Pauliann Long, LCSW-C




How Do You Make Real Changes in Your Life?

How Do You Make Real Changes in Your Life?

Speak to people who have made real changes in their lives and they’ll tell you how difficult it was but how much happier they feel as a result of those changes. Research reveals that long-lasting change is most likely when it’s self-motivated and rooted in positive thinking. But still, why does it have to take so long?
That’s because change is a process and not an event. It doesn’t happen instantly. Let’s take a look at the 5 stages of change:
  1. Precontemplation: You have no conscious intention of making a change at this point, but you have an awareness of the issue involved. To get past this stage, you have to realize that the unhealthy behavior is negatively affecting your personal goals.
  2. Contemplation: You realize the behavior is a problem in your life and you’re thinking about taking action to deal with it. At this point, you haven’t made any commitment to change. Making a list of the pros and cons of changing your behavior can move you onto the next step.
  3. Preparation: You now know that change is important to you and you begin to prepare yourself and put together a plan to make that change.
  4. Action: You’ve made the change and you’ve begun to experience challenges without reverting back to the old behavior. You’re employing positive coping skills to deal with those challenges. To make that change stick, it’s important to be clear about your motivation for changing (Write it down, if necessary. Engage in self-talk, get support.)
  5. Maintenance: Once the new behavior is part of your routine for six months, you need to maintain it. You work to prevent relapse and to integrate the change into who you are. That may require other changes, especially avoiding situations or triggers associated with the old habit. It can be tough, especially if it means steering clear of certain activities or friends while you work to fully assimilate your new, healthier habit.

The most difficult part of making real change in your life is getting discouraged along the way. As you embark on your journey, keep things in perspective. Real change doesn’t happen in a linear fashion. There may be bumps along the way. Keep your goal in mind and remember: The fact that you are even trying is progress. Think about how far you’ve come from stage 1.

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