- Mental Health
Move Beyond "Thinking about Something to Doing Something"
Have you ever known that you needed to make changes but spent too much time thinking about it without taking actions to correct it?
Pondering is Non-Productive
When you realize that there is a problem, or you do not like a certain situation in your life, you often have the desire to change something. It can also mean that you do not deny that a problem exists and you are willing to do something differently.
You may decide that the problem areas are:
If you find yourself in the cycle of only identifying the problem and complaining about it or commenting on it, ask yourself if you truly have both the desire to change something and then, are you willing to make the effort to change the problem?
Only complaining or commenting on a problem can create a lot of frustration, tension, and guilt. It can also set you up for disappointment from others when they attempt to help with a solution, and you reject it by, not following through with it.
Ambivalence is being undecided. One part of you likes the idea of change, the other is fearful or even angry about changing. Some individuals are just ambivalent, undecided, or of two minds about change. Or, don't understand which way to go.
When Reluctance to Change Is Evident, Ask Yourself
- What do I get out of staying the same?
- What would be enough incentive to change something?
- What might I learn through the process of change?
- What might be the benefits to me of change?
- What are my feelings about changing?
- What efforts are necessary to change this situation?
- What is my hesitation in changing?
- Why am I reluctant to change?
- What are my fears in changing?
- What outcomes could I anticipate getting if I changed?
- What benefits would I anticipate getting if I changed?
- What would making changes cost me: financially, physically, mentally and emotionally?
- How much time, energy, and effort would I have to put into changing?
- What feelings and attitudes are holding me back from changing?
With your answers, you can determine some of your resistances. At this point, you have to decide if continuing to take the opportunity for further change is something that you want. If you do want to change, are you capable of putting forth the energy needed to accomplish the change? Or, are the consequences and outcomes of your past actions, not enough incentive to change?
Lost? Confused? Undecided?
It's rather like Alice.
“Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?”
The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?”
"I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
When people think an action won't make a difference in their circumstances, they may experience ambivalence. They may have gotten so used to living in unsatisfactory or difficult relationships or unfulfilling jobs. They are willing to live here, live there with whoever would take them in that night. They've made money and not made money. They know the hours of the soup kitchen, or where day labor produces enough money to scrape by and exist. They know how to survive in jail, or on the streets.
In other words, they have learned to live with the conflicts and uncertainties of, not changing and learned to subsist. Survival is about endurance, carrying on, living to tell the tale another day.
It can be nothing more than drudgery.
Unlearning and Overcoming Reluctance to Change
If you remember that you were born without habits, addictions, or self-defeating behaviors; that they were learned along the way, it can help you frame unlearning and changing differently.
Unlearning gets complicated by the fact that many actions are mechanical or habituated. In other words, the predictable, knee-jerk reaction, the way “I've always been” attitudes to life.
The reality is that there are many of us who "were always that way", who are now different. Ask knowledgeable people how they changed. You might be surprised at the advice your receive from this simple question. If you believe you could benefit further, ask for help from successful people.
Do you ask knowledgeable people how to do something when you want to change?
Changing Is About Problem Solving
Take any problem, break it up into its parts, and see if it does not become less fearful and more readily accomplished. If you do not know how to change something, but genuinely want to change, ask others or research accomplishing change.
Resources for Change
- Sponsors/accountability partners
- People in recovery supportive meetings
- Knowledgeable family and friends
- Internet research into changing
Looking at the list, you see that you do have a lot of resources to ask. Not all of them will have an accurate solution for your particular change because they have not had to change that aspect of themselves, or they may not think they know enough to help anyone else.
Regardless, you know that you would ask multiple people for solutions if it involved your use, so you have to be just as diligent in asking for help with change. If you ask enough people, there is sure to be someone who had a similar problem and had a solution. Do you ask knowledgeable people how to do something when you want to change?
Searching for “how to change” on the Internet may give you too many perspectives, and you can get lost in all of your choices. Again, be aware of what you specifically want to change and keep narrowing down your choices on the Internet to be effective.
Satisfied with your Changes to Date?
Most people in recovery feel ambivalent or disinterested in change at times. Things are going better in their lives; they are not in as much trouble either at home, work or with the judicial system, and they have a little money in their pocket.
These plateaus are predictable, and you may find in answering the questions that your desire to change is still there, but that you are satisfied, for the moment, with the changes to date. What you may be missing is the numerous other opportunities waiting for you with just a few more modifications in attitudes, actions or feelings.
