1 – ACCEPT (your truth)
2 – ACCEPT (responsibility)
3 – Control (harmful thoughts)
4 – Commit (to a vision)
5 – Choose (potent paradigms)
6 – Create (a plan)
7 – Empower (with passion)
8 – Expect (to sacrifice)
9 – Persist (being proactive)
10 – Pick (pure principles)
11 – Trust (in Divine help)
12 – Thank (with gratitude)
Whether to fight fat or stress, deal with depression or addiction, correct a family conflict, or just to become a better you, these steps are the way.
STEP 1 – Accepting your truth, the truth about you, may take real courage. What if, for example, when you do a searching moral inventory, the truth hurts, what then? The answer is it must be done anyway because you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. But don’t forget to acknowledge your strengths, your good points – everybody has those. (If you can’t be sufficiently objective about yourself, you may want to check out your conclusions with a trusted friend, because you want to paint as accurate a picture of you, for you, as possible.)
STEP 2 – Accepting appropriate responsibility for what’s good and bad about you is important for the truth is your life is the sum of the choices you have made in your past. But notice the word “appropriate.” That’s included because it’s possible to accept too much responsibility (for example, children blaming themselves for their parents’ divorce). Much more frequently, however, we accept too little responsibility. (It’s not my fault that I did it, I was drunk at the time.)
When you have acknowledged past failures and accepted responsibility for them, any guilt you feel will no longer serve you. So forgive yourself for your past mistakes, and seek forgiveness from those you have harmed. Free yourself to focus on your present to form your future.
STEP 3 – Controlling harmful thoughts means that when you realize you are having a thought that is toxic, you don’t give it safe harbour. Instead, you release and replace it with a healthy thought. That’s important because your feelings flow from your thoughts. You may disagree and claim it’s the things that happen to you – the events in your life – that cause your feelings. If events cause feelings, only when you have a positive event (when you are praised, for example), will you have a positive feeling. And when you suffer a negative event (someone cuts you off in traffic), you’ll suffer a negative feeling like road rage, at least frustration. Or, if you are insulted, you must experience something negative like humiliation, or embarrassment. All this is erroneous because it’s not the events that cause your feelings, it’s your thoughts about the events that matter.
It’s wonderful – I hope you’ll agree – that your thoughts (not your events) cause your feelings. That’s because you can’t often control the events in your life, but you can control your thoughts about the events and, therefore, choose your feelings. Yes, you can always control your reactions. So, for example, if someone insults you by calling you an idiot when you happen to do something dumb (a negative event), instead of raging or feeling upset and embarrassed, you can use some self-talk to counter the insult: “What I did may have been dumb, but I’m anything but an idiot. I’m great in so many ways, and I refuse to allow him to control how I feel. He can’t spoil my day. I’m in charge of how I think and feel and I choose to feel fine.” Thinking that way will turn a negative event into a neutral feeling. No-one, or anything else, has the power to make you feel upset – only you. (People who learn to turn negative events into neutral feelings, can also learn to see positives in most anything – more about that another time.)
STEP 4 – Committing to a vision is the step where you decide what it is you are going to work on. Remember, a vision is what you see as possible in a person or project. Perhaps your vision is to lose fat and get fit, make more money, or improve a relationship. Whatever it is, the question is this: On a scale of 1 to 10 what is the level of your commitment? Obviously a 3 is not likely to end in success; an 8, maybe. (Don’t choose too many visions to commit to at one time – one or two are O.K. but never more than three – because the more you choose the more your focus will be scattered, and the less likelihood success will ensue.) Envision your vision. See it as already accomplished. When you vividly imagine that, your subconscious mind is impressed and inclined to lead you in the desired direction.
STEP 5 – Chose potent paradigms. A paradigm is just a way of looking at your world – the lens through which you choose to view things. Optimism is one paradigm; so is pessimism. The former is potent. For example, a large insurance company tested all its applicants for sales jobs with its standard tests. A number of applicants failed and, therefore, did not qualify to be hired. An experimenter persuaded the insurance company to allow him to test the failures for one quality – optimism – and then hire those who tested high for optimism on a trial basis for one year. At the end of the year, those optimists had sold more insurance than a matched group that had passed the standard tests the insurance company had used for years to select its sales force.
