Personal change work: a simple sequence

sad demeanour on woman face

Any enduring personal change work usually follows a fairly predictable sequence…
1.   Awareness, 
2.   Ownership , 
3.   Strategy, 
4.   Action, 
5.   Self-compassion

1. Awareness
For any change work to be called for there has to be awareness of a need for change.  Awareness alone, while important, is not enough. Many of us are aware our diet needs changing or our internet browsing could do with a cutback, but we grab that muffin and log on anyway! Of course, change will not happen without awareness (unless we’re locked up and deprived of access) and awareness acts as the initial motivator.

2. Ownership
Many people started smoking to appear cool, present as more mature, or even appear sexually attractive! Smokers are aware of the harm their habit does but many continue anyway. Ownership of the solution is crucial to progress with any personal change work, smoking included. Ownership of the solution means adopting a wholehearted decision to quit. Wholehearted decision-making calls for squarely addressing circumstances, facing up to the rationalisations that help maintain unhelpful habits. Some people continue smoking believing they’ll gain weight, or be unable to cope with stress, or believing they’re so addicted change is not possible. Wholehearted ownership of the solution leads to resourceful strategy.

3. Strategy 
 In our smoking case, the strategy is simple; never, never, never, smoke again! This simple strategy calls for several important tactics. These involve preparing for risky contexts. Those risky contexts can be places, events, even times of day where smoking was a feature. The morning coffee, the night out, or invitations from a work colleague to step outside for a smoke and a chat. Tactics involve formulating replacement activities, polite refusals, even new undertakings such as exercise. Important tactics include urge management. One useful approach involves reframing the urge experience as cause for celebration! Imagine an urge experience being met with; “awesome, this is great! It means I’m succeeding!” Such a response can be a powerful affirmation and will power strengthener. Many people limp along for weeks or even months in the grip of a contest between the urge to smoke and the decision to refrain. 
 Reframing an urge experience is a powerful tool!

4. Action
Such formulations are great but require action. Massive action that supports the strategy. Hypnosis and even self-hypnosis can be a powerful resource especially in early stages of change. The relaxation involved in the hypnotic experience affords a great opportunity to access personal strengths and resourcefulness.

5. Self-Compassion
Self-compassion supports gentleness and is a powerful contradiction to unhelpful self-criticism. People undertaking change work (like quitting cigarettes for example) often criticise themselves for the mess they’re in. Practicing self-compassion implies self-acceptance, understanding that we are flawed but rising above our past to make the required change without recrimination of self or others.

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