What keeps you from changing?

It is not very uncommon to deal with clients who often find it difficult to change their life course. Getting out of a bad relationship, pursuing a new career, starting a healthy diet are but to name a few of the goals that I often listen my clients express. When working with people in establishing a new life path, one of the basic questions is to understand the big “Why”. Why is it so difficult to make that change? Most of my clients seem to be so determined and committed in making the big step but, for some reason, they give up and that leaves them discouraged. Although, each person is unique, I have come across common themes that help people understand better their resistance to change:

Why do you want change?

Is the change you want to make in accordance with what YOU want or is it more a reflection of other’s suggestions? People will often commit to goals or stay in situations because their environment seems to be satisfied in that manner. So, once they fail to achieve their goals (because it is not what they really want), they feel disappointed and blame themselves. At this point, it is very difficult to realize that it is the path that is the wrong one and not the person.

Mission statement

Have you noted how big companies have a mission statement on their websites? It is probably the first thing everyone reads and is often very ambitious. When people say “I want to change”, they hardly focus on their own personal, mission statement. When I ask people to tell me one, they come up with a very vague description. By creating a mission statement, you acknowledge who you are, your value(s), your why, your goal. Tip: When writing down your statement make sure you assess your current status, your strengths and weaknesses and what you feel excited about. You may be surprised with your notes and what you learn about yourself!

Sustain motivation

“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”. Fear of failure and losing your comfort zone are probably the most profound obstacles in sustaining your motivation. Everybody wants to change but no-one enjoys a trip to the unknown. It is hard to sustain your motivation when things are different, harder, discouraging- all at once. If you find yourself ready to give up, try to remember what kept you motivated before. Tips: Share your fear with a partner or friend, ask for professional help and/or reshape your goal as not to lose sight during this period of hardship. On top of all, embrace how you feel as a normal part of the process and not as a threat.

Know-how

Yes, some people are gifted and they can acquire new skills and talents in the blink of an eye but most of us are not. Some of my clients often have the misconception that changing one’s self is a romantic story like in Hollywood movies. Unfortunately, it is a task and like any other task, commitment is not enough. People often forget that there are ways and tools to achieve their goals and unless they make proper use, they will abandon their effort. Tips: Instead of losing time and energy in generalizations, make a list of what you need to achieve your goal. If you are missing something, look for it through training, hiring a professional or getting a certification. Bring the new knowledge in your life and use it accordingly.

Is the time right?

People will say that the time is right when you really want to do that change. Let’s be honest: the time is right when your current priorities are in accordance with your plans. If your current life priorities demand excess energy or effort on your part maybe you should spend more time in designing your next step and wait until you feel that you can go that extra mile. You are not stopping, you are just taking a big breath.

Do a small experiment at home and write your own mission statement. What would you write on your homepage to welcome life?

Sophia Vassiliades, M.A. Clininal Psychologist/Counselor.