“You want me to change the way I think, feel, and act! I can’t change. I don’t like change. You want me to change my faulty belief system, my attitude, and how I respond? Change is too hard. Change is scary. I don’t need to change. Other things need to change but not me. Other people in my life need to change.”
What are two essential things to know about change? Life is constantly changing and we cannot change others. My column series is not about changing our spouses, partners, kids, relatives, friends, coworkers, or enemies. It’s about changing ourselves and often times when we change, a ripple goes forth, vibrates our environment, and acts as a conduit for others to follow suit. Making major changes requires input from family and friends. Please do not go it alone. The changes and choices we make impact others. Changes are not made in a vacuum. Two words—people change. Three more words—change is unavoidable. However, change management is not a finished product, but a continual process. Learn this lesson.
We change underwear, hair color, and dinner reservations, but shriek about changing how we think, feel, or behave. We change computers, travel plans, and wall colors, but groan about changing communication patterns with spouses or partners. You own the responsibility and the ability to engage in the process of personal change.
But I don’t have time to make changes? People find time for what is important to them and excuses are obstacles. This is not a quick-fix method and I won’t insult your intelligence with conversations about miracle potions, overnight success, Pollyanna formulas, and secret change techniques the CIA doesn’t want you to know. It’s straight talk from a professional helper with years of experience. Making changes in yourself is downright difficult. You will face obstacles and challenges; your motivation level will ebb and flow; and frustration will visit. Understand that this is the process of change and it is necessary for growth to occur; stretching your aptly named “comfort zone” is uncomfortable. The process of change lies on a continuum for each individual; one size does not fit all. It’s not about willpower but about accepting and embracing change as a continual lifelong path with adjustments and alternatives. It’s about better decision-making and problem-solving skills.
Knowing and doing are two different things in the change arena. For example, baking a cake requires a recipe and learning how to change requires a purpose, a plan, and practice. Change requires a pair of feet. Buying a bucket of paint is useless unless you pick up a brush and apply it to the walls of your house. How does the bicycle parked in the garage help you unless you ride it? Are you ready for change?
I invite you to become an intentional change manager. However, you will be required to work diligently to make self-changes. You are the change architect and you possess the potential to make changes. The ability to change is found within a personal construction project of unlearning, relearning, and learning some more. Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson is a popular and amusing book about four characters faced with unexpected change, accepting change, and thriving with change. I recommend it.
As Dr. James Gordon writes, “It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t, it’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.”
Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Ohio.