Supporting Change

owlFall is here and school is in full swing. The new-school-year buzz has simmered down into daily routines. I have always loved back-to-school excitement. There is so much “newness”: new school clothes, new school supplies, new teachers and classrooms, new friends (and old friends too). There are also new expectations, new goals and new commitments. It is not surprising that fall is one of the busiest times for new clients coming into therapy. It is a time for self-assessment and a time to make change.

So, this has had me thinking about “change.” How do people do it? Why do they it? Why can change be so hard sometimes? We can all identify some behavior, habit, compulsion that we have repeatedly failed to change. Otherwise there would not be all those self-help books and diet plans on the market.

So, what’s a person to do? Is change a futile endeavor? Of course not. We know that change happens. Sometimes it’s even easy. But when it’s hard, what do you do?

Research indicates that one of the first things to do is to make sure you are positively motivated. We are often motivated by fear. We want to avoid something so we move in the opposite direction. The problem is that we can’t live in fear all the time. It creates too much anxiety. So we push it out of our minds along with the goal we were trying to reach. It’s better to move toward something we want rather than away from something we are trying to avoid.

It is also important that we get our emotions involved. A smoker knows all the rational reasons why he should quit. But he has a better chance of quitting if he focuses on how good he will feel when he can play tag with his kids without coughing.

And finally, lasting change requires support – as much as possible. Somebody else must absolutely believe that you can change and they must offer their encouragement and guidance to help you do it. In the absence of support it is easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged when facing obstacles.

So what changes are you trying to make right now? Are you motivated by fear or by joy? Are you emotionally invested in this change? Who is supporting you? If you are ready to take on a change-challenge, big or small, I’d love to hear about it!

First Published 2009

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