It never ceases to amaze me what human beings can do or overcome when they put their minds to it.
For the past three days I have done life plans for five homeless women. Most of us have a perception of homeless people as those who we see on the streets of New York (or any city for that matter). Some have matted hair and loads of plastic bags or paper bags. Some might be talking to themselves. Some might be holding signs asking for money. Many of us have this mental picture when we visualize homelessness.
Let me tell you about the five women I worked with. Each was dressed nicely; some wore make up, jewelry and nail polish. Each was well-groomed. If you were walking down the street and passed one of these women you would never in your wildest dreams have guessed that she was homeless.
Each told me that somewhere along the line she made bad choices. For some it was drugs, for others it was alcohol, and for others it was the combination of the two. In some cases it all started with abuse as a child; in others it was a bad relationship or pattern that brought them down. For still others it was bad financial choices or even unfortunate circumstances. It struck me as we were talking that these women were homeless and that so many other people -- hidden within society -- could be where they are now but are not due to money, power or social position cushioning them from homelessness. Their choices might be just as "bad" or just as unfortunate, but they are not homeless.
As I worked with these women, there was one single factor that allowed us to create a powerful life plan for each. This single factor is that each woman had decided that she'd had enough. Each woman agreed within her head and her heart that she was ready to move forward, to change. Somewhere along the line each woman faced her circumstances and told herself, "I can't do this anymore. I have to either sink into the wall or come out fighting to survive."
Most of you (if not all of you) who are reading this article are not homeless. Yet, have you ever been in a situation where you've decided you've had enough -- that you MUST change? The decision point to change is the single biggest factor to making a start because once we tell our minds "you must" (no ifs, ands or buts -- no wiggle room), it will find a way. This is the start; this is the beginning. Now "the way" can come through. Now you're ready. This is where our life plans began, with each woman saying that she's ready to make the change. She's ready to look forward and decide "where to" from here.
I always use the same process to do each life plan. It is a structured approach that is both flexible and powerful. It can be used for anyone's life plan in any circumstance. The process begins by analyzing each person's current state in their balance in life. As each life plan begins, I ask my clients to provide a score against each major aspect of their lives: intellectual, overall physical (physical -- health / physical -- wealth), spiritual and emotional.
As normal, I did this with the homeless women this week. I did not know anything about any of these women before we began. I had no briefing whatsoever. Each woman came into the room and we began. By answering honestly where they are -- how they perceive their scores in their current states, how they adjust to life, we were able to see the current strategies that they employ.
When the decision to change has been made, it can be done. By employing a logical process of balance assessment and counterbalance strategies, we can quickly come to some decision points on conscious and intentional ways, tools or techniques to employ to overcome various dominant thoughts, situations or patterns. Once we assess a person's current balance point and determine counterbalance techniques that they agree to employ, measure and adjust, we can create a life map to take this person from "here" to "there," wherever "there" is for them.
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