Motivated to Change Seven Factors Motivating Change
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | February 2018 (edited 2019)
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We must conquer several hurdles in the quest to flourishing. We must get and stay motivated during this life long process.
We dream about fabulous things; many of those dreams are within our reach. But lost in the fantasies, we overlook necessary steps to achieving those dreams. Sometimes, the dream isn’t a goal but just an escape, lost in spectacular thoughts—a raise, a partner, a sexy body—we avoid the stress of present realities. We hinge our future happiness on a magnificent achievement, entertaining how this momentous change will reconfigure our life without really making steps towards the cherished hope. Occasionally, significant change occurs, transforming everything; but this isn’t common. Even after a momentous change, we often settle, returning to previous routines and familiar feelings.
Change is difficult; and rarely fulfills magical escaping thoughts designed to dismiss painful existence. Life continues to be life, with joys and sorrows, gains and losses, friends and foes. By understanding (and accepting) the realities of life, we invite patience to challenge the difficulties of new directions and brighter futures.
Within our bosoms, two warring parties collide, fighting for dominance: The desire to change and demands for security. Laws of motion dictate that travelling in the same direction is easier than altering course. Our histories, whether healthy or destructive, are intricately woven to present realities. People, places and patterns are marked with learned emotions; when an encounter has familiarity, we react (and feel) with a learned response. Experience creates connections—emotional ties to the events and people. The mind stubbornly clings to those memories, when similar conditions invade, the emotions lurch to action pushing for the same actions we followed in the past. We might know better, logic recognizes the futility of those actions, but the habits interfere, demanding the path of ease, finding security in the unhealthy sameness. Change requires redirecting learned and habitual actions against the impulses of learned emotions. Identifying faulty reactions is uncomfortable, often prompting feelings of incompleteness; we harass our equilibrium with brutish judgments of fault. Self-meanness is unnecessary—and detrimental. Our harshness and painful examinations close the self and the momentary insights dip back into the darkness. Instead of enlightenment, we protect with distortions, defensive reactions, and walls of protection. Faults hide behind these protective walls. Defenses unexamined flourish, gaining strength, harming connections, while sabotaging opportunities.
"Our harshness and painful examinations close the self and the momentary insights dip back into the darkness."
Change requires compassion with the self, instead of judgmental, we are awed by our humanity. “…the process of self-observation, reflection, and change is basically a self-loving task. It will not flourish in an atmosphere of terminal seriousness, self-flagellation, or self-blame.” Harriet Lerner (2005). We can intervene and reprogram the mind. Self-modification is difficult, often demanding assistance. Subjective interpretations, deceptive protections and fears invade, knocking us off course. Frustrated by reality, we give in. “The hell with it,” we return to the security of habits, allowing current trajectories to remain, and seek comfort in magical unfulfilled dreams.
Albert Ellis, father of rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT), after decades of working with struggling patients, understood the difficulties in purposeful change: “We can realistically say that with the exception of a few individuals who decide to change and then find it rather easy to do so, the great majority of people find it difficult to change and stay changed.” (2007) Ellis identified several factors, that when present, aided motivation for change. These factors are:
A sense of necessity: When change feels necessary to gain or prevent from losing something or someone of importance, we will endure greater difficulties.
Willingness to Experience Anxiety or Difficulty: Successful integration of behavioral change requires awkward stumbling. We are creating new mental maps of triggers, reactions and consequences. New behaviors involve uncertainty. If we have low frustration tolerance and limited capacity to soothe emotional disruption, we will likely tire and return to old routines.
Awareness: If our reality is blurred with defensive perceptions, we will overlook the flaws. We will lack the clarity of the behavior changes needed. Without a grasp on reality, attempts of change flounder in the sea of chaos.
Willingness to confront the problem: Eventually, we must courageously act, working through fears and avoidances.
Effort: Our current flow in life follows the momentum of the past; our trajectory. If we desire change, we must exert tremendous energy to redirect reactions towards desired outcomes.
Hope: This is where positive psychology has an impact. The mantras, dream boards, and positive attitude give life to hope—belief that change is possible.
Social Support: Small change can be a private affair; but when we have strayed too far, the journey back is arduous. We need friends, family, sponsors and paid professional to hold our hand, keep us on task, with honest feedback, and kind acceptance.
We can sing the beautiful melody of hope. Our lives are not hopelessly lost to the perils of the past. We can change with careful and consistent effort. When stuck and change seems impossible, we may need a different approach from a more basic level; instead of focusing on the end desired behavior, we can focus on the building blocks ow well-being that proceeds the action, while continuing to seek support, encourage hope, and courageously fight the battles against misguided motivations. And that, my friends, is the work of a lifetime.