By Licia Ginne, LMFT
Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.
We all want change. We just wish it didn’t have to be so scary. With change comes risk and fear, and it’s the experience of fear that holds us back. As the Anais Nin quote says life is about change and moving through different experiences. The world is constantly changing and the best we can do is embrace the changes and identify places where we can be proactive.
You don’t have to enlist the help of a psychotherapist or personal coach to make changes, but to improve your chances of success you need to have a strong support system. Your support group can be a formal group like a 12-step program or psychotherapy group, you might join a networking or marketing group, it could be a group of friends who all have the same goal.
First step to identify what you would like different in your life; our immediate goal may be to improve your health. Next list all the things that could help improve your health; it could be more rest, more exercise, or a better eating plan. You want to keep breaking down the main goal until you have smaller concrete actions or behavior changes. Improving your health is the long term goal the steps to getting there are the concrete actions like more rest, losing weight, eliminating salt from your diet, etc. .
Now you need to notice opportunities for instituting your behavior change. It helps if you can make a short study of the opportunities when you could make change. In studies on creating change they’ve found that in the beginning we often notice opportunities after they have happened. This gives us a starting point. You will notice a cycle of where you notice an opportunity and can make the change and times when you notice the opportunity after it has happened. If you can remain hopeful you will find the missed opportunities decrease until you don’t have to remind yourself and you have made the new behavior a habit. This step is where having a support group is the most helpful; it will help to keep you motivated and help with identifying opportunities.
Second: set small goals. I will exercise 3 days a week, or every day for 20 minutes. Whatever your goal is it should be realistic to where you are in your life today. If you don’t exercise at all than 3 days a week or 10 minutes a day may be a good place to start. Than you have to set long-term goals. A long-term goal might be to run a marathon or have washboard abs. With a marathon your long-term goal is 26.2 miles but today you start with 10 minutes of walking and keep increasing as your endurance builds. It is finding that balance between pushing yourself and not injuring yourself. NBC has a reality show called the Biggest Loser and they are the perfect example in some ways of what not to do. I am sorry they couldn’t offer a better example. They are right when they talk about changing your lifestyle and adding exercise and a healthy food plan. They are wrong when they have these contestants pushing themselves to injury and believing that losing large amounts of weight in a short period of time is good for you.
Third: Maintenance: This stage is about reinforcing and maintaining the new behavior. As you continue to look for opportunities and try them, you find that with practice it will become easier. It has not yet become habit.
Fourth: You have maintained the new behavior for 6 months and longer. Your confidence in your ability to cope with the fear of relapse has strengthened. You do not have to remind yourself all the time to take the new behavior and it has become part of your routine.
Most of all remember that change starts with the first step and you build from there.