STEP 6 – Create a plan. Remember no-one plans to fail, but many fail to plan. (The difference between a dream and a goal is a good plan.) The more specific your plan is the better, but don’t write it in stone as you must be flexible – prepared to adjust your plan as you proceed. Your plan needs to have an evaluative component so you can gage your progress or lack thereof. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, stepping on a scale every week will give you the feedback you require. If it’s to make more money, your bank account will tell the tale.
STEP 7 – Empowering with passion means that you are not just using your head as you have in previous steps, you are employing the power of your emotions as well. Emotions are heart-felt, like the enthusiasm you muster for the task you have chosen. Emotion provides the drive you need to enact your plan. Yes, feeling enthusiastic can make all the difference, the difference between success and failure.
STEP 8 – Expect to sacrifice. “Oh, oh,” you say, “Do I really have to sacrifice something? This step sounds like a bummer.” The answer is yes – there is a price to pay, and if you are not prepared to pay the price – whether that be time, effort, discipline, whatever – you may as well surrender now. But here’s some encouragement. Think of this meaning for sacrifice: Sacrifice is when you give up something you want for something better. Under that definition any sacrifice is worthwhile. So if you are trying to lose weight, for example, you sacrifice something you may like – the satisfaction of satiety after you pig out – for something better: the pleasure of achieving your desired goal.
STEP 9 – Persist being proactive. To be proactive means not sitting on your seat wasting time wishing for it, but taking the necessary initiative to go out and make it happen. Remember, if it’s going to be, it’s up to me. To persist means hanging in there, not giving up at the first obstacle. Or the second, or the third. The human spirit is not defeated by failure, only surrender.
STEP 10 – Pick pure principles. Through the first nine steps you could be a Hitler. Hitler was very committed to a vision – that the Third Reich would last 1000 years. He had potent paradigms and created detailed plans. He was empowered by passion and expected to sacrifice. Indeed, he sacrificed millions of German lives for his vision. And he persisted in being proactive until his death. What would stop any Hitler is this step – step 10 – because being the egomaniac Hitler was, his principles were anything but pure. One example of a pure principle is win/win which means in any relationship or negotiation you want to win – but you want the other to win also. Our society operates primarily with the principle of win/lose. (For me to win, you must lose.) Our legal system is built on win/lose. (Who ever heard of two people going to court and both of them winning.) Now, win/lose is fine on the sports field, but when it carries over to our personal lives it can be ruinous. (Who’s winning in your marriage is a crazy question.) Whether in business or in parenting, many try to win at the other’s expense, instead of looking for ways to engender trust and loyalty by finding a win/win solution so both parties can feel good.
STEP 11 – Trust in Divine Help. Whatever your vision, you don’t need to struggle alone. Probably you can’t accomplish it alone anyway, or you would have done so before now – without these 12 steps. Divine help is certain when your plan is worthy, and your intention is sincere and honourable. And provided the connection between you and God isn’t polluted by garbage thinking. (If it is, the best vision you could possibly commit to in Step 4 is to clean up the crap and clear that connection.)
STEP 12 – Thank with gratitude. Electricity is something we usually take for granted – until we lose it. Our health too. A perpetual attitude of gratitude is not only becoming, it’s beneficial in so many ways. You may know of people who seem to have a lot, but constantly complain about their lives. And others who, on the surface, have very little – plus serious challenges possibly – yet not only don’t complain, but exude happiness. These are the noble spirits who deserve our admiration (not that they need it for they are already fulfilled). In this final step, you fuel your faith in both God and yourself by becoming thankful for your vision fulfilled – even before it has been fully realized.
Each of a human’s four parts (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) is covered by the 12 steps:
Steps 1 to 6 cover the mental part (our brain), because each involves thinking.
Step 7 is for the emotional part (our heart) since it’s all about feeling.
Steps 8 and 9 emphasize the physical part (our body). Step 8, since the highest expression of the physical is discipline. Step 9, because it’s all about doing.
Steps 10, 11 and 12 stress our moral, spiritual part. They are about being.
These 12 steps are guaranteed. They work! If, after attempting the 12 steps, you are not a better you, it’s because you have failed to do one or more of the steps properly.
The 12 steps might be summarized in these words: I AM – I WANT – I DO – I BECOME.
The 12 steps encompass each of these, and they produce a cycle to be repeated over and over, because every time you become, you are a new I AM.