Marilyn Woodard

How Does Real Change Happen?

What is real change? Where does it begin? How do we contend with the gripping habitual patterns that seem to have us wrapped up so tightly we can’t move a muscle or lift even a metaphorical finger? To help unwrap the answers to these questions, I’d like to share a personal experience.


For most of my life, I felt deeply introverted to the point that I had a hard time even staying in the room in social situations where I didn’t have a defined purpose or function. This pattern of my personality had created many challenges for me, and it finally became an obstacle I would have to reckon with when I began my training to become a Presence-Based® Coach five years ago. By that time, I had been working on myself for many years. Through therapy, the Diamond Approach and working with the Enneagram, I had uncovered and shined a light on many habitual behaviors and beliefs. Much about my personality had opened up and I was experiencing more freedom than ever before, but I was challenging myself in a huge way this time. In the first, four day training session, I met the people who would accompany me on that journey. They were incredible, accomplished individuals. Bright (both intelligent and lit from the inside), and in addition, most of them were also open, generous listeners, compassionate and self-aware. I felt the depth of my insecurity. Thoughts and emotions of not feeling good enough, not fitting in, having nothing to offer flooded my experience to the point that all I wanted to do (besides become invisible) was to take the next plane back home.


During that retreat we all worked to discover our deepest commitment. There is much to say about that process, which I won’t go into now, but as I searched my soul to find what I was willing to commit to that would have the biggest impact on my life, what came up was simply this: I am committed to showing up. That core commitment contained the power to support me to stay physically, mentally and emotionally in the room when the overwhelming urge to get the hell out came up. The urge to run came from deep inside and it felt like a life or death struggle to overcome it and stay planted, but I could feel the power of my commitment to show up holding me and giving me the strength to stay long enough to recognize that my fear was not real. I made it through that training, the next, and went on to complete and earn my Presence-Based® Coach certification. I value my continuing connections with the wonderful people with whom I shared that journey.


So, here is an overview of the insights about change this experience helps to illuminate:


  • What is real change?  Real change comes from inside our hearts and our psyche, from deep within our personal experience. Change that begins outside of us is rarely sustainable, and even if we succeed in changing a behavior, our felt sense of ourselves will be the same.


  • Where does it begin?  Change begins when we honestly and sincerely acknowledge the power our habit nature has over us, and when we deeply feel and willingly make a commitment to ourselves that addresses the overwhelming urge to react to a situation in the same, familiar way.


  • How do we contend with the gripping habitual patterns that seem to have us wrapped up so tightly we can’t move a muscle or lift even a metaphorical finger? We contend with that “gripping, wrapped up and unable to do anything different” experience by first seeing it and allowing ourselves to feel what it’s like for us to have been and to continue to be in that situation. When it becomes clear that we are willing to do whatever it takes in order to have another option, then we can search our soul for a commitment that will support us when the urge to do the familiar pattern comes up.


I still value my time alone and with my inner circle of family and friends. What has changed is that I now, after many years of working with my commitment to show up, have the capacity to enjoy social engagements and my heart feels open and available when I’m with others, even when they’re incredible, accomplished people.


This is one of the great pleasures for me to witness as a coach, and the potential of doing this work for yourself: Real and sustainable life changes can and do happen!