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Questions We Have About Personal Change

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One of the sureties of life is that change will happen: the seasons change, we grow older, other people come into and out of our lives. If change is that inevitable, how do we know when we ourselves need to change, how do we prepare for change, how do we get through it with our sense of self intact, and how do we regroup when a change fails?

How Do You Know Change Is Necessary?

Facing the need for change is difficult. Often, we believe others are to blame for the situation and focus on getting others to change. We may also feel that change is impossible. Signs that change is necessary include:

  • Mental signs: A feeling of being stuck; an inability to think hopefully about the future; an inability to concentrate
  • Physical signs: Tension in the jaw, neck, or back; headaches; self-soothing in unhealthy ways (drugs, alcohol, bingeing); lack of energy; sleeping for long hours
  • Emotional signs: Unrelenting anger or sadness; numbness; withdrawal from relationships
  • Other signs: Refusal to consider alternatives (excuse-making); imagining that other people have perfect lives. 

How Do You Increase the Potential of Positive Change?

You will find easier if you have the motivation, ability, and opportunity to change. 

  • To increase motivation, consider the positive effects the change will have on your life; practice positive visualization.
  • To increase ability, look for training, support, and other resources that can help you navigate change. 
  • Increased opportunity often follows directly from greater motivation and ability (people realize you are ready for the change and feel your confidence). You can also increase opportunity with such actions as networking in person and online for a new job; checking out the employment situation in an area where you want to move; or joining a group that offers support to people who want to make the same change that you do.

How Can You Prepare for Change?

A change may be very good and highly anticipated, but that doesn’t make it easy. Change is stressful, no matter how much warning, how many positive feelings, and how much resilience you have. It is doubly stressful when it is unwelcome and unanticipated.

You may find that one of the following practices ease your stress over a coming change:

  • List the positives: Here is an opportunity, and you are working on maintaining and increasing your motivation and ability to succeed—qualities that will always help you in the future.
  • Take action: Any action (for example, buying a new shirt for the first day at a new job) will make you feel more in control as long as it doesn’t undermine the change.
  • Plan for the negative: When you have a Plan B, your anxiety will drop.
  • List the ways that the change will not affect your life: There is comfort in continuity in the midst of change.
  • Rally your support group: Let them know that you may need more understanding while you deal with the new circumstances—you may need to contact them more often or less; you will receive better support if they know what will help. 

How Can You Support Yourself during Change?

Accepting that change is needed and possible is the first step in successfully navigating change. But once you have prepared yourself as much as possible for the change, you must be ready to act. At that stage, the following may help:

  • Give yourself time: You need to adjust to the change once it happens; do not rush through or upbraid yourself for needing the time you need.
  • Keep a journal: If you are learning a new job, ending a bad habit, building a good habit, or making any other change, take notes so that you do not overlook those small accomplishments that lead to bigger progress and you do not forget lessons learned.
  • Reward yourself for small accomplishments: Every positive accomplishment on the way to a change is worth celebrating.

What Can You Do If the Attempt at Change Fails?

What if the change is a mistake: the new business or attempt to diet fails or the new home comes with terrible neighbors? During the process of recovering from a failed change, you might:

  • Take time to reflect before rushing into the next new thing
  • Review your journal for clues as to what went wrong when
  • Seek small challenges to reaffirm your ability to surmount obstacles
  • Ask for help from a new source
  • Provide yourself with hope; some people recommend adding “yet” to the end of negative sentences, as in “I cannot control my smoking habit yet.”

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