Change is Hard (Part III)–How Do We Change it?


Change # 3

Change is hard because the old pattern used to serve us well and because we are scared of the unknown outcome. So, now what?

1) Acceptance

      What currently stop us from moving forward once served a purpose. Therefore, before we ditch it or blame it, we need first to accept it and honor its mission. Many clients told me “it feels like pick new and dumps old and it’s hard to do that.” I often reply to them: “Of course it is hard. The old ones served you well in the past and still has a particular purpose in your life. It’s like that security blanket that you had since you were a baby and there were many memories. Or, it’s like the first handbag you bought for yourself from your first real job, and it meant so much than just a purse. We have first to accept there are reasons we stuck at where we are because these reasons used to serve us well or to remind us something useful. However, they no longer bring us the same experiences anymore. It’s like that broken blanket doesn’t make you feel safe if you have to worry about the old blanket is too weak to hold it together. The handbags that used to make you feel proud of yourself is probably not going to feel the same way if it warns out from the bottom and you have to worry about your things falling out from it. 

     Acceptance also means that it’s time to let go and you are due for an upgrade. 

2) Compassionate

      Be compassionate about the fear and anxiety for change. Shaming yourself at where you are today is not going to motivate you. However, be kind and understanding of where you are today because you are due for a change to have a higher chance to motivate you. According to Dr. Neff’s study  “harsh self-criticism activates the threat defense part of our nervous system, and when that happens, we’re more likely to move toward “fight-flight-freeze” responses. When our self-concept is under attack, our threat defense system is understandably trying to protect us from the intense pain of negative, harsh condemnation. Common feelings and responses are to feel stuck, shut down, withdraw, disengage, flee the situation or become defensive, emotionally distant or highly reactive to those around us. Sometimes we turn to food, alcohol, drugs, TV and other outlets to numb the pain.

    If you have the childhood trauma from harsh abuse physically and verbally, shaming yourself re-traumatize yourself and it’s not going to motivate you to change. 

    Be compassionate and encouraging instead of shaming yourself. 

3) Take action one step at a time from something small

       Many people are scared when they think about “change.” 

       “What’s that going to be like?”

       “How many moving pieces involved?

       “ I like the way I am now. Will I still like me if I make changes?”

       “ What’s involved for me to do?

      These questions are significant questions from your anxiety and fear. They can also feel very overwhelming. After we accept the current outdated strategies and compassion about the fear and anxiety, we need to even understand that: change is not about burning down everything. You can take one step at a time and make one small difference every day. 

For example, leave your desk for a couple of minutes every hour to take a walk to the restroom to give yourself a few minutes of alone time. 

For example, take a different route to your office so that you can see a different scene once a week. 

For example, instead of being defensive, try to listen to your significant other for a change. 

The list goes on and on, but the most important thing to remember is: all you have to do is take one small step. If you don’t like it, it’s not going to bring down your inner world. 

4) It’s the trying that counts. 

     “I tried, but it didn’t go well as I planned. You wonder why I never wanted to try it in the past because I know it’s not going to happen the way I want it!”

      I have heard about this often from my people, including my clients and my friends. At times,  when I feel frustrated about something I tried to do differently and failed, this thought would cross my mind, too.  It takes between 16-254 days with an average of 66 days to form a new habit  For a new pattern, something we can control on our own, it will still take 66 days to build a new one, the new belief system or interpersonal relationship might take even longer for us to see the difference of change. 

     So, be compassionate to yourself and accept your effort of trying and know that’s good enough. A change will come in its due course.

5) You can always rely on a therapist or a friend for help. 

     If you didn’t have an adult to provide the boundary of safety to allow you to experience change as a child, find a friend or a therapist to be that adult figure for you. You do not need to do it alone. Let your therapist or your friend help you figure out the boundary between safety and danger. Let this person help you to balance the feeling of anxiety and excitement for change. Let this person accompany you to experience those unfamiliar feelings or unknown territories. 

     After all, if you don’t make any change, the result is the same: you stay here and feel the way you are feeling now. Or, you can try to take one small step at a time, and it might lead to something very different in your life. 

     Now, are you ready to make the necessary changes?

(To Be continued)

Extended Reading:

Research Shows Practicing Self-Compassion Increases Motivation.

How Long to Form a Habit?

Change Habits for a Long Haul.

Change Series:

Change is Hard (Part I)— Is it possible?

Change is Hard (Part II) — Why?

Change is Hard (Part III)–How Do We Change it?

Change is Harder for the Couples— Why?

Change is Harder for the Couples — How Do We Change it?

Change your thoughts doesn’t necessarily lead to change your feelings.