Desiring to change & choosing to change!
A couple weeks ago we talked about desire doesn't equal change in the article "Empathy is Not Responsibility". I thought I’d talk more about that this week. Wanting to change and changing obviously are not the same thing, because when you actually change there is some kind of difference that happens. Now, sometimes we say, “I’m trying to ...” like "I’m trying to lose weight," but really what we’re saying is we would like to lose weight. We say "I’m trying" because maybe you’ve attempted a few efforts in that direction but the actual change has not happened yet. The problem is, every time we say something out loud, or even in our heads, we believe it and that can set ourselves up for failure. We start to think we've put in so much effort to this change and we’ve tried for so long to do this thing, that we feel like it’s never going to happen.
It’s just too hard. I've tried and tried. I often hear this from people who are struggling to break free from a bad habit or an addiction or those who desire to start a new healthy life choice. Eating better, eating less, exercising, getting more sleep, quit smoking, the list goes on. Some of these issues are quite comprehensive and they can look insurmountable as goals, we really don’t know where to start when we just look at the big picture and think I would like this. But if we were to break them down to smaller goals, that were simple and pretty easy to attain, it would be easier to make the change. Maybe we’ll talk more about goals next week, but for now will continue on this theme of desire and trying.
One of the keys to going from desire to change, is figuring out where you’re at right now. What is it about the state you’re in that makes you want to stay there? What are some positive aspects about your situation right now that you wouldn’t want to change? Let’s take my example of trying to lose weight. Well, first of all, it requires me to set aside more time for exercising and creating healthier meals. Time is a pretty precious commodity and I’d have to give up something else I’m doing, like cleaning my house, sorting through books, organizing photos on my computer, and so on. Note, these are all important things and they mean a lot to me. Some of them are I would even say are necessary.
What do those things say about me? I like to be organized, is that a good thing? I need to keep stress down for my health and these things help me do that, Isn't that good? I could make a really long list here. Do you have any suggestions? I'd love to here them in the comments section. The more you participate the more relevant and helpful you'll find this.
Now, let's also look at what does it say about me that losing weight is really not that important to me (since I haven't done it yet, it must not be THAT important)? I’m not as worried about self image as I am keep my life organized. That’s a pretty good character trait to have. Again, I wonder if you could come up with some ideas of your own (put them in the comments)?
What is it that you would like to change and why would making a change be a problem for you? What positive thing does it say about you? These idea were inspired by Dr. David Burns concept of paradoxical agenda setting. That we really have to find the positive things about ourselves even for the negative things that we have decided we’d like to change.
Let’s do one more example. Let’s say you don’t get enough sleep because you don't get to bed on time. A VERY common problem for many of my clients. Notice I just made something general, not getting enough sleep, to something specific, not getting to bed on time. Being specific makes it easier to break down so we will get even more specific. Why aren’t you getting to bed on time? Perhaps because you’re visiting with friends on social media or the phone, you are enjoying a movie, you’re finishing chores it didn’t get done, maybe that’s when a particular family member calls you. Each of these I’ll say something positive about you. For example visiting with friends isn’t a bad thing. We all need social interaction and it shows you care about others. Isn’t it good to care about others? Of course. Enjoying a movie, well this is you know how to take a break and it shows you’re not afraid to relax. Isn’t that a good thing? I’ll leave the others for you to ponder. And this will work much better if you can list your own.
Once you see the benefits of not changing AND the positive things this says about you, it actually helps you to see it from a new perspective. That you are not a BAD person for not changing...yet, LOL. It even helps you see ways you can change and still keep all the benefits you currently have.
The reason we don’t change is ultimately because there’s something positive holding us back from making the choice. Discovering what that is will be far more effective than forcing or punishing yourself. The effort is not correctly directed. A wise writer once said we need to understand the right use of the will (Steps to Christ by Ellen White). In other words we don’t need more willpower, instead we need to make the right choice, and the only way to know what that choice is, is to fully investigate in our own minds with a neutral, non-judgmental attitude, and discover where we are at right now and how is that benefiting our lives.