by Susan J. Friedman, LCSW, BCD, DVS, Relationship Counseling
Like all of us, clients in the midst of a difficult life transition, like divorce, often do not see the choices they can use to make positive changes in their lives. They do know that “they are unhappy with the way things are going” and “feel like they are stuck in a very deep, dark hole.” We all get stuck sometimes, thoughts circle around and around in our heads and we are unable to perceive effective solutions. We feel stuck, frustrated, angry and disillusioned. As a result, we might dig an even deeper hole in the panic of doing something, anything to stop the pain. The first thing you can do for yourself when you are stuck is to accept that you are stuck and put the shovel down; in other words stop digging!
Change is difficult and it is easy to get discouraged when you try and do not achieve the outcome you were hoping for. The truth is that just making the effort is progress. Change is not an event with an exact start and stop point; it’s a process. Each step you make, even if it’s a relatively small step such as making the resolution to change, is still a step in the right direction, bringing you closer to your ultimate goal.
It’s also important to recognize that even if you regress it’s not the end of the world. Research has found that change rarely occurs in a straightforward, linear sequence, and when people relapse, they usually do not fall all the way back to where they first began their journey. If viewed and used appropriately the faux pas can serve as learning opportunities, helping you to become more prepared for the next phase of your unique trip.
The following are some of the factors linked with successful change:
- When the change is self-motivated
- When the change is rooted in positive thinking as opposed to guilt, fear, or regret
- When the goals are specific (i.e., I will walk one mile at least four days each week)
- When you limit your goals to a manageable number
- When you develop a practical, realistic plan for accomplishing your goals (If you work 100 hours a week, it’s unlikely that you will have the time to walk one mile at least four days a week)
- When you incorporate avoidance of triggers in your action plan
- When you spend time with others who are positive role models for the change you’re trying to make
The change process requires courage. You need patience, persistence, and a strong commitment to improve your life by making changes for the better. The journey is difficult and it takes time to habituate to the positive changes. However once you have taken ownership of your course and use the power you have you will be proud of your success and so much happier.