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The Dickens Technique: Lessons From Ebenezer Scrooge

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

It is Christmas week, and many of us will be watching some tried-and-true classic Christmas movies. Perhaps the most notable of all Christmas stories is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, first published in London in 1843. The novel met with instant success, and the story has been told, retold, modified, and adapt into hundreds of plays and movies. It tells the story of a bitter old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge, who has a Christmas Eve epiphany about his own role in creating his miserable life. He is visited by three spirits who show him his past, giving him insight into how he became such a miserable bastard, his present life in all its misery, and his future if he remains the same and doesn’t change anything about himself. Of course, we all know how the story ends, he wakes the next morning and exclaims, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” He lives up to his promise, and lives out the rest of his days as a happy and generous philanthropist, loved and revered by all.

Wouldn’t it be great if change were that simple? Is it possible that anyone can change their life so drastically, dramatically, and permanently, practically overnight? While it’s not quite that simple, it’s also not that complicated either. It is possible that dramatic change can be attained using a technique from neurolinguistic programming called The Dickens Technique.

The strategy, while simple, is highly effective and is based on a lot of proven strategies for therapeutic change and personal growth. It must be done exactly as outlined here. It must be written down! Not entered into your iPad iPhone, it must be written down! There is a neurological reason for this. The act of writing something out, in your own handwriting and on paper, makes it effective and transformative. The process of thinking about change, writing it out, and periodically reviewing it, creates new neurological pathways in the brain. These pathways will lead to new behaviors and, over time, permanent change.

Here’s how it’s done:
The first step is to sit down with a notebook and visit the Ghost of Christmas Past. Choose a part of your life you are not happy with, for example your fitness level, diet, relationship status, income, job, etc. Write out as many of your core beliefs about that subject as possible. Start with yourself, asking yourself the question “Who am I?” Begin with the words, I am… and write out as many answers as you can until you pretty much exhausted all the things that you see yourself as being that relate to the are you want to change. Don’t think, write quickly and impulsively. You can sort it through later.

Next write “I believe… Write out as many of your beliefs as possible about whatever you would like to change. For example, if you wanted to change your body and fitness level, would write about what you believe about your body, ability to exercise, ability to endure physical discomfort from various types of exercise, ability to adhere to a healthy diet, and ability to stick to a exercise consistently.

If you wanted to change your beliefs about money, you would write about your current attitudes towards wealth. If you start with “money is the root of all evil,” you probably can see why you haven’t any. If you don’t have any, you’ll want to write out the excuses that you tell yourself are the reasons that you don’t have any. Write has many as you can without analyzing or filtering what you are writing. Write nonjudgmentally, in a stream of consciousness manner.

If you want to change your relationship status, start with your beliefs about the gender that you want to connect with. “Men are all pigs, women are all after your money, there are no good men out there,” etc. are all thoughts that set you up for failure.

The next step is to visit the Ghost of Christmas Present. Taking inventory of where you are currently with regard to the area you would like to change. For example, if you grew up associating certain foods with physical comfort, you can probably see that the BMI that you have of 32 is probably associated with those kinds of foods. If you think that all men or women are “losers”or that there just “isn’t anybody out there for me,” then you probably can see why you’re alone. If you believe that, “I just can’t save any money,” then of course you don’t have any. Really get in touch with the emotions and the pain that you currently feel about the area that you want to change. Pain, as most of us intuitively know, can be a great motivator and teacher. Although this is the hardest part of the Dickens Technique, it is very important to really dial in this emotion and lean into the associated pain.

The final step in the process is to visit the most feared ghost of all, the Ghost of Christmas Future. There is, however, a twist in the story here. Vividly envision the improvements in your designated area of life that will occur if you make some changes. Ask yourself, “If I can change my beliefs, truly change what I believe, where will I be in three months, six months, one year, three years, five years, etc.?” See yourself in your mind’s eye having the fitness level you want, the bank account you desire, or in a relationship with the kind of person that you know that you want and deserve. This visualization is an incredibly important part of the process, enabling you to “practice” what it will feel like when, not if, you attain these goals. When a person truly believes that change is possible, self efficacy is created, and goal attainment becomes more likely because they have convinced their mind, body, and spirit, that it is possible because they have seen it, and felt it, they accept that it can not only happen, but will happen if they create an action plan to get there. All change must start with the belief and conviction that it is possible. That’s the most important factor in the Dickens Technique.

Once you establish a firm conviction that this change is possible, you are well on your way towards getting there. Unlike Ebenezer Scrooge however, you must revisit this written exercise often, even daily in the early phases of your process. This exercise, written out in your own handwriting, becomes a call for action. You will become your own motivator. It’s important to visit the Ghost of Christmas Future as often as possible in order to change your perceptions of your capabilities. Practice visualization, use your imagination, see and feel the changes that you are creating. All success comes with belief in yourself. Set aside time each day to reinforce your new beliefs and get acquainted with your future self.

This brief and effective strategy follows the steps that are part of all therapeautic change. Don’t dismiss their power and effectiveness. Give yourself the Christmas gift of positive change!

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead, but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.” -Ebenezer Scrooge

Merry Christmas to you and your tribe!


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

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