Motivating Myself to Change
“Where do I get the motivation to change this part of my life?” I hear this from clients on a regular basis. Whether the client is working on a compulsive sexual behavior or is in therapy for a sexual issue, motivation is a critical aspect to change. The first thing to note is to give yourself credit for recognizing that you need to change. There are many people who need to make a change in their lives for the same reason that you are seeking a change, but who do not even recognize this. Others tell them to change, but they do not listen, because they do not see any problem that needs changed.
The mistake that I see most people make is that they think that they will wake up one morning, and because they have a desire to change a behavior, it will just happen. This usually leads to frustration and often giving up altogether. The problem with this strategy is that there is really no strategy to it at all. What is your plan? Planning is a significant part to making long-lasting change in your life. Without proper preparation, chances of a changing a behavior greatly decrease.
I suggest that you begin your planning of your change of behavior by looking at how often you do it. Does it occur a couple of times a day or hundreds of times a day? If you are changing a behavior that happens several times a day, I would suggest breaking your overall plan into smaller mini-plans. Let’s look at cigarette smoking for example. Many people try to quit “cold turkey,” which tends to be unsuccessful. One of the reasons for this is because the overall plan is to “quit altogether,” but this person has ignored all of the triggers that are associated with this behavior throughout the day. When faced with the trigger itself, there was nothing in place on how to avoid and/or overcome this, which often results in smoking a cigarette.
The second problem that I see when people are seeking a change is that they are impatient for results and they quickly tell themselves that the situation is hopeless. This, in my opinion, is often related to “all-or-nothing” thinking. “I either have changed the behavior or I haven’t”. There is a middle ground in changing a behavior. If we look at exercise, many people give up on it because they do not see results in the first couple of weeks. The thinking that takes place is along the lines of “I’m either fit or overweight.” People forget to give themselves credit for going to the gym once or twice in a week, when so many others did not motivate themselves to go. Although there may not be an immediate weight change, you may be able to go five minutes more on the treadmill than the week before. This week could be looked upon as a success, depending on your viewpoint. So the goal next week is to figure out a way to get to the gym three times instead of once or twice.
This leads me to the last problem that I often see. People think that once they have a plan, and this plan has to be permanent. The best plans change regularly to amend to fit day-to-day changes in life. If your current plan did not work, or work as much as you would like, then determine which parts of it failed. Those parts then need to be analyzed and adjusted accordingly.
Motivation can be complicated, but it usually is within closer reach than you think. First, establish an initial and solid plan. Avoid “all-or-nothing” thinking about your successes, and give yourself credit for the minor successes as well as the major ones. Finally, be flexible to changing your plan to fit your current situation, and a permanent change will be more within reach than you ever previously thought.