Ah, the paradox of change. It’s inevitable. Some of us embrace it. Many — probably most — of us struggle against it with an iron will. Few admit it but random change is a scary prospect. But what about self-generated change? We can accept that overall change is a description of life itself. But is it possible for individuals to change who they are?

The short answer: Yes, we can change. The long answer, however, is far more complicated.

Behavior Can Evolve

We express our “personality” through our consistent behavior patterns. Shift those patterns and change can result. Unfortunately, this is far from simple. Firstly, shifting deep-seated patterns is much easier said than done. In addition, such a shift is not an automatic predictor of change. To follow are some of the many reasons why change can be tricky:

  1. Negative Emotions Can Overrule Positive Intentions

Fear and anxiety are the villains of many a meme. This can be justified but, ironically, they are both emotions designed to protect us. Without them, we might be defenseless. This evolutionary reality has led to fear and anxiety easily overwhelming more positive intentions. From there, ostensibly protective emotions can cultivate counterproductive feelings like guilt and shame.

  1. We Don’t Try Hard Enough In our ability to change

Expect to fail. To create change, we are swimming against the stream. This translates into plenty of missteps that, for many, may spell an end to the effort.

  1. We Try Way Too Hard

There are too many external factors involved for us to have majority control. A major obstacle to change is humans trying to control what is out of their control.

  1. Social Media/Smartphone Culture

The recent introduction of devices and toys has dramatically altered the playing field.

  • We have shorter attention spans.
  • Our news feeds cultivate a hive mind/anti-change mentality.
  • We are swayed by bots and “fake news.”
  • Change becomes an afterthought when we inhabit the fear of missing out (FOMO).

4 Steps to Initiate Our ability to Change

  1. Identify and Accept the Need For Change

This is a foundational step. For the reasons listed above — and many more — we can go for years or decades without recognizing the need or desire for change. This step may require some guidance (see below).

  1. Commit to a Process Instead of a Destination

If it’s change we seek, it is change we must embrace. Change cannot be a singular goal. The change we want is a verb. When our perceptions are broadened, we may learn to see change as a welcome and fluid part of everyday life.

  1. Reinvent Your Perception of Change

When things are going well, we may wish for a never-ending status quo. Even when things are going okay, we might choose “okay” over any risks. Be patient with yourself as you learn to see your personal evolution with new eyes.

  1. Don’t “Put Off” Self-Love and Celebration

To seek change is not to condemn our current situation. We can and must celebrate who we are and where we are (if possible) as we work to evolve. Happiness is not an elusive prize lurking on the horizon. It is within us now. As we change, new versions of happiness will become available.

Guided Change

Choosing to try therapy is one big way to explore change — and the research backs you up! A review of over 200 studies found that many people who sought counseling learned how to cultivate change. This can be small, personal changes. It might be a major shift. In some cases, the change was found by returning to certain behaviors that had been lost due to a previous emotional challenge. Whatever you seek, things can be simpler when you have a guide. A trained therapist can often be your change coach! Let me help. Please reach out for a consultation soon.

Posted by Counseling Wise on January 14, 2019