Five ways to achieve successful change
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Harriet Frew
18th September, 20150 Comments
I think it is unusual (although I agree possible) that desire and action for change fall like a thunderbolt from the sky triggering overnight transformations. Instead, the recognition that change needs to happen, is often a more nagging awareness that builds slowly over time.
Perhaps there is something that you wish to change right now. Maybe you are feeling extremely frustrated with your lack of progress to date. You may be fed up with repeating old patterns that lead you to feeling miserable and stuck.
Whether it is over-spending, or dieting and bingeing, or relying on alcohol to unwind, or burning yourself out through sheer exhaustion at work or something else, it is likely to be affecting your happiness.
‘Why oh why can’t I just change’ you wonder.
Five ways to achieve successful change
1. Understand your ambivalence
Imagine you have an untrustworthy friend. She constantly lets you down; causes you misery and breaks her promises. However, between the bouts of unreliability and mistrust, you do hold some real affection for her. You have shared some special memories and you’ve known each other for a very long time. Despite the ups and downs, the connection feels safe and familiar; you feel reluctant to let it go.
Recently though, the ‘downs’ have been dominating the friendship significantly more than the ‘ups’. You might have thought about turning your back on the relationship and walking away. But then when faced with the stone-cold reality of that decision, you suddenly feel overwhelmed with emotion and unable to follow through. You remain utterly stuck.
Sometimes our unhelpful behaviours can be likened to this ‘friend’. You probably experience some real gains and positivity from the behaviour at times; albeit short-term. As human beings, we like this instant gratification. Who wouldn’t? It is appealing and easy to take this path when wishing for a change in mood.
This is why approaching change through sheer willpower; whilst neglecting to understand how you gain from the behaviour, is unlikely to work.
To get clear on your gains and losses, write them down. What do you gain and lose financially; socially; health-wise; time; career opportunities etc?
This will enable you to achieve a clear and realistic perspective of the situation.
Gaining awareness is often the first point of change.
2. Think beyond your current mood
If you want to master effective outcomes, you need to focus your mind on the longer term goals and benefits. Frequently, we can all be a slave to our current moods rather than taking the action that will propel us forward to a more promising future.
To assist with this, have some fabulous motivating goals and ensure they are constantly visible to inspire you daily. If stopping your binge eating is going to result in more time and money, picture clearly about how you might spend this money and hold this vision in your mind.
Get very real on the consequences of your actions. Holding onto unhelpful habits might not seem so detrimental today, but over time is going to have a profound impact on your future.
3. Make a decision to change
Making the actual decision to change can be a powerful spring-board for action. Following the new decision means turning and facing in new direction on your life journey.
E.g. ‘I am breaking out of the dieting and bingeing cycle’ or ‘I am taking control of my finances’.
It is very common that change takes time and there may likely be relapses and slip-ups. This is to be absolutely expected along your journey. Once you have embarked along the new path, you can also anticipate that you might often be lured down the old familiar one. It may be very challenging at times to let go of the fantasies that you hold dear about the behaviour.
E.g. ‘The next diet might just work and will be my last’ or ‘Buying more stuff is going to make me feel better’.
Remember that when you slip back, you are never back to square one again. Any slip up is simply a blip and a bump in the road. It is a learning experience to be valued and taken on board. Embed this mindset fully from the off and it will help you tremendously. Think mini goals and a ‘good enough’ approach. Aiming for perfection might lead you to feeling overwhelmed and defeated.
4. Focus the mind productively
Often people can be their own worst enemy when it comes to change. If you ended a destructive relationship but then continued to keep contact with the person by texting them regularly; meeting in person or checking FB and social media feeds, no wonder you may well still feel very confused or unsure about your change decision.
It is unlikely that you will just feel like changing. You may miss the old behaviour immensely at first.
Instead of relying on your feelings about change, you may have to take a very proactive approach in managing your thinking, feelings and behaviour. This may likely require support from friends and family; reading self-help material; immersing yourself in helpful blogs and online inspiring websites and possibly seeing a therapist.
It is probably not going to be easy at first. You will likely struggle to begin with, and it might feel like hard work. This is not a reason to give up though.
Practice, practice, practice.
5. Believe you can do it
Although you may not feel it, you have immense capacity for change within you and also the ability to make wise and helpful decisions. Start to embrace this idea wholeheartedly. Practicing mindfulness and remembering to focus daily on your long-term goals and values can help with your decision making.
You may not feel this now, but you have to believe that you are worth it and deserving of a different future. If you really struggle with this, maybe think about getting some support as these feelings might well be deep-rooted.
Recognise all your little breakthroughs every day. Don’t just focus on the climb ahead.
Daily, appreciate the things you do have. Be thankful.
When you fall off the horse, (which you may well do many times), just get back on again. You won’t always feel like doing this. That’s okay. Remember why you took the decision in the first place.
About the author
Harriet Frew is a counsellor, blogger, writer and enthusiast in supporting people with eating disorders. She has worked in the NHS; private practice and in the voluntary sector; working in the field since 1999. Harriet now works privately in Cambridge and London.
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