Today we’re sharing a simple yet powerful model we’ve been using to help our clients work through the process of change. It’s called the Awareness Acceptance Action Model, and it’s a framework or continuum with three stages. Moving through each stage will help you experience a different response in any given situation so that you can create real change.
The reason it works so well is that it’s not possible to do a 180 and make a big change all at once. This just creates counterproductive stress on the mind and body. Starting gently, building up momentum and checking in with yourself during the process works best, which is why this framework is so elegant and effective. Let’s take a look (and/or you can hear us talk about it on this podcast episode).
Stage 1: Awareness – What is this?
There can be no change without awareness. By awareness we mean understanding and reflecting on a situation, person or feeling with openness and curiosity. A new level of awareness emerges when you ask questions like, ‘What is it about this that I'm not seeing yet?’, ‘What is it about this person that I’m reacting to?’, ‘What is it about me?’
You can develop awareness in a number of ways. Some people use 360 degree feedback surveys; some proactively gather information by asking others; some are able to internalise and gain insights in the moment, reaching a new level of understanding by themselves. But however you’ve raised your awareness, the next stage to move to if you want to make change, is choosing to accept it.
Stage 2: Acceptance – I am where I am
This is about accepting who you are in that moment. For example, you’ve lost your cool – it’s not ideal, but you’re aware of it and you’re accepting of it without resisting that it’s happening. This is a key point, because if you experience resistance, it's a sign that you’re not aligned. It's only when you can accept where you are right now that you create alignment with your mind, body, and emotions. And it’s only then you can move forward into action.
When you don’t accept where you are right now, it's usually because you’re in denial or you're ignoring it. In this state, you're unable to move through or beyond it. It’s important to remember that acceptance doesn't mean you agree with it, just that you are where you are.
This is why a lot of people use blame, particularly those who haven't developed their emotional intelligence. Blaming releases tension in the body since you’re pushing it onto something or someone else. The problem is, it doesn't allow you to move through the situation and this is why it will keep repeating itself.
It’s not until you go through the process of acknowledging and accepting that you can move on to the next choice – action.
Stage 3: Action – moving through it
"Nothing happens until something moves." Albert Einstein
When we move into action, we gather information that leads us down another path and ultimately through the situation, feeling or event. If we jump into action in a state of resistance or misalignment, it will feel like an uphill struggle. However, if we’ve been through a process of understanding, reflection, asking questions and accepting what is and then moving into action, we’ve built energy around it. With momentum on your side, the shift is not so hard. Yes, it might still be challenging, but the magic of this three-stage framework is that it brings the mind, body and emotions together to move along the path of least resistance.
So, before jumping into action, ask yourself the following questions:
What awareness do I have around the issue?
How do I feel about moving into action?
Does it feel good or do I feel like I have to do it?
Asking yourself just these questions will give you clarity around whether it’s the right action for you.
We also recommend you start using the word ‘feel’. Even for those who are predominantly ‘thinkers’, using the word ‘feel’ will open up elements in your psyche that you mightn’t have tapped into before. Remember, as human beings ‘feeling’ is our guidance system. Feel into the situation, event or person. What does it bring up in you? There may be a feeling that’s telling you something is unresolved or that’s reminding you of something you need to look out for. If you feel uncomfortable, it’s for a reason.
Sometimes you don’t need to find out exactly what the reason is, it's enough to know that you feel uncomfortable which begs the question, ‘What can I do to feel more comfortable about this situation, event, or person?’
If you’re feeling particularly stuck or frustrated, try out some of these questions around developing awareness:
‘What am I actually feeling right now?’
‘What is this situation or person telling me about myself?’
‘What is good about this situation that I don’t yet understand?’
The path of least resistance
Some further points to remember:
- The quickest way to accept something is just to breathe. It releases tension.
- If it gets uncomfortable when you're in the acceptance phase, try and stay open to that. From that discomfort you can move into action asking yourself, ‘Do I want to do something about it? Yes, I do.’
- When moving into action, take the next most logical step and the path of least resistance.
Take some time to reflect on this framework. It really will bring you new insights and we’d love to hear how it supports you in making better decisions and positive change.
The quickest way to accept something is just to breathe. It releases tension.