Motivation to Change

Finding motivation to make changes can be difficult. It can also be contradictory. For example, in therapy, many clients will come with the belief that they want to make changes. In fact, a part of them does know that change would help them, benefit their lives, and enhance their relationships. Yet when it comes down to practicing details, they struggle to take action. What causes this?

Long-term goals can be fun to decode. You can learn about yourself in the process. You can see what you value, what you enjoy, and what you want. This can feel very rewarding.

On the other hand, the focus on long-term goals can make it difficult to focus on the shorter term, day-to-day goals and activities. These aren’t nearly as fun to think about. This can make it feel tedious to apply small activities each day that will help you reach your end goal.

Whether it’s addictions, sexual dysfunction, or relationship issues, I see these motivational issues play out in many cases. Rather than people focusing on what they can do that particular day, the focus on the long-term goal often takes precedence. This leads to frustration and even a sense of being stuck.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense that there would be such problems with motivation. This can lead to serious questions about yourself.

  • “How can it be that a person will want something, and not take action?”
  • “What does this mean about me?”
  • “Am I just lazy?”

The truth is usually that none of these are completely accurate. In fact, taking these labels on can only make the problem worse. You can have an authentic goal, and struggle to take steps to get there. This isn’t unusual at all.

To help with this, it’s important to recognize the small steps for what they are and what the need to be. You can identify those daily activities that will mount up to make a long-lasting change. This means that you must establish a plan. This step is tedious and sometimes even boring. However, without taking this step, you’re likely to get stuck. So establishing some daily, weekly, and monthly activities of change can make an enormous difference.

This is also important because it will remind you that this is all a process. No matter what your goal is, you’ll have to practice new elements to make a long-lasting change. Unfortunately, this can also mean that the change process can be intimidating, draining, and frustrating. To help counteract this, you have to celebrate your small successes. I will often suggest that my clients keep a daily inventory of their successes, and also take some time to reflect on their struggles. This allows for fine-tuning of their plans.

Change is hard. However, it’s not impossible. Where many people fail is that they forget to establish a solid plan to make changes. They reach for the long-term goal, and forget the importance of their short-term goals. Although, these goals aren’t as fun to establish, they are just as important. So identify a long-term goal, but don’t forget the importance of those daily steps to reaching that goal, in making your plan.


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