Making Changes (and making them stick!)

Make a change circled on calendar.Greetings, and welcome to my new blog! For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of a catchy topic for my first post. Blogging is a new thing for me so I’ve been trying to figure out the recipe for a successful blog. Perhaps I could even settle for making it just kinda good to start out as I get my bearings. I’m typing this blog on my new MacBook computer, which is exciting, but I’ve had a steep learning curve because I’ve used PCs my whole life. This new blog, written on my new computer, will be posted on my new and improved website, which is currently under construction. And I’m playing around with a new system for sending emailing notifications about this new blog and new program offerings in my practice. Whew! Do you notice the theme here? I’ve been doing a lot of NEW things. Aha! That’s a good topic for this week’s blog: making changes and trying new things.

Diving into all of these technological and social media endeavors (did I mention a new Twitter page for my business? And videos planned for my website? *gasp*), I have felt simultaneously excited and overwhelmed. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Changes in our life, even positive ones, can bring added stresses as we figure it all out and get used to a new way of doing things.

As we try new things, what helps healthy changes stick?

  • Willingness: Willingness can be thought of as feeling ready to experience the change process, which will usually include excitement, stress, un-fun stuff, failures, and hopefully, fun stuff. You can also think of willingness as allowing the change process to unfold.
  • Self-compassion: Change is hard. There, I said it. This is true for you, me, your loved ones, my loved ones, the President of the United States, and the guy walking through the parking lot right now as I type this. Since struggling with change is a such a universal experience, can we be nice to ourselves in the process? Research on self-compassion shows that we are healthier, emotionally and physically, if we practice it and it’s actually an effective way to motivate ourselves. Turns out that being our own worst critic isn’t very good for us. Try being your most enthusiastic cheerleader instead.
  • Realistic expectations about time and energy: Change takes time and energy. Boom. End of story. Trying to convince yourself that the change process “should” be easy, quick, or *insert adjective of your choice here* is potentially setting yourself up for disappointment. Any time you consider making changes in your life, you will also have to consider how you will make room in your life to accommodate the change process. Be careful about trying to motivate yourself by saying things like, “I just need to…” followed by whatever you think you need to do. The J-word (“just”) tends to minimize any effort that might be needed to actually do that thing you want or need to do. Instead, talk to yourself about how doing a certain change-oriented task will create progress or growth.
  • Accountability: Want to make changes? Tell people. More specifically, tell supportive people: people who can give you encouragement to keep moving forward, people who can help you think through challenges you encounter, people who can tolerate a little bit of your whining when you’re struggling, people who will remind you to take care of yourself in the process. An important sub-point here: if you’re wanting to make some big changes, don’t rely on just one person for support. This can overtax the relationship and set both parties up for disappointment. Instead, pick at least a couple of people to support your change process. If you’ll forgive me for the shameless plug of my profession, having a therapist can prove quite handy during the change process.
  • Commitment and values: Set your intention for making the changes in the first place. Ideally, changes are undertaken when we feel pretty sure that making them will help us live life according to our values and priorities. So make a commitment for the long haul. I’ve had to practice what I preach when it comes to taking on all of these technological changes and updates. I’m not a tech wizard so this stuff doesn’t come naturally to me. By connecting to my broader goals and values, I can muster the chutzpah. I am confident that these changes will pay off in the long run in terms of keeping my practice up to date and offering good quality services. I may have to bring my mumbles and grumbles along for the ride, as compassionately as possible. You don’t have to like all parts of the change process but it is helpful if you stay connected to the notion that it’ll be worth it.

Ok, I think I did it! My first blog! Another part of the change process: congratulate yourself when you take positive steps. Woo hoo! Thanks so much for reading.

With well wishes,
Dr. Jen