Taking the First Step to Change

Making change is an incredibly complex and difficult process.  Problems with money, eating, aggression, self-injury, gambling, substances or relationships often feel intractable. We may want to improve finances and physical or mental health, spend more time with family or get out of a job rut.  A 2003 study in The Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions found people who express a commitment to change are significantly more likely to change than those who do not.  So how do you select that all important goal that will improve your life?

Choosing Your Goal

Choosing the right goal is the most important step in making any lasting change.  If you’re not truly committed to your objective, you won’t put in the effort required to achieve it. To have staying power, a goal generally needs to solve a problem or improve your life. Ask yourself the question “what would I have to change to make my life better?” If you have a particular problem you’re facing, ask “what would have to change for the situation to improve?” Don’t focus on trying to change other people.  What would you need to change to improve your life?

Often you may identify a problem, but be unsure of a solution.  For example, you may self-injure, but you don’t know how to stop or how to manage the overwhelming emotion that precedes self-injury. If this is the case, set a goal to find help in dealing with your problem.

Remember, before you can solve a problem, you need to get committed to working on it. If others perceive it as a problem, but you do not, you may need to look at the consequences of not changing.  Are you at risk of losing important relationships, financial stability or your health?  Write down the pros and cons of changing versus not changing.  It’s normal to have fluctuations in motivation, but it’s important to start with a belief that solving the problem will improve your life.

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