Are you one the millions of people who struggle to lose weight, hit the gym, quit smoking, eat healthy or making countless other changes in your day-to-day life? Despite desperately wanting to make a change, do you find yourself losing steam before you even get started?
The good news is, the secret to making and sustaining change is the same for most endeavors. While the concrete steps may vary, the internal dialogue you have with yourself is central to making and sustaining the changes that you’ve longed for in your life.
The key is to energize your inner voice.
If you tune into your inner voice-or actually, inner voices, you will find that you have very mixed feelings about almost any goal you might want to pursue. Some of your inner voices talk about your needs and longings, for admiration, acceptance and understanding, to name a few.
Other voices speak of your fears of rejection, humiliation or even the indifference from loved ones. Listening to your inner voices allows you to consciously embrace both your needs and your fears as you fight to make important changes in your life.
Let’s take losing weight as an example. You consciously want to lose those extra twenty pounds that you’ve kept on for the past ten years and yet every attempt at diet and exercise falls flat. Sound familiar? One voice may be remembering your mother’s insistence on thinness and might be screaming back at her “Love me the way I am. Why do I have to change to get your approval?”
Another voice may be the negative, perpetual doubter, chiding, “You are never going to keep this up. What’s the point if you are just going to gain the weight back?” A third voice may whisper about new, anxiety-filled possibilities around sex and intimacy if you succeed in becoming more comfortable with your body. A fourth voice may focus on the deprivation involved in not having two glasses of red wine at night or the half a sleeve of cookies before bed. “I deserve this. I take care of everyone else all day long”, this voice insists.
Focusing on all of these voices allows them to become part of a conscious, internal dialogue and enables you to pursue change in a more whole-hearted and empowered way. The part of you that wants to lose the twenty pounds can tell the first voice, “I am doing this for me-not to get anyone else’s approval.”
She can reassure the second voice, “I’m just going to focus on today. Today is the only thing that I can control. I’ll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.” Most importantly, the dialogue will help you flesh out your reasons for wanting to make the change and your previously unrecognized reasons for not wanting to make the change. No more unconsciously sabotaging yourself!
Here are five steps to making change happen:
- Energize Your Inner Voice/s: Tune into the different voices in your head that speak for the different parts of yourself. This includes the child in you, the rebellious or anxious teenager in you, the perfectionist side of you, the angry or self-destructive side of you and the strong, motivated part of you, to name a few.
- Know your whys and why nots: Listen to these voices and clearly articulate for yourself your whys and your why nots for making the change.
- Put the strong, motivated part of you in the driver’s seat. Tune into the strong, motivated voice in you that wants to make a change and encourage her to have an internal dialogue with the other voices. This dialogue should be gentle and understanding, but firm.
- Map out a reasonable, sustainable plan to work toward your goal. For example, if your goal is to start exercising, telling yourself that you will go to the gym five days a week may feel overwhelming. Going two days a week, however, may not allow you to gain enough traction and develop a new sense of comfort and routine with working out. Perhaps, you might start with hitting the gym three days a week and taking a 30 min power walk on two of the other days.
- One day at a time. Don’t worry about whether you will be able to sustain the change and don’t judge yourself about your rate of change. If you are consistently moving in the right direction, celebrate your success every single day. If not, continue the internal dialogue and figure out which part of you has hopped into the driver’s seat and why.
We have mixed feelings about almost every choice we make and every goal that we pursue. These mixed feelings can undermine your heartfelt motivation and undo your hard work if you don’t become aware of them. Energizing your inner voices will enable you to harness the strength that you will need to accomplish any goal.
Beth Feldman, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and relational analyst, with specialized training in the treatment of substance abuse and eating disorders. Dr. Feldman is an expert in parenting strategies and offers her unique “Sane Parenting in a Crazy World”. consulting to parents globally. Beth is a frequent contributor to media and speaks publicly on numerous topics, including relationship and parenting issues, depression and anxiety management, and the secret to energizing personal change. For more information, visit www.bethfeldmanphd.com.