You know when to change the oil in your car, because the windshield sticker has the 3-months/3,000 miles date on it. You know when it’s time to change the baby’s diaper because … well, you just know! But how do you know when you’re ready to make an important change in your life? Here are 5 ways to assess your readiness for change.
You know you’re ready to change when …
- You become conscious of how unmanageable your life is.
As long as you’re avoiding your pain through compulsive behaviors, chronic busyness or over-focusing on others, you won’t be motivated to make a serious change. When you can see the relationship between the choices you’re making and the unmanageability of your life, you are one giant step closer to being ready to change.
- You believe change is possible.
The belief “I’ll probably fail, so what’s the use of trying?” will keep you from trying to change. This belief features two cognitive distortions, fortune-telling and self-fulfilling prophecy. Turn this on its head — tell yourself, “Since refusing to try is a guarantee of failure, any attempt at changing will be a success!” Also, hearing the stories of others who have overcome similar problems can help break through your “impossibility” defense.
- You feel accepted rather than pressured.
When you feel pressured to change, you become defensive. When you feel accepted by at least one other person, you become more open to making a change. In their book Motivational Interviewing, William Miller and Stephen Rollnick observe that:
The crucial attitude [in helping people get ready to change] is a respectful listening to the person with a desire to understand his or her perspective. Paradoxically, this kind of acceptance of people as they are seems to free them to change, whereas insistent nonacceptance (“You’re not OK; you have to be different”) tends to immobilize the change process.
- You decide that the benefits of changing outweigh the benefits of staying the same.
You’re ready to change when you believe that the benefits of changing will outweigh the benefits of staying the same. The book Changing for Good suggests that your readiness to change “lies in the balance between your perception of the pros and cons of changing. … You will need to increase your pros of changing twice as much as you will need to decrease the cons.”
- You have social support.
The authors of Changing for Good suggest that the support of others is crucial to successful change. For example, mutual-aid groups (such as Twelve Step groups) “provide a social environment in which people can maintain their dignity and feel they will not be stigmatized or ostracized.” As the Twelve Step slogan reminds us, “Together we can do what we could never do alone.”
You will need to use all the tools, skills and support you can gather in order to successfully change. Think you might be ready for a change? Write me or call me, and we can work together to make your change efforts successful.