By Clinical Psychologist, Sarit Swisa
This is a question that I think inevitably many people are faced with at one time or another during their lives. The fear that change simply isn’t possible could arise for example, for that person who has been ‘planning’ to lose weight summer after summer and it just seems a most elusive goal as the years go by. It could be a real despairing point for someone who has been trying hard to control his/her anger and then just loses it in one unthinking moment of lashing out. It could be when you promise to be more careful with your money, only to look in horror at the indulgent purchases on your bank statement. Do these examples tell us to give up – are we lumped with these unmotivated, impulsive, forgetful traits forever?
At the same time, there are rows of books at the bookstore on people who have successfully overcome some of the worst habits, personal difficulties and pathologies. What are we to make of this? We do ultimately all change. None of us are as we were a few years ago – the tricky part is whether we expect magical changes to occur or whether we are committed to putting in effort to our personal growth and improvement.
Change is possible but one needs to be realistic about how to go about this. Here are some suggestions for working on a personal habit/characteristic that you’d like to see shift.
- Start small. Don’t look at the top of the mountain and aim there – you’ll always feel so far away that it might not feel worth it. Choose something fairly easy to work on, something that you actually want to work on. For example having too many dietary changes to implement in one go may be unlikely to be sustained. Starting with drinking more water or cutting out a teaspoon of sugar in your coffee is a more manageable way to get started.
- Be accountable. People who have to sign in at work are more likely to be on time. Knowing that you are accountable to someone can go a long way in maintaining new behaviours. Keeping a diary and/or agreeing to check in with a friend regularly and consistently are good ways of keeping you committed. I once did a goal “swap” with a friend where we encouraged each other in our chosen spheres and agreed to do a check in every Friday on our respective progress. It definitely stopped me from making as many excuses as I might have had I had no one to answer to!
- Be smart. Rather than trying to be ‘right’, be smart about what you do. Moralising yourself into a new habit – when did that last work for you? Think about what would actually work to encourage your desired change. So get realistic about what you would/wouldn’t do. Deciding to work out six days a week when you currently aren’t exercising at all? Go slow!
- Forgive yourself. Expect failures and relapses. The knowledge that there will be set backs can help you get up and try again. If you are too unkind with yourself you won’t want to keep trying anymore.
Sometimes understanding what the particular impediments to your growth are, are also a step in allowing change into your life. This may be helpful to discuss with a friend, confidante or therapist.
I hope that these few tips will serve you well! Book a psychotherapy session me at PsychMatters Centre™ to assist you in your own personal growth journey.