by Rubin Khoddam Ph.D.
Find your motivations, barriers to change and potential solutions.
- Three fundamental questions can help guide us when we are trying to make changes in our lives, big or small.
- We can first ask ourselves what is motivating us and why. It can be helpful to identify three reasons for wanting change.
- Change is not linear, so we may want to identify thoughts, feelings, events, stressors, or people that could get in our way.
- Finally, we can identify potential solutions to overcome barriers, such as setting a schedule or having a partner to hold us accountable.
Source: Source: Pexels / Alexas Fotos
If you’re Googling, “therapist near me,” you’re probably ready to make some shifts in your life. There are three fundamental questions that you need to ask yourself when making any change. It doesn’t matter if that change is something as big as deciding to get sober or as small as wanting to drink more water throughout the day.
We utilize these three questions when helping individuals get sober, but other changes we may try to make follow a similar process. The only difference is that substance users are often more stigmatized in society and drugs exert a much more powerful influence on our body and minds than other things.
Let’s start with the first question:
1. What’s motivating me?
This is the flagship question. It’s easy to tell ourselves what not to do. Don’t drink. Don’t eat that extra cookie. Don’t _______.
However, as long as we tell ourselves what not to do, we’re not focusing on what we want to do. And when we do tell ourselves what not to do, it’s like telling ourselves “Don’t think about vanilla ice cream! Don’t think about vanilla ice cream! Don’t think about vanilla ice cream!” What happens when we do that? Do we think about it less? Actually, it’s quite the opposite. We think about it more. I wasn’t thinking about vanilla ice cream before, but all of a sudden I am now. So instead of trying not to think about something, we should begin to explore the things we do want to think about and the direction we do want to move in.
To help us stay in the direction of change, we have to think about our reasons for changing. So ask yourself, what’s motivating you? What are the top three reasons that you want to make this change? Use these answers as the GPS for your behavior.
2. What gets in my way?
It’s unrealistic to expect change to be a linear process – far from it. Change is a roller coaster. Change can happen in big spurts at times and small increments at other times. And if we’re completely honest with ourselves, we can go in the opposite direction of the change we’re actually hoping to make.
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Knowing that change is not linear, let’s be realistic and think through all the barriers. Identify all the thoughts, feelings, external events, stressors, and people that you can see as getting in your way. For example, these may include feelings of laziness, cold weather, boredom, or thoughts like, “I’m a piece of sh*t,” “they’re a piece of sh*t,” “what’s the point?”, etc. The more specific your barriers are and the more you can identify, the less scary they become when they show up. These barriers are a natural part of change and the fact that you’re experiencing them should be a signpost that you’re actually on the right path. Now that you know what they are, the question becomes how do I deal with them effectively?
3. What are potential solutions I could utilize when encountering barriers?
The truth is that we have all made some change in our lives – big or small. So we already have some tools to change even when we don’t think we do. This question is all about getting at your strengths and skills from the work you have already done up until this point.
Maybe you realized that when you set schedules, you’re able to keep to your change schedule better. Or perhaps you know that if you stay consistent in your spiritual practice, you’re able to ground yourself in something deeper that helps you when you’re feeling unmotivated. It could be that you know that when you call somebody daily as an accountability partner that helps you stay the course.
Change isn’t linear.
Whatever it is that keeps you afloat, recognize those things and let them guide you towards change.
If you’re online typing, “therapist near me,” into the browser, it’s important to realize that with all three of these questions, it’s not a one-and-done situation. We have to keep reminding ourselves of these answers because change is not linear. Some days we wake up at a 10 out of 10, motivated to change. Other days we are at a 2 out of 10. Sometimes we make lots of change and some days we do the exact opposite of what we hoped for. This is why we have to keep our reasons to change at the forefront of our minds.