As psychotherapists, most of our daily work involves identifying the places where my clients want something different, and then helping them determine the positive change they need to make to get there. The phrase “but change is hard” is relatively common to hear. It is also true. Change is hard.
But it is always possible as long as you know how to go about it. By understanding that the person you are now is the result of many years of experiences and conditioning, you have the key to not only knowing yourself, but also to changing that person for the better.
Conditioning Yourself into Change
It can be easy to identify the things we do not like about ourselves. We might not like that we respond to stressful situations by shutting down or that we cannot bring ourselves to communicate in our relationship. Yet even when we know where we want to be, putting it into action can feel impossible in the moment.
Because you have been learning and reinforcing your current coping strategies throughout your life, switching to a new behavior now requires that same repetition. You will reinforce the new behavior until it becomes your conditioned response to these situations in a conscious process that requires you to:
- Choose Your Change – While your overall goal may involve several different changes, you will want to handle them in small steps and probably 1 or 2 at a time so that you are not overwhelmed.
- Choose Your New Behavior – Note what you currently do or think in situations. After you have made your change, what do you want to do differently in that situation? This will now be the step you take in that situation going forward.
- Implement Your Change – Next time each time you are confronted with that situation, try to respond with your chosen thought or action.
- Have Accountability – You are more likely to reach any goal, including making a change, if you have accountability. Set yourself a defined goal or work with your therapist to give yourself that accountability.
Depending on what change you are trying to make and how often you get to experience an inciting situation, changes may take only a few weeks or several months to realize. Stay committed and every time you perform your new action, the process will get easier and you will get closer to a permanent change.