Eight Essentials for Creating Positive Change

Hello all, and Season’s Greetings!

If you’re like me, this time of year may be when you more “formally” think about what you want to change in your life. But really, any time of year can be a good time for self-reflection, deciding what works for you, and what to finally toss, whether figuratively or quite literally!

Some of us may be contemplating a more significant shift – such as deciding whether to stay in a relationship, change careers, return to school, or move across country. Or, our primary goal may involve a habit change, such as eating better, moving more, quitting smoking, or leaving nail biting behind.  As you know, contemplating any sort of change can feel stressful, but there’s a lot you can do to remain calmer and more optimistic, and achieve those goals that are important to you. (Remember, there are probably very good reasons why you’ve set such goals in the first place!) Whether your goal is large or small, the steps below can help get and keep you on track, while remaining sane during the process.

  1. Be courageous. By that I mean be honest in examining what needs to change, why you believe this is so, and what has gotten in the way thus far. Doing so will help you recognize and head off potential habit triggers and remain committed to your goal.
  2. Remember, you are human! Just about all change happens with some initial starts and stops, as well as moments of doubt and anxiety. Ups and downs are normal and expectable, especially in the beginning and during times of stress. Lasting change is not about perfection, but about a commitment to get back on track when we need to.
  3. Be willing. Often we wish things would be easier, the conditions would be better, or that the stars would align more perfectly before we commit to change. If the goal is important to you, get going. Be willing to sit with what is less than ideal.
  4. Be collaborative. When you need help, ask for it – whether this means consulting with an expert, seeking the counsel of a friend or clergy person, or finding an online support group.
  5. Feel the fear and do it anyway. If the change is worthwhile, commit to it even if a part of you is frightened. In the words of the late Carrie Fisher, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action...eventually the confidence will follow.”
  6. Quiet the mind. Make time for practices that help tame the “monkey mind” – the endless stream of self-criticism, feelings of “What if I can’t?” and any regrets about the past. They will only make the journey more difficult – unnecessarily. Instead, meditation, prayer, imagery, or self-hypnosis can help you feel calmer and more centered, remember what’s important, and connect with your innate wisdom (it’s there!).
  7. Be self-compassionate. This involves cultivating acceptance of yourself in the present moment, regardless of what’s going on for you; remembering that you are human, and not meant to be infallible; and affording yourself the same kindness you would show another. Self-compassion has been shown to increase motivation, enhance well-being, and foster greater compassion for others. The practice can also be incredibly freeing and healing.
  8. Remember, you are in it for the long haul. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Deeply entrenched patterns often take longer, and a greater number of attempts, to change. But positive change is worth it (and so are you!).

I wish you all the best, this year and always. Be well!

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Traci Stein, PhD

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