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March 01, 2006

CHANGE IS A CHOICE

Throughout the years, I have worked with many people on all sorts of issues. Regardless of the issue at hand, it seems to me that people believe that the locus of control for changing is either outside of himself or herself or non-existent.
People have said:

“I want to change, but nothing is working. I think I need someone who will crack me over the head and get me to change.”

“I’m Italian, I yell. That’s just who I am, but you - - you are harsh. You can’t be like that just because I yell.”

“I’ve read a thousand books, listened to experts, tried every trick in the book, yet I have not been able to stop procrastinating. I think it’s just in my genes.”

“This is the third bad relationship I’ve had. I feel like guys are determined to fool me. They pretend to be healthy and together at first, then wham -- they’re just like all the others.”

All of the above examples stress the person’s belief that s/he doesn’t have the ability to change. In their eyes, change is beyond her/him. Whether the person is blaming it on their ethnicity, genetics, or other people, the message is the same: I can’t change. My response to this is simple: “You can’t change, because you choose not to.”

Change is a choice; it is an action, not an insight. And… change is hard. Because change is so hard, we often explain our lack of change on powers greater than ourselves. This is a cop-out I believe. I have known people who were alcoholics, ragers, smokers, drug addicts, etc., who decided to change in the blink of an eye…and they did it. Why? Because they chose to. They woke up one morning and decided that they wanted to change their life. They knew it would be hard work, but they also knew that for them, it wasn’t an option to continue to do what they were doing.

It’s too easy to say “I can’t.” And it doesn’t serve us. I struggle with procrastination and there are definately days when I think it is beyond me to change this. I also know however, that often I am choosing to do something I would prefer to do rather than do something I don’t feel like doing. Is that genetic? No, it’s a choice.

Challenge: What area of your life have you been struggling with? What are you gaining by not changing this part of yourself? What would happen if you actually changed it (positively and negatively)? Are the gains enough for you to change? If so, make a decision to target that behavior for two weeks and note what happens. Every time you try to change it but don’t, get conscious about what got in the way.

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