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Develop an Action Mindset

Develop-an-Action-Mindset

Ever wonder how some people say they want to do something and then get it done? Many factors motivate change, but the final step is always about taking action. 

I’ve observed this process working with a client over time. When I first started seeing Cherise several years ago, she was binge-drinking and eventually got a DUI, making it impossible to drive which hugely impacted her life. She was at the point back then where, after telling me about her latest black-out, she’d insist, “I’ve got to stop drinking. I really need to quit.” 

I knew the moment I heard the word “need” that she wasn’t giving up alcohol any time soon and we had a long discussions about how external motivators don’t work nearly as well as internal ones. Since then, we’ve had many more chats about how pressuring herself to do something (especially a biggie like stopping drinking) was only going to kick up her dander and make her resist. And that’s exactly what happened. She’d pressure herself to say no to liquor when she was out socializing, then feel so deprived and resentful because she felt she “couldn’t” drink that she’d drink herself silly.

Eventually she succumbed to my nagging about badgering herself and began using the word “want” (as in “I want to stop drinking”) which helped her get in touch with how much she did desire to give up alcohol. Slowly she connected to wanting to be in charge of her life and avoid the nasty consequences of imbibing too much. Her motivation was gradually becoming more internal than external.

Finally, during a therapy session, she said, “I’m going to stop drinking.” The shift in her word choice and tone, now full of determination and commitment to health, made me teary. And she was smiling when she said it, so I knew the thought of not drinking filled her with happiness. In the past, thoughts of abstinence made her sad, scared or angry.

I’m not saying Cherise will stop drinking. No one can know that. And even if she does, it’ll be a long, rough road to stay sober. But now she’s doing things differently, including avoiding her old drinking buddies and even going to sobriety meetings. She seems to be picturing a sober life and liking what she envisions.

My point is that changing behavior (rather than thinking about changing it), requires moving away from should/need/have to/must/ought to, internalizing and expressing wanting, and finally settling into I’m going to do something about this. When you hear yourself using action words to describe intent, you’ll know you’re on the right track.

 

Best,

Karen