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Living Well News – Planning for Change

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What is Time?

My grandmother once said, “Life is but an instant; a blink of an eye. I am 91 years old. My mind is the young person who once was, and the voice in my head is the same voice that I have heard throughout my life, but I have grown old.”

Time is a construct, invented by mankind to benchmark the difference between the past and the present, so that we would know where we were in the course of a day, months and years. Today we are conditioned to hurry through our lives from one thing to another; we don’t often think about time within the context of our “lifetime” – the amount of time we have to live.

The end of the year is an important time for planning – for taking charge of the business of our lives – asking “What needs to happen for me in 2012?” “What do I need to be healthy, contented and productive?” “Am I paying attention?”  Click here to request information.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Thinking

Wants and needs are information. However, very different types of information, to be utilized in specific ways that are helpful to us in making informed decisions in our best interest.

Let’s take lunch as an example – Yes, lunch. I think that we can all identify with being famished and being presented with an extensive menu of food options. When asking ourselves what we want we may be inclined towards foods that appeal to our preferred taste; burger, fries, club sandwich, cheesesteak, etc. Or maybe a bit of everything on the menu! Hence, the saying “My eyes were bigger than my stomach.” However, if we ask ourselves what we need, we might step back and take a little more time to think – maybe a salad, soup/salad combo, or turkey sandwich, thinking about the fuel we need to keep our bodies going and feeling balanced.

Want is about “right now.” Needs are about the future and the years to come; the longer term. Our senses, drives and emotions are geared towards survival and being satiated and accommodated in this one moment in time. Our bodies and brains are wired to survive and as far as they are concerned “right now is all we got.” Thinking about our needs is a higher order thought process of breaking things down – mulling over our wants and seeing if they are what we really need in relationship to the longer-term.

Everything we do today builds toward the future in either a positive way or a negative way. 

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Identifying Barriers to Change

Considering change is change in and of itself; thinking about our needs and how meeting them will impact our lives. Assessing what the change is going to require of us and others is an important part of the planning process.

This involves noting the potential challenges and barriers along the way and how to handle them when they occur. Both internal and external barriers exist which will impact our ability to be successful.

Internal barriers include our own thoughts and feelings. They generally fuel our resistance. We tend to choose behaviors in response to what we believe to be true. This significantly impacts our ability to get our needs met and to be follow-through. These internal habits can be either accurate and productive or inaccurate and limiting.

When we entertain change we may or may not be aware of our self-limiting beliefs, such as lack of confidence, willfulness, fear, and difficulties with decision-making. These underlying beliefs and insecurities may be dictating the course of our lives more than we know. For example, the person who does not complete what they set out to do – Who gives up on themselves or loses interest. – Or, a person who struggles with the need to be right vs. being effective.

External barriers generally refer to our environment. Sometimes, despite our best efforts or intentions, the support we need may not be available. Support comes in many forms; moral, behavioral, emotional, time, and attention. For instance, a person who needs to change their diet and lose weight is going to have a harder time when their spouse is snacking through the evening on potato chips and ice cream.

Or, a person coming out of rehab for treatment for alcoholism is going to struggle coming home to a house full of people who continue to drink in front of them or undermine the things they need to do for their recovery. These situations pave the way for relapse into old behavior. These are environmental barriers, not personal failings. We can however, make more informed choices and set ourselves up for success. Click here to request information.

Change is a Process, not an Event

The types of changes that most of us need to make are called “lifestyle” changes; meaning the shifting of long-held behavior patterns that have been relied upon over the course of many years. It is important to acknowledge how ingrained these behaviors are, because they require time and commitment to change them.

Behaviors get “reshaped” a little at a time not eliminated or changed like a flip of a switch. For instance, you may have been trying to change your eating habits and portion sizes and have been doing well. Perhaps, one weekend you overeat at a wedding. There are choices here; to reflect and learn from what happened and why? – To get back on track, with a walk, drinking extra water, eating well again. Or, to fall into shame and disappointment fueling another food craving and losing sight of your goals and to abandon your commitment to yourself.

This is the process of change; back and forth. Know that we are human and that change is not a linear process. There will be setbacks. How we deal with setbacks is what counts — Relating to change as a process is not an “all or nothing” event. Click here for more information.

Planning for Change: A Checklist

  1. What do I want to change?
  2. Is the change that I am considering too much at one time? Is it manageable?
  3. Why am I considering this change?
  4. What do I want to achieve as a result of making this change?
  5. What are the benefits to me of making this change over the long-term?
  6. What are the consequences over the long-term if I don’t make this change?
  7. What are my internal and external barriers to making this change?


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About the Author
Paula Tropiano is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Addictions Specialist providing holistic – skills based counseling and therapy to adults in West Chester, PA. (610) 692-4995.