September 19, 2014

September 1, 2014

Get unstuck - Learn to reach your goals

Life can be a very sticky affair. It's easy to get stuck in a rut and feel ambivalent about changing. Take, for example, something as simple as exercising. How many times have you told yourself that you are going to start working out, and then proceeded to do a hundred other activities, but not a single one of them involved exercise?

I have felt like I have been in rut with writing this blog lately. It's strange because I actually love writing the blog, but things got so busy in the summer. And then a few weeks went by and I had not written anything. I got out of the habit, and it started to feel like it was going to be difficult to challenge myself to block off time to write. I also told myself I would get back to it as soon as I had more free time. Sound familiar?

If you sit around waiting for the right time to change, or more free time to make changes, you might never do it. So I got myself motivated with a technique that works for a lot of my clients who are having trouble making changes. I told myself that I can start small: start with baby steps. I could just turn on my computer and see what came out, no pressure. I would not judge myself or my writing. I would just take one step closer to my goal of getting back into the habit of blogging. It worked for me just like it can work for you.

I saw this technique at work in one of my clients who has been a binge eater most of her life. As a binge eater, Sarah (not her real name) has learned to tune out when she is binge eating. She goes into something we call a food coma. The food coma can provide a temporary escape from the fear, anxiety, and self-loathing, but it comes at a cost. Sarah has a litany of health problems, suffers from very poor self-esteem, and often chooses to isolate herself from friends and family.

In session, we discussed practical ways that Sarah could start making changes. She agreed, and seemed hopeful, but when she came in the following session, she was tearful as she discussed her inability to make any substantive changes. She was too scared and anxious to change the coping mechanism--binge eating--that had become such a big part of her life. I encouraged Sarah to start small. Whenever she felt nervous, she should remind herself that she only had to take baby steps. In fact, she decided to put post-it notes with the mantra "baby steps" all around her house. This small step gave her confidence, and when she came in the following week, she was hopeful. One small step at a time, she had begun to change her life.

If you feel stuck and have been unable to change, challenge yourself to do one thing differently today. Take one baby step. If you are still having trouble making real change in your life, a therapist might be able to help you get unstuck. Maybe your baby step is to make that phone call to schedule an appointment with a therapist, or go for a short walk, type up a draft of a resume, or write a letter to that person who hurt you. Whatever it is, start small and start today. You will be happy you did.