The people's voice of reason

Motivating Yourself to Change

What makes us motivated to make changes in our lives? Alfred Adler, the father of the Individual Psychology Model, believed that people make choices which bring about pleasure. In other words, find meaning in life. Do you ever feel like you’re stuck and things will never change? That’s true if you never take any action or are too scared to change. We often complain about our circumstance but do nothing to make it better.

There are those who believe whatever we speak we will receive. I, too, believe in this as I have seen it happen both with clients and in my personal life. Whatever I believe to be true, will be true. There were many times in my younger years that I believed that I deserved a life of poverty and struggle, which was a very normal experience throughout my childhood and adolescent years. That’s all I knew. This negative belief carried over into my early adult years, but the turning point in my life was when I saw myself and I said, “I’m tired of getting the leftovers of everything in life.” I told myself that God did not bring me into this world just to be miserable, poor and lonely. I learned from my mother that God had more in store for all of us, but first I had to believe. I had to speak it. I had to act like it and live like it for the change to occur. This did not just happen by me complaining to God, although I am sure He wondered why I whined so much about my life. I started using affirmations. “I am going to be in a good man. I am going to have a good relationship. I am going to have a family. I am going to find a better job. I am going to work on my student loans. I am going to pursue a career that will make a difference in others. I am going to have a better home to stay in that has central air conditioning.” I began acting as though those things were coming my way. I started to prepare for them. By that I mean I did not just talk, I acted. I started paying my student loans. I started building myself up by the choices I made. I started looking for a relationship that was healthy and not toxic. I started working on my Masters. I started looking for a place to live that was livable and had air conditioning. I started to look for a job that had better pay and opportunity for growth. I remember praying daily that God would give me all that my heart desired, that which was right and just in the eyes of God. I would affirm, “God, I know that You will give me a family to love and respect. God, I know that you are preparing my future dream job.” Sometimes it felt like those things were too far to see come to existence, but I continued to have faith in the things that are unseen.

In counseling, I often see clients that are beat down from life and only know what they have experienced and do not see anything in their future. While the counseling process proceeds, I provide tools to the client about how to have a positive mindset. I begin exploring the client’s history to find things that can help support or foster change. For example, if I see that the Jane Doe has a spiritual belief, I may ask the her to pray as if she already has those things for which she is seeking. If she does not have a spiritual belief, I may ask her to start planning for the good things to come. I might ask Jane Doe to imagine what her future would look like if it had improved. More often than not, I start seeing the layers of negativity and the burden of life fall off her shoulders. It is when Jane decides to remove these layers and change her internal dialogue that true change can occur.

Defining Motivation

Webster’s Dictionary defines motivation as a force or influence that causes someone to do something.

Motivation can also be defined in the following ways:

• An internal or external drive that prompts a person to change

• The ability to initiate and persist toward a chosen goal or objective

• Being able to pursue change in the face of obstacles

• The determination to resist ingrained learned and unhealthy patterns and habits

• Doing everything you can to make the changes you want in your life

Prochaska’s six stages of change:

Stage #1: Pre-Contemplation

People at this stage may be aware of the costs of unhealthy behaviors or situations. Characteristics of this stage are a lack of interest in change, and having no plan or intention to change. We might describe this person as unaware.

Stage #2: Contemplation

People in the contemplation stage have become aware of problems associated with their behavior. However, they are ambivalent about whether or not it is worthwhile to change. Characteristics of this stage are: exploring the potential to change; desiring change but lacking the confidence and commitment to change behavior; and having the intention to change at some unspecified time in the future. We might describe this person as aware and open to change.

Stage #3: Preparation

At this stage people accept responsibility to change their behavior. They evaluate and select techniques for behavioral change. Characteristics of this stage include: developing a plan to make the needed changes; building confidence and commitment to change; and having the intention to change within one month. We might describe this person as willing to change and anticipating the benefits of change.

Stage #4: Action

At this stage people engage in self-directed behavioral change efforts while gaining new insights and developing new skills. Although these change efforts are self-directed, outside help may be sought. Characteristics of this stage include: consciously choosing new behavior; learning to overcome the tendencies toward unwanted behavior; and engaging in change actions for less than six months. We might describe this person as enthusiastically embracing change and gaining momentum.

Stage #5: Maintenance

People in the maintenance stage have mastered the ability to sustain new behavior with minimal effort. They have established new behavioral patterns and self-control. We might describe this person as persevering and consolidating their change efforts. They are integrating change into the way they live their life.

Stage #6: Termination

At the termination stage people have adopted a new self-image consistent with desired behavior and lifestyle. They do not react to temptation in any situation. Characteristics of this stage include: confidence; enjoying self-control; and appreciation of a healthier and happier life

Food For Thought

Motivation to change can be very difficult and many times seem as though it has been unsuccessful; however, change does not happen overnight. It takes numerous setbacks often to motivate us to make a lasting change. We often learn unhealthy patterns that at one time in our life’s were helpful for us to survive but have becomes obsolete. We desire a better life and that is where motivation to change occurs. Do not give up! When you want to change something in your life that is unhealthy or no longer helping you grow, continue pushing forward.

Hector Oswaldo Chavez, MS, is a Marriage and Family Therapist, Professional Counselor, and Substance Abuse Counselor. He serves on multiple boards and has worked in a variety of clinical settings such as with the Army, Navy, Hospital Inpatient and Outpatient, Community Mental Health, and Private Practice. His professional views may not necessarily reflect the views of other mental health or medical professionals. If you have any personal or family concerns about the topic discussed, please seek professional assistance.


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