Is this the year when things will finally be different?

December 28th, 2011

Okay- you want to make some changes in the new year, and change is good indeed. Will this be the year that you make the changes stick? Will this year be the year it finally happens- you lose the weight, find your passion, quit the bad habit, have a peace filled family life, pay off the debt, connect with friends more often, be balanced at work and home, etc.

In my practice I’ve seen people make remarkable changes, often because they are in a place of pain and it hurts too much to keep doing the same thing. I’ve watched families that typically yell and use anger as a way to communicate shift to understanding and listening, I’ve seen sibling who act out to get their needs met learn how to ask for what they want, I’ve witnessed adults make leaps in expressing their feelings in an authentic self-honoring way.

There are may theories of change and motivation for change, yet beyond the theories I believe there is truly one simple way that people make and sustain change (see 1. below for the answer).

Most people come to therapy or decide “enough” and commit to making a change when things are really uncomfortable. I don’t believe that you need to be in pain to make changes, but I feel like we are such creatures of habit that we are pretty likely to continue to do the same thing over and over, longing for different results and finally we become so uncomfortable with the incongruities of what we desire, that we seek change. Here’s the interesting part, often when people come to therapy it is because they see someone else as the problem (i.e. my child acts out, my parents are frustrating me, my spouse is unreasonable). You may see the problem as being outside of you or a behavior that you do (drinking, overeating). So you focus on fixing what you believe is “wrong” thinking I’ll lose the weight then I’ll be happier, when my spouse changes I’ll feel better, when my parents stop nagging me I’ll be more content, when my children stop yelling then we’ll have more joy in our family. Yes, these are based upon external situations, and more than likely will not lead to sustained changes.

Here are 6 ways to create lasting positive changes in the new year:

1. Self love-
You must honor and respect yourself enough to make whatever changes you desire a priority. When you act from a place of self-love you put your needs first, you lovingly set boundaries with others, and you are kind and gentle with yourself even when you don’t make the changes you desire. When you act from a place of self-love you know that external changes will not make you more fulfilled, happier, sexier, peaceful. Rather, your self-love, appreciation, gratitude will help lead to change externally. You love others enough to know that what you desire may be different from what they desire, and that’s Okay.

2. Clear goal-
Make it a simple goal, one you can achieve. Perhaps break it down into a short-term goal (over the next 30 days) and a long term-goal (over the next 3 months).

3. Take action-

Be realistic and ramp up slowly. If your family yells as a way of getting their needs met, it’s pretty unrealistic to expect to not argue at all. Instead look to make small changes, such as, we will only argue 1 time a day, or next time I argue I will not say mean comments. Then increase the duration you’ll go with out fighting and the intensity- do these small steps over the next 30 days and you’ll see changes without feeling overwhelmed.

4. Learn new tools-

There is a belief in Choice Theory that our behaviors are meeting our basic needs and we will not make a change unless we substitute it with a new behavior that meets our needs. So you may want to find a new behavior that replaces the old behavior you are letting go of. If you are looking to make changes in your relationships then reading books, taking a class, or going to therapy will give you new tools to replace the old way of behaving. If you are making changes in your life-style find other ways to meet your needs (i.e. instead of retail therapy meet a friend for lunch).

5. Get support and accountability-
When you share with others your intentions you become accountable and this is often a way to sustain change over the next 30-days.  So tell others whom you can trust to be supportive of your goals, and then tell them what kind of support you’d like. It’s frustrating if your friend calls to give you a ‘loving kick-in-the-pants’ when all you really want is for them to ask you  how you’re doing. So ask for how you’d like to receive your support.

6. Be kind-
There will be good days and bad days. There will be times when you make small steps towards your goals, and times when you don’t. Remember the first rule- LOVE. If you are critical, unloving, and disrespectful of the times when you don’t follow through then really there is no point in trying to make changes, because what you really need to work on is your internal stuff, not external! So be kind, know that everyone who tries new things flubs up and it’s all part of the learning process. You are not here to do things perfectly. You are here to do your best, to be kind and loving with yourself, and to be compassionate to others.

Want to use the art to affirm the changes you are making? Create a self love and support collage. Use words and images that are reminders of your goals and of being kind and gentle with yourself along the journey.

During this time of year many people need more support. Immediately access parenting resources to help children and teens you can download right now and use to help your child! You can lean more here.

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