Creating Positive Change
(Created January 7, 2019)
Creating positive changes in your life is tough. It can be scary. We fear the unknown, fear failure, even fear success. Fear may be the greatest obstacle to change. Our thinking styles tends to be more negative. We often make assumptions that things we turn out badly, or "always anticipate a negative outcome." We’re afraid that we’ll try and find that we don’t have what it takes — that we’ll discover limits to our abilities that will feel devastating.”
We’re also afraid of what we’ll find with the positive change. For example, in the work setting, you’re very familiar with the challenges that come with stress and dissatisfaction with your job: unreasonable boss, unfair paycheck, and poor working conditions.
However, a better new position might mean unfamiliar challenges, such as competition, hard work, and the "dreaded unknown factor." Complacency can cause a great deal of fear that prevents you from change. You don’t like where you are, but in some ways these problems are known and comfortable.
Sometimes we may be afraid of losing our relationships. Many people have relationships that are based on negative behaviors and unhealthy choices. It can be difficult when examining your relationships with others. You may be vulnerable when being "brutally honest" about the people in your lives and making positive and healthy changes.
Some things you may ask yourself when thinking about people in your life include, but are not limited to:
- Will your drinking buddies still be friends if you stop drinking?
- Will the lonely hearts club, single/divorced friends, buddies, or "sister friends" accept you if you become involved in a new relationship?
- Who will you sit with at lunch, interact with you at work, church, or social events if you don’t want to gossip anymore?
Being vulnerable and other obstacles to positive change may include: lack of support, awareness, resources and role models (i.e., those you trust, provide empathy, consult with, and provide guidance).
While obstacles may be aplenty, positive change is possible. Take a breath. Positive changes can occur in small, subtle ways, or in bigger, more dramatic ways.
In order to create a positive change, you have to do a paradigm shift in your negativistic thinking. You need to move from demoralizing or catastrophic self-talk to a more affirming and empowering internal dialogue. For example, in a recent break-up you tend to think more negatively. Your initial automatic thoughts may include: “I can never trust or rely on anybody to help me!" "Why bother trying to get close to anyone?” Your challenge is to take time to deliberate and engage in some reality testing of your immediate thoughts. You may find that they will shift to the behaviors such as: "he/she behaved in a very disappointing way," "I didn’t deserve the way he/she treated me," to more positive thoughts moving forward:. "I’ll put my energy into other more dependable people," and/or "lower my expectations of others.” We need to change our belief system, response to conflict, tendency to procrastinate, our need for happiness.
Here are some helpful things to consider when trying to create positive changes in your life?
It is important to develop consciousness about the current situation. "It is what it is,” We have to be realistic about people and things in our lives. If you’re in denial about the issue, you won’t be motivated to make any changes.
One way to develop consciousness is to pay attention to feedback from “people who care about you and have your best interests at heart.” For instance, if loved ones are saying you have a problem with alcohol or you often yell at others without provocation, consider their words. You may not be an expert on yourself at all times, on all topics. Be brutally honest with yourself.
If the people close to you haven’t mentioned concerns about your drinking or anger, then poll them, letting them know you’ve wondered about this issue, heard complaints from relatives, barely escaped a DUI, or have repeated, uncontrollable episodes of anger/rage, and want more non-biased feedback.
If you’re uncomfortable with that step, research “drinking problems” or "anger management" online, and compare your own behavior with what you find through your own research. Be honest with yourself!
Another option is to keep a record of your drinking habits and anger episodes. Include the times, amounts, and circumstances under which you drink or have anger bursts, and log the consequences which ensue. You will then be more conscious about the impact of drinking or anger in your life.
Letting Go of Limiting Beliefs
Many people believe deep down that they are limited in ways they are not. That negative thinking reemerges. This can prevent you from pursuing positive changes in the first place.
For instance, a typical scenario I often hear expressed by some my federal government clients is getting passed on a work promotion because they did not pass an important project management (i.e., PM) certification class that was a prerequisite for the job. In this situation, many believed that they weren't smart enough to pass the project management exam because they don't do well on exams. After reality testing and being brutally honest with themselves regarding classroom and testing testing behavior, many actually realized that the test results were more of a reflection of lack of effort, poor test-taking strategies and studying techniques, memory difficulties, and/or commitment rather than just being a failure and destined to never get promoted. Disputing that false belief helped with refocusing and successfully pass the PM exam on subsequent attempts.
Identifying your personal limiting beliefs can be tricky. You have to think about "how" you think about yourself. If you experience a great deal of difficulty doing so, take time to reflect and do some reality testing.
Making Small Changes
You often need to see that you can make small, meaningful changes right now that can build to bigger changes in the future. For instance, if you’re working on being more self-compassionate or positive, at first, you might set alerts on your phone and place sticky notes and positive self statements on the mirror as reminders to speak to yourself in healthy and affirming ways.
Not Giving Up After “Failure”
Oftentimes, we feel like we have failed if change doesn’t happen right away. This is how we grow. Or we stop working on the issue because we run into life challenges. Change is all about continuing to overcome and learn from the roadblocks. The only failure is in giving up. Nothing beats a failure but a try!
Behaving As If
“Often behaving ‘as if’ you were in a more positive position [i.e., ‘fake it until you make it’] can create the neural pathways in your brain needed to make those very changes." Become the change you envision. The motivation for more momentum will often follow.
Having Non-Biased Support
Having non-biased sources of support and coaching can be important. This might come from therapists, religious leaders or mentors. These individuals can provide important insights and “shifts away from fear, conditioning or lack of vision.”
Other keys to positive change includes seeing others who have overcome similar obstacles and gaining insight and making a decision, such as “my long-term health is worth making some uncomfortable changes in my life. People have to see that a better life awaits them beyond the relative comfort of their current problems."
Change is an inevitable constant in life. Sometimes it feels terrible, but it’s up to each of us to determine where and how it goes. But you can get there. Anybody is capable of change, and it is never too late for change.