Good things are happening in the Resolana unit at the Dallas county jail. The life skills class continues exploring self-esteem, and last week the discussion centered on making life change actually happen. Have you heard the joke about the three frogs on a log? If one decides to jump off, how many frogs are left on the log? Anybody who has been around Twelve Step programs knows the correct answer is three. Deciding to make a life change doesn’t necessarily mean one follows through and does it.
How does one actually follow through and make a meaningful life change? The women learned three steps for doing it: becoming aware, making a choice and making a plan. There were some heart-felt moments and also some laughs as the women described becoming aware of things they want to change. One woman realized something needed to change in her relationship with a sibling. She had always thought their relationship was great, but within the past week she recognized how her sibling’s addiction reinforced her own addictive behavior patterns, and she acknowledged something needed to change to protect herself from relapse. Her mother had long cautioned her about that relationship, but she hadn’t understood her mother’s concern. Another woman seemed almost unsure of herself as she revealed awareness she has an anger problem, whereupon there were stifled chuckles among others aware of that already. That led to a humorous recognition that when we come into awareness of something we need to change, the people around us may be well acquainted with that need and, furthermore, be willing to offer us support in making those changes.
The women tended to gloss over the second step—identifying the choices we have once we become aware—but they also came to see its power. Status quo is an option. Changing is an option. It is important to embrace the full spectrum of choices available. If we give short shrift or write off options, we are in danger of making a premature (i.e. not fully considered) decision. Giving all our options their full due, no matter how unappealing or unattainable they may seem, makes our choices conscious choices.
The last step is where the webbed toes meet the bark. It’s the action plan delineating what we will do that is different than what we did before. The more detailed it is, the better prepared we will be to exhibit different behavior in the heat of a stressful moment. The women’s comments on this step revealed the true depth of their commitment to changing their lives.
Perhaps most touching of all was the awareness breakthrough for some inmates. Followers familiar with my book manuscript about the healing power of confession know how passionate I am about the hard work of honest introspection. Some of us have been around the block. We know our material cold. The truth, though, is that this posture is a defensive mechanism, something that protects us from discovering something true about our vulnerable selves. No matter how happy or content we feel in our present circumstances, honest introspection and greater self-awareness have the potential to bring us greater peace.
Join the conversation. What is your secret for converting decisions into action?
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