How do I know when I’m ready for change? How do I enact change in my life?
When we anticipate profound change, we believe the moment will come to us in an equally profound way.We want the moment. We expect it. I’ll change when the moment presents itself to me… someday… when it’s right. The moment permits us to change. The moment is cleansing, it’s rebirth.
I’ll know when I’m ready. They’ll be a sign. I’ll feel different.
And in doing so, we distrust our willingness to change. We ignore our ability and responsibility to enact change. We look for it elsewhere. Most of us are uncomfortable making decisions, acting purposefully, taking risks.
So we wait… and wait… and wait for permission to change.
The Fallacy of “The Moment”
The quest for perfect timing and optimum conditions feed negative self-talk. You can’t do that. Not yet. Hesitate. Things will be different, later. Why do we think this way? And why do we believe these messages so readily? Do we feel more in-control when we plan, instead of act? And what are the costs of daydreaming? What do I gain from limiting myself or halting my progress?
The longer we wait, the deeper we sink into inauthenticity.
“Here & Now” Not “If & Soon”
If you will allow me, all we truly have is the present. The future is an illusion. It hasn’t happened yet. So many of us (myself included) act according to an undefined and nebulous “someday.” We don’t exist in the present, let alone decision-make in the present. Our worlds are goal-oriented and fast-paced. And things are organized that way for a reason, but when future-think reinforces our immobility, indecisiveness, and laziness, it’s damaging.
“If I lived in a different place, then I would be able to pursue my passion.”
“If I had a partner, then I would feel accepted and fulfilled.”
“Someday I’ll quit drinking, but today I’m too stressed from work.”
The Stages of Change Model (SCM)
Scientists box and label. It puts left-brained folks at ease. A while ago, researchers Prochaska and DiClemente developed a theory to assess, “How do we tend to enact effective change?” Their research was based on the observations of addicts attempting to modify a behavior.
“I do not have a problem. I am not taking action to change.”
“I have a problem. I may take action to change.”
“I have a problem. I will take action to change.”
“I have a problem. I am taking action to change.”
“I have a problem. I am maintaining my change by continuing to take action.”
We’re familiar with the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. Change occurs a similar way: feeling-charged steps on the “Stairway to Processing”. And we all move through the steps differently. Forward, backward, out of order… or through the entire process a number of times before the change sticks. But for folks in early recovery, or anyone in the midst of a lifestyle overhaul, the SCM is probably present.
Change is a deeply personal and individualized process. It is rarely forced, and it isn’t granted. Change, true change, occurs in the mind of the changer. Not because someone or something is acting upon them.
Most rehab facilities rely on an SCM format. Addiction professionals plan treatment based on a client’s “readiness to change.” It’s important information. Therapists can use the SCM to tailor care, anticipate needs, and better understand an individual’s perspective/experience.
Just as I may relate to Jane in the Acceptance stage of grief differently than I would Joe in Denial, I relate to a client maintaining their recovery differently than a client pre-contemplative in their disease.
Transcendence: Change Nirvana
After maintaining the change long enough, we reach transcendence. Transcendence means: to view the behavior from a new perspective… transcend beyond the behavior and into new life patterns… and purge the lingering effects of the past. This step was tacked on post-Prochaska/DiClemente. Just as Buddha transcended earthly pleasures and ignorance to reach Nirvana, it is possible for us to overcome indecisiveness and immobility to reach lasting change.
Come as you are:
- Respect yourself enough to make a change. You deserve to live your best life. Your loved ones are deserving of you at your best
- There will always be a reason why not
- (This doesn’t mean it’s legitimate or obsession-worthy)
- Self-imposed obstacles, pity, and excuses trap us in our addictions and keep us stuck, miserable, and sick
- No one, or nothing, is responsible for your health – you are solely capable
- Develop an attitude of pro-activeness
- Regain control