People tell me all the time that they don’t know how to change. Believe it or not I know what that feels like! I do believe that some things we will always struggle with, but if we stay aware, with age, we can progress.
Here are some tips to help us along the way:
- Awareness. Literally nothing can change until we are aware that a change needs to happen. I have finally accepted (yes, I fought it for a long time) that we live in our own reality, and sometimes we don’t see what is right in front of us. We have to be diligent to question ourselves and be willing to be wrong (I call this flexibility in thinking) in order to see what we need to be working on. It can be overwhelming to pay attention to ourselves and analyze things ALL the time, so I tell people it’s okay to take breaks and let yourself coast on autopilot sometimes too. Otherwise we can really drive ourselves nuts lol.
- Believe you can. Too many people come into my office and don’t even believe that good things/change can happen in their lives. Just because we haven’t see change yet, does NOT mean it isn’t possible. There are many success stories in which the most life changing events happened later in life.
- Set a small reasonable goal. One of the biggest reasons we fail is because we set our goals too high. Start VERY small and with something that feels easy, manageable, and desirable. For example, instead of going keto, maybe try cutting out soda first or adding an extra vegetable to your daily intake. Or instead of a marathon, maybe start with a 10 minute walk a day or if you wake up in the morning and you feel like rolling out of bed and stretching, do what feels manageable and desirable. Make sense?
- Compete only with yourself. We can’t possible know all the details of someone else’s life. Therefore there is no accurate way to compare ourselves. There are people in this world who are addicted to work so they appear more successful, but they are stressed and have limited social interaction, and so on and so on. We are not on point every day, but we can continue to strive to be and do better, and that is where we will develop real self esteem. Looking at others only distorts our perception of our personal best and what we are capable of doing.
- Prepare. I took a change class in graduate school, and the thing that stood out to me the most was that we tend to fail, because we did not prepare well enough for the change. So this means we must anticipate barriers and come up with plans for how to overcome. The example that comes to mind easiest is conversations I’ve had with addicts. Let’s say the work Christmas party is coming up; the question is, how do I avoid relapse at this event. In a more simple example, the work Christmas party is coming up, how do I stay on my diet? Again, we don’t want to spend too much time obsessing about everything that could go wrong, but some forethought is necessary to prepare to stay on target with our goals.
One of my client’s recently said to me, “There’s no way to avoid having to use willpower.” She’s not wrong. In order for real change to happen, at some point we have to decide we are going to do something different and dive in. Otherwise we are just doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result (definition of insanity, right?). So there is a level of “okay, today’s the day” that needs to be involved, but these other tips can be useful along the way.
FAQ: Tips for Personal Change and Development
How important is awareness in the process of personal change?
Awareness is crucial for change; recognizing the need for change is the first step. Being open to questioning oneself and being flexible in thinking are key to understanding what needs to be worked on. It's also okay to take breaks from self-analysis to prevent feeling overwhelmed.
Is it really possible to change, especially later in life?
Absolutely. Believing in the possibility of change is essential. Many success stories involve significant life changes happening later in life. Just because change hasn't been seen yet doesn't mean it isn't possible.
What is the best approach to setting goals for change?
Start with small, manageable, and desirable goals. Setting goals too high can lead to failure. Begin with something simple, like cutting out soda or incorporating a short daily walk, and gradually build up from there.
How should one prepare for change?
Effective preparation involves anticipating barriers and planning how to overcome them. This includes thinking ahead about potential challenges and developing strategies to stay on track with goals, whether it's avoiding relapse at a social event or sticking to a diet during the holidays.