How to create and sustain change

How to create and sustain change

We are halfway through 2015, and many of us, myself included, have forgotten our New Year’s resolutions. As a Bethesda MD therapist, I find that regardless of the time of year, people are eager to change their behavior in small or large ways. However, oftentimes, we struggle with creating long-lasting change. Behavior change can feel like wearing a costume: fake, clumsy, and uncomfortable. It is not surprising that many of us struggle to sustain change and abandon our goals before the costume feels like a second skin and the new behavior is simply part of our routine.

So, what gets in the way? What makes it hard to begin changing ourselves, and once we’ve started, to maintain that change? The two factors necessary for change are motivation (i.e., a desire or willingness to do something) and confidence (i.e., the belief in one’s capability to do something). It is important to remember that people may lack confidence due to future consequences of an action (e.g., What if I can’t go to my favorite restaurants once I start this diet?), past failures (e.g., I tried to cut down on my sugar intake before, but then, I ate a whole bag of peanut butter cups), and/or emotional/mental states (e.g., anxious, depressed, stressed).

Oftentimes, people are motivated, but not confident. For example, you might know that your partner is contemplating divorce and you need to start prioritizing the relationship (motivation), but if you have never been in a healthy relationship or you don’t believe that you have the skills to be an attentive partner (confidence), then it is going to be hard to put action behind your intention. Both motivation and confidence are necessary for change. Here are some questions to help you utilize both of these factors to get what you want out of life:

1). What are the pros/cons of changing my behavior? What are the pros/cons of not changing my behavior? These questions will help you identify your natural motivation to change. Once you have determined there are more reasons for you to change your behavior than for you to continue a particular behavior, you might be motivated to change.

2). What past attempts have I made to change? How were these attempts successful? How were these attempts unsuccessful? These questions will help you use your past attempts for your future success. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Most likely, you are already on your way towards changing your life.

3). How confident am I that I am capable of changing? How confident am I that I deserve change? These questions help you understand how you might be getting in the way of your success. Sometimes, we sabotage ourselves – it’s important to understand why.

4). What do I need to do in order to feel more confident in my ability to change? This question will help you prepare to make changes. If you discover that you simply don’t know how to diet successfully, you might enlist the help of a nutritionist or buy a self-help book. If you feel as though your self-esteem is really low and you don’t believe that change is possible, you might want to reach out to a therapist in Bethesda MD.

What tips might other readers find helpful to begin to change their lives? Sound off in the comments on your personal journey to change.