14 Sep How To Change, Even When You’re Really Stuck

I know what it feels like to really want to change something about myself, only to find that I can’t make it happen. It’s frustrating, and can leave me feeling helpless and hopeless.

At such times it’s easy to believe that I’ll never become the person I really want to be. My brain then does what brains are so good at doing: it creates a story to explain or justify why I’m not changing, so I can feel better about why I’m stuck.

Such thinking consumes a lot of attention and energy: energy that could be better directed towards initiating the change I’m wanting in the first place.

It’s a self-defeating cycle and getting stuck in it pretty much guarantees that my self-change, and relationship or marriage goals will never come true.

Maybe you really want to lose some weight, get fit, or stop eating so much junk food. You’ve made all sorts of attempts to kick-start a new health regime. You’ve bought the running gear and the juicing gadgets, you’ve read the blogs and gazed at your favourite healthy influencers… only to find that every day there’s a reason why you don’t get started.

Or maybe your really want to be less cranky and snappy with your kids. You’re sick of behaving like a parent who you don’t want to be. You’ve thought about the triggers of your impatience, and done your best to mitigate them. But you keep losing your cool, and your best intentions simply aren’t translating into a more patient, peaceful you.

Or maybe you really want to let go of some resentment that you’re still harbouring towards your partner after some past fault or betrayal. You know it’s poison – to both you and to your relationship. But despite longing for the connection that will only come once you let resentment go, you continue finding excuses every day to carry it just a little longer.

Being self-aware enough to know what you’d like to change about yourself is important. Honouring this awareness is crucial. Regardless of what your personal goals are, if you’re finding that making them happen isn’t happening, don’t give up. 

Why? Because regardless of how following through with your personal goals will impact your relationships with others, it’s the only way you’ll build a relationship with yourself that’s really healthy and strong.

Many of my clients, as well as myself personally, have found ourselves wrestling with this dilemma. Like for them, when you feel stuck and are really serious about making change happen, I hope these pointers help you on your way:

1. Focus on what you want (not what you don’t want).

Think of it like climbing a mountain… the path ahead may be steep, but it’s so much easier to keep climbing if we know there’s a stunning view waiting for us at the summit. “Seeing” what we do want is what motivates us to keep moving forward.

For example, reframe a goal like “I don’t want to be so snappy with my kids” to one with a positive focus, like this: “ I want to be a patient parent for my kids”

2. Do something different, whether your heart’s in it or not.

Imagine that you’re an actor playing a person who already possesses the behaviours of qualities that you’re wanting to develop in yourself personally. How would your character act in this moment?

For example, if your character is a really patient parent, what would he or she say or do right now? See it first in this other “character”, then try it yourself, whether your heart’s in it or not.

3. Be tolerant of discomfort.

If you try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, you’ll probably feel uncomfortable, clumsy, incompetent, and maybe even frustrated. Change, by its very definition, is “different”. “Different” is often uncomfortable.

Discarding resentment that you’ve held in your marriage or relationship, for example, might feel pretty uncomfortable at first. Expect this. Your uncomfortable feelings are normal, and they actually signal that change has commenced.

4. Expect imperfection.

Relationship or personal change isn’t always like flicking a switch – it often happens in increments. One of the great ways to stay stuck is to place “all or nothing” expectations on yourself about what you’re trying to achieve.

One less impatient exchange with your kids today is an improvement on yesterday, and should be acknowledged as an achievement, even if there’s more change to go.

5. Celebrate your achievements.

As a therapist, I’ve learned to be wary of the client who tells me they haven’t changed at all, only to subsequently describe an example of self-change that completely contradicts this dim view. Notice your achievements, however big or small, then amplify these in your own mind’s eye – they can then become beacons for the further change you’re seeking.

Pamela Pannifex is a psychotherapist, marriage and relationship therapist, naturopath and founder of Sunshine Holistic Counselling on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. For over 25 years Pamela has been helping people create personal wellbeing, marriages, and relationships, that thrive. Contact Pamela here.