What is your definition of change?

Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

May 8, 2014

Editor’s Note: This is a continuing series on change, part one ran Feb. 27, part two April 7, part three April 24

Type in the word “change” on the Internet and numerous websites pop up: global climate change, social change, political change, economic change, career change, and a multitude of others. Alas, the definition of change is open to interpretation. What is the meaning of change? Roget’s Thesaurus is full of synonyms: alter, modify, substitute, shift, conversion, transformation, transition. It is both a noun and a verb and can be altered to the adjectives “changeable” and “changeless.” Webster, in his dictionary, wrote “To become or make different.” There’s the idiom “change of life” referring to menopausal women. The famed Serenity Prayer is about accepting what we can and cannot change with wisdom to know the difference. Of course we can’t forget the old joke “How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?” with the answer being “Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.” Are there times when your environment needs to change instead of your emotions? On some occasions it is more beneficial to find another job then to experience daily distress from a horrific boss. Ending a relationship instead of attempting to fix it may be the appropriate action. Some individuals change churches instead of adapting their beliefs. A fifty-one percent divorce rate implies that individuals change spouses instead of changing themselves. When do we change what and how do we change it? Ah, riveting questions. What do I want and how do I get it? Am I willing to make sacrifices and changes in myself? Can I change what I want without compromising my values and integrity? How do my changes impact my family? Do I believe I can change myself and not others? What things are not changeable? Ah, more tough questions.

Now, before we go any further, I need to point out a valuable tidbit. Things do not always work out exactly like we would like. Even after you make changes a specific outcome may not arrive. When this happens you will learn a lesson in flexibility and revamping of expectations. Other people do not follow our agendas. Habits can be as hard as concrete to break depending on the person and his/her patterns. Some individuals have fallen into an established pattern of faultfinding, complaining, and criticizing in reference to change management. Some of us dig our heels in and refuse to budge. Discarding old habits and developing healthier ones takes commitment and perseverance. How did you change unwanted habits in the past? What worked and what didn’t work? Many of us like instant gratification and possess a low threshold for endurance. Think about the same mistakes you make over and over. What connects them together? What are the commonalities? Look for patterns. Connect the dots. Curiosity is a strength. The good news is that you possess the personal power to make changes. You can become more resilient during times of expected and unexpected happenings. You can learn to handle transitions as opportunities. Yes, this is a pep talk. You are becoming a self-changer. Change can be both a process and a product.

How invested are you in the change process? How hard are you willing to work and sweat to achieve change? How hopeful are you that things will change? Do you accept the responsibility for making changes? In the words of H. Jackson Brown, Jr., “Life doesn’t require that we be the best—only that we try our best.”

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Ohio