The first step in creating any positive change in your life is to find out what you want – that may seem obvious. And you may know exactly what you want right now. There may be a dream you've held for years but never acted on, or a project that's bursting to express itself through you. But many people are aware of wanting change, yet are not sure what kind of change or where to start. If this is you - or even if you're one of the sure ones – it can be useful to begin by exploring what you don't like in your life. That's often a lot easier to locate; you probably have a list of things you complain about to your friends. You can start with that list, and there may be even more to explore. I want to help you
clarify what is not working, what is causing you pain or distress in any area of your life - work, income, relationships, health, leisure, creativity, spirituality.

To find out, ask yourself about each area: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would I rate that part of my life?” If it scores lower than 7, ask yourself what is missing or not satisfying about that aspect of your life.

Clearing a Space
Another way to explore what feels “off” in your life is to use a process called Clearing a Space, a technique I learned from my study of Focusing, the body-oriented method developed by Eugene Gendlin. To clear your mental space, start by asking yourself, “What is standing between me and feeling fine right now?” In a receptive, listening mode, wait for what arises. Whatever comes to mind, imagine that whole situation as a “something” that you can pick up and move. Now imagine yourself placing it on a shelf or putting it outside your room. You have temporarily removed that obstacle from your mind. Then ask the question again and wait: “Now what is between me and feeling fine?” Something else will arise. Take that new thing and place it on the shelf. Keep going, for as long as it takes for you to feel spacious and free – because, if you continue this practice, using your imagination to remove all the obstacles to your well-being from your inner space, eventually you will arrive at an open “fine” place. (This is a great tool to use when you want to de-stress, meditate, or just clear your mental space.)

If you take notes during this process, you will easily develop a list of all your “don't likes.” Now you need to choose which one to focus on first. If you could only change one thing, which would it be? Does one jump out as the most important obstacle to your happiness? Maybe a lot of little events came up – issues with loved ones, worries at work. You may need to name what the essence of the problem is beneath the outer forms to find the true issue. Maybe the space you created by removing those nagging concerns allows you to take a bigger look at your life. What do you see freshly in this more open, peaceful place?

If you can't limit yourself to one factor you want to change, choose two or three at the most. But know that sometimes changing only one thing has a ripple effect; many other areas will seem to magically improve, just because you now have more pleasure, more peace, or more time in your life.

Conflicting Desires
Sometimes it's hard to decide what we want because we have conflicting desires or needs – or conflicting dislikes. Those conflicting voices can cancel each other out or leave us in a state of paralysis. We want this but we also want its opposite. Or we see things we don't want on both sides of the equation. Everything has a plus and a minus, and making a list of pros and cons can help you see your choices more objectively. Another approach is to work directly with those inner voices.

Working with Inner Parts
The conflicting desires we have can be seen as the expression of different inner parts of our personality. Each part is motivated by a true need or drive. For instance, part of you may want to expand and have new experiences, but another part may find that scary and want to keep you safe.

A wonderful way of working with these varied voices or inner parts is to simply let each one have its say, expressing what it wants and doesn't want, what it is afraid of, and then have each one listen to the other part and its point of view. You can ask each part what it wants the other part to know about it, and how it wishes the other part were different. By doing this, it is possible to arrive at greater clarity, understanding, and even reconciliation. I find the easiest way to do this by myself is through writing, letting each voice alternately “control” my pen. With a partner or facilitator it can be most powerful to speak the voices out loud.

To help you access these parts and their nuances, you could add the body-oriented approach of Focusing. You would then go inside to feel the inner presence or “felt sense” of each part, how it feels in your body. You would be open and accepting to each and let what it wants and needs come to you as a knowing from the felt body-sense of it. This helps you get closer to what these parts really feel, beyond what your mind knows. However, just letting them “speak” spontaneously will often bring to consciousness surprising truths.

In this way, by working through the apparent conflicts in your desires, you can discover what your true desires are, and which are defenses trying to protect you. You can also discover what you truly don't want, are ready to let go of, and why. If you find you have genuinely conflicting desires, see if there's a middle way that will encompass them both.

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