Deciding to Make Additional Modifications?
If, on the other hand, you decide that you do want further improvements, there can still be some predictable barriers to changing:
- You want to change but do not know how to change.
- You do not wish to change badly enough to do the work required to change.
- You think if you say you want to change, that should be enough.
- You think if you do make changes, people might expect more changes from you in the future.
- You think that your changes will never be good enough for some people in your life.
Often the answers and solutions are within you; marshaling the resolve and motivation to change may be the hard part.
Most Effective Model of Change
There is no time frame attached to the various phases. Some people will remain adamant that no change is necessary; others will talk about changing and move to action quickly, where others will talk about changing for years without taking action.
Still others will have maintenance for years and then relapse, moving them back to the stage where they will have to determine if they are motivated to change again.
In this stage, people have not thought about change. Other people in their lives might have broached the subject, but the individual has reacted negatively to the suggestions for change, or decided that they were satisfied with the way things were.
You’ll know if you are in this phase or stage if you make statements like:
- “I don’t see any reason for changing.”
- “I am content with the way things are.”
- “I do not have to change anything about my life, my actions, my thoughts, etc.etc.
In this state, people are thinking about the idea of changing. They may evaluate how they feel about the change – “if I quit using drugs and alcohol, I might feel better.”
They may determine other conditions that would motivate them to take actions, “I could save money for a new car if I wasn’t spending it on drugs.”
Motivation can be external and internal. Sometimes an outside force, such as arrest will motivate an individual to change their substance use and criminal activities. Other times, the thought of being caught and not being able to see their children and how they would feel if that happened, will stop or reduce the use and criminal activities.
They may begin to question why some people are successful, and they aren’t and think about asking for guidance and directions to do something differently, or better.
In this stage, an individual creates and devises plans to accomplish their changes. There is intent within the statements showing their determination to change. Rather than “I will try to” they will state that, “I will”.
- “I will stop using on Tuesday.”
- “I will get back to recovery supportive meetings starting tonight.”
- “I will go to sleep at a reasonable time tonight or at least by midnight.”
- “I will ask Sam how he got his tree to bear fruit. I’ll call him tonight.”
Devising realistic actions can mean that you don't set yourself up to fail. It will not be realistic to start an exercise schedule if you haven't been active in years. However, scheduling exercise that you know you are going to enjoy will make it easier.
If you have been disorganized in one area of your living space, like laundry, make a commitment to do it at regular intervals and see how you feel. Fifteen minutes towards the dreaded task works wonders in a month.
Often the positive feelings will outweigh the negative. Following through with your statements of intent to change moves you to the stage called Action.
At this stage, actions that will manifest as the changes are done. Not resisted, not just talked about, not with just a plan, but the actual action of change itself.
You can demonstrate evidence of your changes with statements like:
- “I quit using alcohol on Tuesday, and I feel ___________.”
- “I went to a recovery supportive meeting last night, and I felt __________.”
- “I went to bed at midnight, and I felt ___________ this morning.”
- "I called Sam about his trees, and I felt ____ about his suggestions."
In this stage, people make a false assumption; that maintaining should be easy. Many factors including unanticipated triggers interrupt the maintenance state of change cycle of recovery; and many people, even those with double-digit recovery relapse. Apparently, they were maintaining their long-term recovery, but something happened.
Maintaining is also about another form of change; finding additional reinforcing thoughts, feelings or benefits from your improved actions to continue practicing and operating from the new behavior.
Changing from Addictions and Self-defeating Behaviors to Recovery
Recovery is living, enjoying the rewards of your efforts and an opportunity to do more than subsist, or just keep your head above water.
Even those in early recovery know what others are going to say about recovery. You have sat in enough groups, lectures, and meetings to have an idea of everyone's answers to the questions.
This is your recovery and sometimes your perspective on an answer will differ significantly from treatment, your support network, or your sponsor or accountability partner.
For instance, most people put emphasis on education. The reality is that not everyone needs a college education to succeed in life. However, most individuals will benefit from some learning or instructions to perform their job better, which in turn can get them a raise and allow them to care better for themselves and their families.
Recovery is Not a Static or Fixed Thing
There is a 12 Step based saying, “Recovery is a journey, not a destination”. Therefore, if you find that you are reluctant to change anything else because life is good now, you may just be shortchanging yourself.
© 2013 Marilyn L Davis