I’ve been think­ing about it for years and I need to try this now before it’s too late.”

“I’m changing the way I use my time — instead of wasting it, I’m going to use it to accomplish some of the goals that I have set for myself this year.”

“I’m changing the way I eat. This is my year to get healthy.”

“I’m changing my mind about going back to school. I thought it was something that I couldn’t do. Now I know I have to make time for it if I’m going to make progress.”

“I’m changing my spiritual focus. I heard the word today and I know that I have to make sure I go back to church. It is something that has been missing in my life.”

“I’m changing the way that I’ve been trying to motivate my daughter. She’s been down after dealing with a medical condi­tion that caused her to temporarily lose her eyesight. I realize that she is stronger and more confident than anybody I know.”

“I’m changing my approach when it comes to dealing with my aging parents. My mother suffered a series of minor strokes that caused her to have some memory loss. My dad doesn’t want to move closer to me but I realize that I need to come up with an action plan in case something else happens.”

“I’m changing the way I live and allowing myself to enjoy each and every day with my family. I thought my life was over after a debilitating back problem that caused me to become addicted to powerful painkillers. My mother helped me to come out of that addiction. It has been a slow and painful process but I am so thankful and feel good about my life now.”

“I’m changing the way I see myself. I am 53 years old and this is my time! It’s my time to live my life the way I want to, and to share the knowledge that I have with other women in my church — to let them know that they are worthy too.”

Excerpted from “Life Changes: Using the Power of Change to Transform Your Life” by Jennifer Lewis-Hall. Copyright © 2006 by Jennifer Lewis-Hall. Excerpted by permission of Journey Productions. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.